Pale faced and glassy eyed, Flyers captain Eric Lindros walked
away from his final postgame interview session of 1998 in
mid-sentence, the camera lights burning brightly on his back as
he strode out of the locker room. Last Friday, Philadelphia was
again knocked out of the playoffs, this time in a stunning five
games by the Sabres, and Lindros again had little to say. "Right
now we're in shock," he said between long pauses and a few
wayward glances. "It wasn't supposed to go like this."
Later, when the 25-year-old Lindros met up with family, friends
and teammates at a Philadelphia restaurant, he was more vocal.
The group talked well into the night about the Flyers and their
tumultuous season, and the usually taciturn Lindros kept yakking
even as members of his party excused themselves and went to bed.
Buffalo's knockout of Philly may have been the
beginning of the end for Lindros.
There was, after all, a lot to discuss. This was the worst
season of Lindros's career and could turn out to have been his
last in Philadelphia. Lindros had his second-lowest point total
(30 goals and 41 assists), and for the fifth time in six seasons
he missed significant time because of injury. He was also
missing in action when it counted most: Against Buffalo, a year
after playing poorly in last spring's sweep by the Red Wings in
the Cup finals, he had one goal and two assists in the series
and just one shot in the final two games. In the clincher, a 3-2
overtime loss at the CoreStates Center, he didn't even get
credit for a hit.
Just as disturbing is Lindros's growing reputation as a
coach-killing star who lacks the leadership skills needed to
raise the play of his teammatesthe ultimate sign of greatness.
Lindros captained the Canadian Olympic team, which was
considered a bitter disappointment after it failed to get a
medal in Nagano. In his six seasons with the Flyers,
Philadelphia has never won a game in which it faced elimination
and never won a series in which it lost the opener.
The Flyers' shortcomings weren't all Lindros's faultthere were
more than a few front-office blunders (curious free-agent
signings and trades, a late-season coaching change) that helped
lead to Philly's early exit. But the Sabres, faced with their
own organizational turmoil heading into this season, united and
played inspired, while the Flyers and their captain froze.
Before Game 2, Flyers coach Roger Neilson said, "Eric knows that
if we win the Stanley Cup, he'll get the bulk of the credit, and
if we lose in the first round, he'll get the bulk of the blame.
It's tough on a kid to feel that much pressure. All superstars
have to learn how to deal with that."
Eric's father and agent, Carl, believes that "Eric wants to make
it work in Philadelphia." But it won't be surprising if the
Flyers trade Lindros: Published reports during the season said
Philadelphia may look to deal Lindros to the Maple Leafs for
forward Mats Sundin or to the Coyotes for left wing Keith
Tkachuk. A day before the Flyers were eliminated, general
manager Bob Clarke was talking about altering the makeup of
Philly's roster from the brawniest and most expensive in the
league to one that is smaller, quicker and offers a better
return on the dollar. Clarke's first order of business should be
to dealor deal withLindros.
Issue date: May 11, 1998