by Mike Chen on 10/02/08 at 08:59 PM ET
One of the funny things about doing a countdown like this is that you forget how dominant a player was in a particular era—and just how much injuries can change the trajectory of a career. 1998-99’s #7 top player is none other than big #88, Eric Lindros.
How the mighty have fallen. It wasn’t that long ago that Eric Lindros was still considered a dominating force for the Philadelphia Flyers. Now after one last disappointing season with the Dallas Stars, Lindros spends his day in a suit working for the NHLPA rather than crashing the net and avoiding concussions.
In this ranking, Lindros was one year removed from having led the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final against the Red Wings. Fans tend to forget that for the majority of that playoff, the Legion of Doom line (Lindros, John Leclair, Mikael Renberg) was pretty much unstoppable until they hit the big red winged wheel.
In 1997 - 98, Lindros still dealt with injuries, limiting to only 63 games. However, he still scored better than a point per game and was considered one of the top centers in the league. Unfortunately, between injuries and poor team performances, Lindros only managed to get in five more playoff games over the course of his career (two with the Flyers, including the game where Scott Stevens knocked him into the Pacific time zone, and three with the Stars where he scored zero points).
How will history remember Lindros? Will he be the Big E, bowling over people with ferocity and scoring at will as he did in the first half of his career? Or will he be the perimeter player who used his size and skill in a less rough-and-tumble way (and thus, less successful way) for the Rangers, Leafs, and Stars? Perhaps he will make his mark with the NHLPA, a group that’s just starting to come out of a disorienting shake up.
The debate will go on as to whether or not Lindros is a Hall of Famer (my vote is no) but for our purposes here, his rank as #7 in the 1998 -99 THN Top 50 shows him pretty much at his zenith.
His counterpart for this year’s THN Top 50 is Canucks goalie/captain-without-a-C Roberto Luongo. I think it’s pretty hard to argue planting Luongo that high considering his stats and consistency dating back to his Florida days. Panthers fans are still shaking their heads about that one.
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