How good was Eric Lindros for the Rangers this past season? If you’re like me you were probably a little disappointed about the Blueshirts missing the playoffs and perhaps projected some of that disappointment onto the centerpiece of last summer’s team improvement process. But realistically what could we have expected from the former number over all pick in the draft?
Lindros started his career with the Rangers in difficult circumstances. New York fans were angry over a seemingly one-sided trade for damaged goods and the abandonment of the youth movement for the quick fix approach, something Rangers fans are decidedly sick of.
To his credit Eric handled the transition well and quietly began building up loyalty with the fans while taking the high road in what is still seen as a bitter split with his former team and General Manager. So while Bobby Clarke continued to talk about what Lindros didn’t mean to his team, his former captain preferred to concentrate on his desire to do good for New York.
His season started slowly after almost eighteen months away from the game, but when he was paired with Mike York and Theo Fleury things began to click. The FLY line as it became known, was the hottest threesome in the league for the month of November, but a Lindros leg injury early in December seemed to start a downward spiral.
The moment Ranger fans had been dreading since the acquisition occurred on a seemingly harmless play in a January 28th game in San Jose. Lindros was taking it to the Sharks delivering several, big hits before a collision with Matt Bradley caused the Rangers centerman to sustain a mild concussion. He went on to miss the next four games and then failed to score in the next six, all of them Rangers losses. The ten game streak was a low point for both the Rangers and Lindros.
To be honest it was a team wide malaise. Theo Fleury’s problems surfaced in the very same game as Lindros was lost to concussion when he was accused of attacking the San Jose Sharks mascot. Mike York’s ability to score was greatly impacted with the loss of Lindros and the second line was unable to contribute anything in the way of goals. Lack of scoring by the defense and perhaps the loss of Mark Messier all contributed to the Rangers lack of success and perhaps to Lindros’ success too.
A foot injury late in the season kept Lindros to 72 games just one shy of his career high of 73 back in 1995-96, a telling statistic to many. The addition of Pavel Bure at the deadline seemed to spark Lindros for a strong finish to the season, but it was a case of too little too late for the Rangers.
Still there were many plusses for Lindros and the Rangers, including finishing first on the team in goals, points and power play goals. His chemistry with Bure bodes well for next season and even his ability to come back from a concussion was something many observers thought would be impossible.
Beyond that his statistics stack up well against the rest of the league’s top centermen. His 37 goals were second only to Sundin’s 41 while his +19 rating was tied for 6th in the league amongst centermen. Perhaps even more impressively he had the highest goals per game and points per game ratios of all in his position and was second in games in which he scored a goal.
Statistics certainly don’t tell the whole story, but they do allow a basis for comparison with others in the league. And under that basis it is harder to fault Lindros’ overall season as opposed to the games where he was less effective.
Going into next season there are still questions over the health of Eric Lindros, but a year down the road the Lindros trade maybe doesn’t look quite as bad as it did back in August of 2001.