As the Flyers’ fan on the MYFO bench, it makes the most sense for me to take the shift that commemorates Eric Lindros’ retirement from hockey. However, I just don’t have the energy or the actual interest to do so. So rather than pretending to skate hard on this one (think Jagr-on-the-Captials), I’m going to take MYFO’s look back on the Big E in a different direction. After all, every other blog will talk about his career with Philly, his fall out with Bobby Clarke, his limited success after leaving the Orange and Black, and how so much potential went to waste over a 13 year career.
We’re going to pretend it never even happened.
I’m not suggesting a world where Eric Lindros never played in the NHL. That’s silly. With so much hype coming out of juniors, it would be impossible to pretend that he never made it to the pros. Unless the Oshawa Generals enforced military rule after bad games. That would have rocked. Even as a teen, he was one unneccessary roughing minor from being on the receiving end of a locker room Code Red. The question I pose today, to uh, myself, is as follows:
What if Quebec traded Eric Lindros to the New York Rangers?
It is now common knowledge that the Quebec Nordiques had brokered deals with both the Flyers and the Rangers once Lindros refused to invest in a freakish-learn-French-on-your-TV language course. When Todd Bertuzzi’s uncle (I kid you not) awarded Lindros to Philly, Philly in turn dealt Peter Forsberg, Chris Simon, Mike Ricci, Steve Duchesne, Kerry Huffman, Ron Hextall, 2 1st-rounders, $15 million, and the advice that if Simon and Ricci were to be placed on the same line, all the children in Quebec’s arena will burst into tears out of crippled fear. The Rangers had to make due with the parts they already had, and promptly won a Stanley Cup two seasons later. Quebec moved to Colorado, ruined Kris Draper’s face, and won two Cups of their own. The Flyers? Other than a visit to the Big Show in ’97, we’ve become huge fans of being ousted by Buffalo in one of the first two rounds of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The following, instead, is a look into how the NHL would be completely different had Uncle Bertuzzi sent Lindros to Broadway from the get-go.
Philadelphia Flyers: Not having Lindros as the face of the franchise for the next decade changes everything in the City of Brotherly Love. Admittedly, they still suck for two years, but they didn’t make the playoffs then either. The Crazy 8′s Line never happens with Lindros, making Brent Fedyk an even more obscure hockey reference than he is today. The team relies on young guns Mark Recchi and Rod Brind’Amour to develop Mikael Renberg, who still loses the Calder anyway because he was up against some guy in Jersey named Brodeur. Speaking of goalies, the turnstile approach in the nineties comes to a stop, as Ron Hextall is kept for 5 years, leaving guys like Soderstrom, Snow, and Roussel for the firing range that was the early 90′s NHL expansion teams.
Then everything changes. The Flyers have 1995 Calder Cup winner Peter Forsberg centering a line with Renberg and Patrik Juhlin, and their combined Swede-ness in Philly excites other big-name Swedes to come to Philly. Daniel Alfredsson ironically “pulls a Lindros” and demands a trade to Philly. The Flyers part with Petr Svoboda, Kjell Samuelsson, Dale Hawerchuk, and a promising young gun named Pat Falloon (suckers) for Alfredsson, and Kenny Jonsson bolts the Islanders to play for Team Swede. Meanwhile, the Flyers still fleece Montreal in the LeClair and Desjardins for Recchi trade. With three strong lines of offense and a above-average blueline, the Flyers win the 1998 Stanley Cup over Detroit in 7. Jocelyn Thibault, the goalie picked with the 1st rounder they didn’t have to trade to Quebec, wins the Conn Smythe after taking over for an injured Hextall. They return to the Finals in 2000, since there’s no momentum-altering, concussion-inducing Stevens hit on a player wearing 88, but lose to Dallas. The Stars win it all, not having to rely on Brett Hull’s cheating ways to find the glory.
Quebecorado Nordilanche: One thing’s for sure, they don’t have Eric Lindros either way. Now in the real world, this trade is what propelled them to a highly successful relocation as well as two championship banners. Forsberg had become the cornerstone for their success, no one can argue that. The other keys to their winning ways came via the methodical goalie trades. One of the 1st-rounders they received was turned into Thibault, who was the golden ring that Montreal coveted so much that they parted with Patrick Roy in a 5-player swap. Hextall went to the Islanders for draft picks that were turned into key Cup contributors Alex Tanguay and Adam Deadmarsh. And while the rest of the throw-ins didn’t have a lasting effect on Colorado, the cash was nice. Cash is always nice.
But their deal with the Rangers would come with different spoils: namely Tony Amonte, Doug Weight, Alexei Kovalev, John Vanbiesbrouck, 3 1st rounders, and $12 mil. And for the most part, the ‘Lanche would contend with these guys. All three forwards would make Quebec proud, adding to a stable that already included Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, and Owen Nolan. With Vanbiesbrouck replacing Stephane Fiset between the pipes (who completely sounds like a hot chick), the Nordiques down the Canadiens and then sweep Barry Melrose’s Kings to win the ’93 Stanley Cup. 1994, which was previously ear-marked to become the Rangers Year of Destiny, brings a repeat trip to the Finals, only to lose to Vancouver in 6 – almost 12 people in the United States tuned in to watch.
The success of the Nordiques following the trade couldn’t reverse their financial troubles, and the team was still forced to move to Denver in ’96. The team’s fortunes also turned for the worse. For one, the Flyers-Red Wings game where Lindros ended the career of Vladimir Konstantinov never happened, and so the re-introduction of the Vladinator to Detroit’s blueline kept Colorado in check through the millenium. Also, John Vanbiesbrouck was waived after he was lost in a snow drift. Dagger.
New York Rangers: As I mentioned earlier, the Rangers, even with “The Next One,” DO NOT win the 1994 Stanley Cup. The trade with Quebec stripped them of too many role players as well as three future prospects. In addition, Lindros doesn’t develop into the scoring force he became in Philly, mostly because Esa Tikkanen kept giving him pointers and no one can understand a damn thing Esa Tikkanen ever said. Also, without Amonte to deal to Chicago, the Blackhawks start sucking much earlier, and Stephane Matteau isn’t around for any post-season heroics. Also, the Rangers are a much less-popular choice to use in Sega hockey.
When Wayne Gretzky is dealt to New York in 1996, the Blueshirts now boast the three most famous centers in the league. The NHL and ESPN completely fall in love with the marketing possibilities (11+88=99!), and Gary Bettman pushes Coach Colin Campbell to play them all on the same line for the photgraphic opportunity.
In related news, the Winnipeg Jets never move to Phoenix, as the NHL front office was too busy making love to the Rangers to notice their Relocation Application coming through on the fax machine. The Jets, seeing no other choice, trade Teemu Selanne to New York for some used equipment and promptly fold.
Gary Bettman adds a second franchise in Los Angeles to even out the league.