Playing out of the spotlight, and at a new position, a rejuvenated Eric Lindros has helped Dallas to its best start in a decade
WHEN STARS coach Dave Tippett made a pitch to free agent Eric Lindros last summer, he didn't sell what the franchise had to offer as much as what its city did not have. "I saw how much energy you expended to deal with all the off-ice stuff, the intense media and fan criticism," Tippett told the 33-year-old Lindros. "If we could get that energy on the ice, you'd be an even better player."
Lindros provided a reminder of what he's capable of when energized (and healthy) during back-to-back road victories over the Kings last week. Playing his first shift at a new position—right wing on Mike Modano's line—Lindros had three assists in Dallas's 4--1 win on Oct. 12. The Stars (5-0-0 through Sunday) were off to their best start since 1996, and the 6'4", 240-pound Lindros, who leads the club with four assists, was proving he's still an offensive force.
"It's refreshing," Lindros says of being in the Western Conference after eight seasons in Philadelphia, and stints with the Rangers and Toronto. "Because of the lockout and missing [the final 49] games last season [with a torn right-wrist ligament], I don't know these teams."
A six-time All-Star and the 1995 Hart Trophy winner, Lindros has seen his once-certain Hall of Fame career derailed by injuries, including eight concussions and a collapsed lung. Last season he fulfilled a childhood dream of playing for the Maple Leafs and started strong, with 22 points in 33 games, but the wrist injury ended his season on Dec. 10.
Acting as his own agent in the off-season, Lindros found the right offer in Dallas, which needed a second-line center to replace Jason Arnott, who signed with Nashville. Lindros agreed to a one-year deal in July worth $1.55 million plus performance bonuses that could push it to $2.5 million. "It was a low-risk, high-reward contract for us," says Stars G.M. Doug Armstrong.
"Everywhere Eric has gone, he's been expected to carry the load all by himself," says right winger Matt Barnaby, who played with Lindros in New York. "Here we have a great supporting cast, and the only pressure he'll feel will be internal."
Lindros says he's already more at ease in Dallas—where he can have "a normal life" away from constant media scrutiny—and warming to his new role as a shooter and passer alongside Modano. " It's a little bit different playing the wing, but each game I'll get more comfortable," he says. "I don't handle the puck as much or cut to the center of the ice as often." Which means he's less likely to take hits like the ones that have left him concussed.
"We thought he could come here and not worry about all the things that come with being Eric Lindros in big hockey markets," says Armstrong. "And so far, it's clear he feels rejuvenated."