We all know the story of the 1991 NHL Draft and Eric Lindros's famous refusal to play for the Quebec Nordiques and the following trade to the Philadelphia Flyers. Lindros excelled in Philly for years and was a beloved player for his kick-your-ass style of play and the amount of points he put up while wearing the Orange and Black. Sadly his career in Philly was cut short by meddling parents, and devastating concussions. The trade for his rights was one of the biggest blockbusters in NHL history, considering the value of what the Nordiques/Avalanche got in return was substantially larger than what the Oilers received for Gretzky from Los Angeles.
Looking back at that trade could an argument be made that Philadelphia was on the losing end? Steve Duchesne, Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci and Chris Simon), two draft picks and $15 million were ultimately send up to Quebec for this 18 year old labeled the "Next One."
Ron Hextall was only 4 seasons removed from willing the Flyers to a game 7 in '88 versus the Oilers, a team which the case can be made was the greatest of all time. This is also a point in time where the Flyers current goalie woes can be traced too. Hextall later returned to Philly in the late '90s but was a shell of his Conn Smythe Winning self.
Huffman, Dechesne, Ricci and Simon all had productive careers after this point and did eventually help Colorado win a Stanley Cup. These players would have fit in well with the Flyers teams of the 1990's and who knows what they could have done with a little bit more depth throughout their lineup. The two real keys to this trade came in the form of Flyers draft pick Peter Forsberg and one of the two draft picks they gave up.
Tackling the draft pick issue, following their move to Colorado the new franchise used one of their remaining picks from the Flyers to alter the NHL for years to come. Following the 1995 season Colorado shipped that 1st round pick received to Montreal for Patrick Roy. Roy went on to become one of the all-time greats and cement his legacy in Denver by winning 2 more Stanley Cups. Imagine if the Flyers had held this pick and made the same trade. What could those teams have done in the late '90s with Roy between the pipes instead of an aging Hextall or Vanbeisbrook? This is a question that may haunt some Flyers fans for decades to come, unless the current team can erase years of mismanagement and goaltending struggles.
When looking back the bigger of the two keys to the trade was Peter Forsberg. The man known as "Foppa" who would later go on to win 2 Stanley Cups with the Avs and be considered the best player in the world during many of those seasons. A head to head comparison will show that over their careers Forsberg netted 20 more points in 52 less career games. Lindros cannot play the injury card as Forsberg was hurt just as much if not more at times in his career. The real difference maker in this is career playoff points, where Forsberg excelled and picked up 171 points versus The Big E's 53 points. Forsberg played in 98 more playoff games and when adding up the estimated numbers would still outscore Lindros by 9 points if they played the same amount of games.
While I cannot argue the Flyers would have been better off had they never made this trade there are many questions that can be asked such as would LeClair have been as good as he was with Forsberg centering him instead of Lindros? Would they have kept Mark Recchi around longer to play on his wing as well? Those are just immediate questions looking a little further down the road one could wonder if Rod Brind' Amour ever would have been traded, presuming he was named Captain instead of Lindros had the trade never gone through, for Keith Primeau, thus negating all of his playoff magic in 2000 and 2003. Obviously the goaltending situation is widely known as being horrible since Hextall left so no need to get into what if they picked up Roy. I am not knocking Lindros for what he did in the '90s as a Flyer, he was arguably the most dominant player in the league for a period in time but as history shows so was Forsberg.
Just some history to ponder on a rainy day and no Flyers hockey to look forward to until September.