Lindros' championship dream fades

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The Independent Online

Amid all the injuries and clashes with management, it appears Eric Lindros' career with the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League will end with him as a distraction rather than a champion.

Lindros rejoined the Flyers on Tuesday for the first time since his feud with general manager Bob Clarke tore a hole in his relationship with the team.

Still unable to practice because of a concussion, Lindros rode the exercise bike while his teammates prepared for Thursday's first-round playoff game with the Buffalo.

This marks the second straight year in which Lindros will miss an opening-round playoff series due to injury. Last year, he was sidelined by a collapsed lung.

"I don't think there needs to be any more said," said Lindros, speaking softly and seeming more like an outsider than the franchise player who was the team's focal point for eight years. "I'm just focusing on getting back and getting in shape."

Lindros said he spoke by phone with almost all of the team last week and also talked briefly with team chairman Ed Snider. Asked if he had talked with Clarke, Lindros said simply, "No."

Lindros was a walking textbook of medical problems again this season. He missed two games with a viral infection, two with a bruised hand, four with his first concussion, four with back spasms and the final 14 with his latest concussion.

Still, with Lindros ailing, the Flyers rallied from a 15-point deficit in the last two months to capture the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

On March 4, the 27-year-old center took a hit from Bosd absorbed the fourth concussion of his career.

He had hoped trainer John Worley would recognize that he had another concussion and pull him from the lineup. He didn't and Lindros played four more games.

On March 13, Lindros was unable to play at Phoenix and a tense situation worsened.

Team doctors diagnosed a Grade I concussion, but Dr. James Kelly, a Chicago neurologist, said Lindros had a more serious Grade II concussion. Lindros criticized Worley and team doctors. Clarke then stripped Lindros of the team captaincy.

"It's fair to say when a guy like Lindros comes out and criticizes the doctors and trainers, he's thinking of himself and not the team," Clarke said.

Teammates endorsed the change, leading to questions on how Lindros would be received should he return. Lindros has won the team's MVP award - named for Clarke - four times. Those awards seem long forgotten. Now many want Lindros to apologise.

Lindros is in the final year of a one-year, dlrs 8.5 million contract and can become a restricted free agent. Given everything that has happened this season, however, it has become increasingly unlikely he will return to the Flyers next season.

The Flyers must make him a qualifying offer to keep matching and compensation rights. Clarke said the offer will be made.

Lindros was 19 years old when the Flyers traded six players, two first-round draft choices and dlrs 15 million to the Quebec Nordiques to acquire him.

Quebec owner Marcel Aubut traded Lindros to the New York Rangers, but the Flyers contended they already had a deal and an arbitrator ruled in favor of Philadelphia.

Since then, the Nordiques - now the Colorado Avalanche- and the Rangers have won the Stanley Cup. The Flyers have not. And many say Lindros is the reason why despite six All-Star selections and an MVP awas before Lindros arrived.

The thought was, with Lindros, the Stanley Cup would return. The closest the Flyers came was the finals in 1997 when they were swept by Detroit.