Eric Lindros is the headliner for the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2016 after getting passed over for the past six years. He’ll be joined by Sergei Makarov, who played on the Soviet Union’s famous KLM line; Rogie Vachon, the first Detroit Red Wing to make more than $1 million in a year; and the late Pat Quinn, a former coach and defenseman known as “The Big Irishman.”
“I was very fortunate to have coaches, teammates, billets and parents who supported me throughout my career,” said Lindros, 43. “It also takes a lot of luck to get to the NHL.”
This seems like an appropriate time to recall just how good Lindros was, and how much more he could have accomplished on the ice had his career not been derailed by concussions.
Nicknamed “The Next One” as a junior hockey player, the Canadian center entered the National Hockey League with sky-high expectations. Selected first overall by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1991 draft, he was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers for an unprecedented package that included Steve Duchesne, Ron Hextall, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci, the rights to Peter Forsberg, the Flyers’ first-round picks in 1992 (seventh overall) and 1993, and $15 million.
The deal was supposed to set up Philadelphia for the next decade.
“Very seldom do you get a chance to trade for this kind of player,” Flyers general manager Russ Farwell said at the time, via the Philadephia Inquirer. “I think the general feeling is that once in every 10 years this kind of guy comes along.”
Lindros lived up to the hype. As a 19-year-old rookie, the 6-foot-4 center notched 41 goals and 34 assists in 61 games played. He was a perennial MVP candidate, and Lindros received a vote for the Hart Memorial Trophy in his rookie season before taking home the award in 1994-95. In 1997, he led the Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals.
He possessed a rare combination of skill and physicality, and had the ability to do this:
And, perhaps to his detriment, this:
Lindros’s career was ultimately derailed by injuries and head injuries. He was diagnosed with a fourth concussion during the 1999-2000 season and ended up sitting out the start of the playoffs. After returning for the Eastern Conference finals against the New Jersey Devils, he took a brutal hit from Scott Stevens and was never the same.
Lindros played for the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars before retiring in 2007, finishing with 865 points in 760 games. Other career achievements included being the fourth-fastest player to score 300 points, the fifth-fastest to score 500 and the sixth-fastest to score 600 thanks to a historically dominant start to his career. “The Next One” never did become “The Great One,” but he did enough in a somewhat abbreviated career to join the sport’s elite and get to join his peers in Toronto.