When CSNPhilly.com asked fans several years ago to pick an all-time Flyers roster, we divided it into eras and then pitted each era’s top player against each other by position.
Not surprisingly the three players who will be inducted into the Flyers’ Hall of Fame this coming season were each the No. 1 finisher in their 1990s era: John LeClair as the best left wing, Eric Lindros as the club’s top center and Eric Desjardins as the top defenseman (see story).
Fans also voted LeClair as the all-time No. 1 Flyers left wing ahead of Bill Barber. Lindros was second to Bob Clarke and Desjardins was second to Mark Howe on the blue line.
LeClair, Lindros and Desjardins represented the core base of the Flyers in the mid-1990s into the early 2000s, which makes it all the more fitting that they go into the club’s Hall of Fame in the same season.
Since Desjardins' retirement in 2006, no player has rivaled his speed, smooth skating and strong right-handed shot from the point.
For many Flyers fans, he’s the standard of measurement on the blue line, mostly because more current fans saw him play as a Flyer than Howe, who began his professional career in mid-1970s.
Desjardins was a record seven-time winner of the Barry Ashbee Trophy as the club’s top defenseman with 396 points in 738 career games, second only to Howe (480 points). Desjardins anchored the Flyers' power play from the moment he arrived in the trade that also brought LeClair from Montreal back in 1995.
Lindros and LeClair are forever linked as meat of the famed “Legion of Doom” line with Mikael Renberg that tore up the NHL in the mid- to late-1990s. They combined for 225 goals and 490 points between 1995 and 1997.
Lindros was the ultimate power forward of his generation. His 659 points at center are third all-time as a Flyer in 486 games. Were it not for injury that cost him to miss the equivalent of two-plus seasons in Philadelphia, there’s no telling where those stats would have gone.
Lindros remains among the top 10 all-time Flyers in five categories: goals (290), assists (369), points (659), power-play goals (82) and hat tricks (11).
LeClair, who is among the most popular Flyers ever, had the hardest -- and scariest -- shot from the left circle of any player in this city. It simply had deadly accuracy.
He is third all-time among Flyers left wings with 643 points. His 333 goals rank fifth, and were it not for a debilitating lower back situation (herniated disks and subsequent surgeries) late in his career, there’s no question LeClair would have surpassed Clarke (358) as No. 4 on the goal list and probably No. 3 Tim Kerr (363), as well.
Most fans wonder why Lindros and LeClair were not selected to the Flyers' HOF sooner. A number of reasons probably.
It took the Flyers organization and this city’s fan base a long time to resolve its feelings about Lindros when he refused to play in 2000, sat the season out -- though he suffered from post-concussion syndrome -- then forced a trade to the Rangers in 2001.
It would take nearly a decade before fans throughout hockey realized that Lindros was at the forefront of concussion injuries, treatment and the long-term effect of post-concussion syndrome.
By the time Lindros returned here for the 2012 Winter Classic, people’s opinions changed about him and he was again embraced, even by the club and especially Clarke, his longtime sparring partner off the ice.
LeClair’s story is more complicated because he was released a quarter-way into his final NHL season with Pittsburgh (2006-07) and later declined the opportunity to sign a one-day contract so he could retire as a Flyer.
The idea had been discussed many times, yet when LeClair left the game, he simply blended into the background and never sought any further recognition in hockey or from the Philadelphia community.
Now he’s coming back.
“All three players are among the greatest in the history of the Flyers and are very deserving to join our Hall of Fame,” Flyers president Paul Holmgren said.
Indeed, it’s been a long time coming.