November 23, 2005
TORONTO (CP) -- Eric Lindros and the Toronto Maple Leafs have been a perfect fit.
Lindros has a team-high 10 goals, which puts him on pace for his most productive NHL season in four years, and the Leafs are rising towards the top of the Eastern Conference.
"I'm having fun here,'' Lindros said after practice Tuesday. "Things have worked out well.''
He's pulling down $1.55 million US on his one-year contract and he's been worth every penny.
|Graig Abel Photography |
"He's had a pleasure in his play,'' said head coach Pat Quinn. "He wants to be successful and he's worked real hard at it.
"He's a big part of a group of guys on this team I believe are capable of doing some really good things.''
He looks for Lindros to "keep pushing himself to play as he's played in this early going.''
Linemate Darcy Tucker likes the way Lindros has blended in.
"Eric really carried us leadership-wise after Mats (Sundin) got hurt in the first game,'' said Tucker. "He really stepped up and took control of his game and brought the team up around him.
"It was great to see.''
Lindros returned to the ice to test a stick after all his teammates had departed for the dressing room Tuesday.
"We're only a quarter way through the season so we've got a long way to go,'' he said. "We need to grow still, but we're getting better.''
Lindros' penchant for the plural impresses Quinn.
"He very much accepts that team attitude,'' said Quinn. "If we're going to be successful, we have to have it from of all of our guys.''
Eight concussions have altered Lindros' approach. He still throws his 240 pounds around, but isn't as reckless.
At the age of 32, he's a mellow pro. He doesn't mind that the spotlight that used to shine on him constantly is often pointed elsewhere now. He's skating on the third line and is content to be one of the guys rather than The Guy on a team he feels can go far.
"When we walk into games, we know in the back of our minds that if we stay out of the (penalty) box and allow our depth to take over a game, we're going to stand a pretty good chance of winning,'' he said. "Sooner or later one of the lines is going to break through a do something.
"As long as we can stick with it and keep rolling (the lines) and stay out of the box and keep everyone in the game, that's where depth becomes a factor for us.''
Lindros plays his 700th NHL game when the Boston Bruins come calling Wednesday night (TSN, 7:30 p.m. ET). He says the milestone is of no relevance to him.
"It took a while,'' he said with a smile. "It's not a lot of games in comparison to a lot of other guys that broke in at the same time I did and who were fortunate to be healthy the whole time.''
There were days he didn't think he'd get this far, and he wasn't even going to take his 700th for granted until the puck was dropped.
"I'm not there yet,'' he said with a chuckle. "I have to get through the day.''
For good luck, he then rapped his knuckles on the bench on which he was sitting.
"Hopefully there'll be a few more to go,'' he said.
To hear him tell it, he keeps a low profile around the city in which he always wanted to play.
"It's been good,'' he said. "To be honest, I haven't been out a whole lot.
"But it's the same _ people are curious, I guess, and well-wishing. They really take hockey quite passionately here and they want their team to do well.''
It's been 10 years since Lindros was league MVP, nine since his career-best 47-goal season with Philadelphia and eight since he amassed 26 playoff points in leading the Flyers to the Stanley Cup final. He was still considered to be in his prime in 2001-2002 when he helped Canada win Olympic gold and scored 37 goals for the New York Rangers.
The general perception is that he's slipped in the last three years, but he's showing this season that it's premature to presume he's on his last legs.
"I think he'll establish that he's still a really good player,'' said Quinn.
"He's been great the whole season,'' added defenceman Bryan McCabe. "He's in a great situation here.
"He wanted to play here, he's playing a lot and really contributing, and he's been great in the locker-room.''