Peter Forsberg vs. Eric Lindros


Whenever you talk about what Peter Forsberg meant to the Colorado Avalanche, you have to give a mention to Eric Lindros. Without Lindros, we would have never had our Foppa — nor Mike Ricci, and maybe not Patrick Roy. And maybe no Stanley Cup. But we definitely wouldn’t have had Peter the Great.

The Snub

Eric Lindros’ snub of the Quebec Nordiques, who drafted him first-overall in 1991, is hockey legend by now. Prior to the draft, Lindros had told the organization that he wouldn’t play for the Nordiques. There has been much speculation as to why — whether it was due to patriotism or greed — but Lindros committed a very public snub when his name was called at the 1991 entry draft:

He plays it diplomatic at first, smiling slightly and giving all the right answers to reporters. But the refusal to put on the Nordiques jersey spoke volumes.(Quite a different reaction from our Matt Duchene, hm, Avs Nation?)

Indeed, come autumn, he returned to his junior team rather than ever play for the Nordiques.

The Trade

The Quebec Nordiques had no choice but to trade Lindros. Sure, maybe they could have eventually forced him to play. However, the fan base would never forgive Lindros’ snub.

In any case, unloading Lindros turned into one of the most convoluted and far-reaching trades that ever hit the NHL. Despite Lindros’ ill-mannered refusal to be grateful he was a first-overall draft pick, teams wanted him badly. The Philadelphia Flyers finally won out. They gave up a lot, though:

  • Center Peter Forsberg
  • Center Mike Ricci
  • Defenseman Steve Duchesne
  • Defenseman Kerry Huffman
  • Goalie Ron Hextall
  • $15 million
  • 1993 first-round draft pick (more on that in a moment)
  • Future considerations (turned into Chris Simon)

Seriously, a straight up trade Lindros for Forsberg, would still have been a bargain. Thanks, Philadelphia, for the icing, ganache, sprinkles, strawberries, powdered sugar and chocolate chips on top.

Besides the great value that Forsberg added to the Avs, becoming one of our franchise players and all, the Avalanche won a Stanley Cup with Ricci and then traded him for a draft pick that became Alex Tanguay. Tangs is still adding to the Avs, but his greatest contribution was his 2001 Game 7, Cup-winning goal.

Actually, Duchesne was traded for Ron Sutter who was exchanged for a draft pick. The Quebec Nordiques used that pick on Uwe Krupp, who scored the 1996 Cup-winning goal.

More significantly, if you can imagine, the first-round draft pick was used to acquire Jocelyn Thibault, whom the Avalanche eventually traded to Montreal for Patrick Roy. Yeah, St. Patrick himself. So, thanks, Eric, for the two Stanley Cups, especially since you never earned any yourself.

The Comparison

Ironically, both Lindros and Forsberg are renowned for being power forwards, the kind of punishing players teams hate to defend against. Both were plagued with injuries because of their playing style. Nonetheless, Forsberg made it 20 years in the NHL. Lindros lasted just 15.

Numbers-wise, the two players are not radically different:

[table id=17 /]

Unfortunately for Lindros, his various behaviors got him pegged as a villain in the NHL. He still dominated as a player, but his faults and defeats have been far more chronicled.

On the flip side, Forsberg is an enduring hero both in Colorado and environs as well as in Sweden, where he won two Olympic gold medals and two World Championship gold medals, as well as a cache of silver medals. He’s even been immortalized on a postage stamp in Sweden.

I guess it all comes down to character, which is telling in the end. You could argue that Forsberg had a better supporting cast than Lindros did, and that’s valid. However, if Lindros had just played for the team that had the rights to him, he’d have had Joe Sakic. And maybe Patrick Roy eventually. Maybe he’d have gotten one or both of the Cup-winning goals.

But we’ll never know. Both were great players. As Peter Forsberg gets inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, which has not graced Lindros, it’s obvious that Forsberg just shines brighter.