Eric Lindros

Flyers villain Patrick Kane nudges Eric Lindros for NHL.com's best No. 88 ever

Flyers villain Patrick Kane nudges Eric Lindros for NHL.com's best No. 88 ever

With the 2019-20 NHL season still in a holding pattern amid the coronavirus pandemic, hockey fans are finding creative ways to kill time until the season returns.

The folks at NHL.com decided to finally choose the best player to wear each jersey number, starting at 99 and going all the way down. It's a pretty big project, but we've got the time now.

The rankings got spicy early for Flyers fans hoping that Eric Lindros might earn the nod for his No. 88, which he wore for eight years in Philly and five more years between New York, Toronto and Dallas.

Alas, Lindros came close but finished in second place to a Flyers villain: Patrick Kane, the man who ended the Flyers' magical Cup run in 2010.

Across 19 voters, Kane received 51 points during the vote, while Lindros received 41 points. First-place votes were worth three points, second-place votes worth two points and third-place votes worth one point.

Kane received 13 first-place votes and six second-place votes. Lindros received five first-place votes, 12 second-place votes, and two (?) third-place votes. Inexplicably, Brent Burns received one first-place vote and one second-place vote.

Here's some rationale for picking Kane, from NBC Sports Network analyst Pierre McGuire:

I can't say enough good things about Patrick Kane and what he's done to lead the resurgence of the Chicago Blackhawks over time after he was drafted. He and Jonathan Toews are just magical there, but Kane's the guy that makes it happen. He makes everybody around him better.

It's hard to argue with McGuire's explanation, and it's also hard to argue against Kane's longevity. Here's a side-by-side look at the players' career numbers and accomplishments:

Kane: 973 games, 389 goals, 633 assists, 1,022 points (1.050 points per game) | Three Stanley Cups, one Conn Smythe, one Art Ross, one Hart, one Ted Lindsay

Lindros: 760 games, 372 goals, 493 assists, 865 points  (1.138 points per game) | One Hart, one Ted Lindsay 

But it's arguable that Lindros deserves credit for scoring more points per game than Kane, and also that Lindros' peak was better than Kane's peak. 

Lindros' 1.13 points per game put him at 17th all-time — ahead of guys like Alex Ovechkin, Jaromir Jagr and Mark Messier — while Kane's 1.050 points per game put him at 38th all-time. That's a sizable gulf, and highlights just how talented Lindros was when healthy.

And in terms of peaks, let's look at their best seasons ever. In Kane's best individual season, his 2015-16 campaign, he scored 106 points in 82 games, or 1.29 points per game. In Lindros' best individual season, his 1995-96 campaign, he scored 115 points in 72 games, or 1.59 points per game. Over an 82-game season, that's a difference of nearly 25 points.

Kane has been incredibly productive for a long time, and he has the accolades and trophies to make his case, but Lindros certainly belongs right there in the conversation, if not at the top.

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Eric Lindros discusses rebuilding relationship with Flyers

Eric Lindros discusses rebuilding relationship with Flyers

To quote the late great Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead: “What a long strange trip it’s been.”

That lyric from the song "Truckin'" best describes Eric Lindros’ relationship with the Flyers. That union between the organization and its former captain seems to have come full circle now as Lindros has been brought back as a team ambassador. The reunion between No. 88 and his former team seemed like it would never happen after the controversial way things ended for Lindros in Philadelphia.  

“If you went back 20 years ago, no, I was angry, I was really upset with some things,” Lindros said Wednesday in a video interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark. “As time goes on, I had some real good conversations with Paul Holmgren, hours of talking to Homer, things evolve, things change, you move on, you focus on the positive. There’s lots to be thankful for.”

The Flyers-Lindros family reunion has been in the works for the better part of a decade now, beginning with Lindros being welcomed back for the Alumni Game as part of the festivities surrounding the 2012 Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park. Lindros was then inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame, and after being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Lindros had his No. 88 retired to the rafters at the Wells Fargo Center two years ago.

Now as he becomes a team ambassador, the reunion appears complete. As far as Lindros' feelings toward the organization that he rose to prominence with and spent the majority of his Hall of Fame career with, he’s not dwelling on the past and is excited for the future.  

“I think it greatly outweighed the negative, especially the medical situations at the end," Lindros said. "I’m excited to get started and be part of the new fold, the new chapter, and when it's safe to see everybody at the rink, I want to be there as much as I can.”

In his new role with the Flyers, he will be attending games, if and when the league resumes, and he will also be doing hospital visits and several other special team related events. It starts with the the All In Challenge that several athletes and former athletes have joined in to support the coronavirus relief efforts.  

In Lindros' words, the organization is “shooting for the moon” with its new team ambassador.

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Eric Lindros sees some Carey Price in Carter Hart

Eric Lindros sees some Carey Price in Carter Hart

It has been 20 years since Eric Lindros wore No. 88 in Philadelphia and now the Flyers have welcomed "Big E" back as a team ambassador. The Hockey Hall of Famer, whose number hangs from the rafters in the Wells Fargo Center, rejoins the team that he spent most of his career with and he has been impressed with this year’s version of the orange and black.  

“I thought the Flyers this year were one of those teams where I don’t think people would be that uneased if they were in the second or third round," Lindros said Wednesday in a video interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark. "They’re that good.

“Things are coming together for them. A lot of depth. Great goaltending. You know they like playing for the coach. They like Alain Vigneault and it shows in what they’re doing on the ice.”

Of course, we’ll never know how things would have played out if the season hadn’t stopped because of the coronavirus pandemic and whether the Flyers would have ridden the momentum to a deep playoff run, but Lindros said there’s a positive takeaway. 

“It’s not all for naught," he said. "It’s something you can build off. 

“It’s disappointing they didn’t have a chance to show what they’re good for down the stretch, but it’s not to say they can’t do it when things reopen.” 

Lindros’ playoff runs with the Flyers included goaltender Ron Hextall, who led several deep playoff runs during his two stints in orange and black, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 1997 when Lindros’ "Legion of Doom" line was among the most dominant in the NHL. Lindros said having good goaltending is the “ultimate perk” for a team and he believes the Flyers are in good shape now and in the future with their young phenom between the pipes.

“Carter Hart is a real good goalie," he said. "He’s just solid. To have someone like that is fantastic.” 

And even though Hart’s experience is very limited with the 21-year-old having played parts of just two seasons, Lindros didn’t hesitate to put the young goaltender in some pretty elite company. 

“I don’t think there’s any game the Montreal Canadiens walk into and say we’re going to get shellacked or we don’t have a chance," Lindros said. "When they have Carey Price in net, they have a chance every night they play because Carey Price is that good. I think Carter Hart is right there.”

One thing is for sure — if the NHL does return, Flyers fans and the team’s new ambassador will have a watchful eye on what Vigneault and company can do in what will certainly be one of the most unique playoff scenarios anyone has ever seen.

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