I consider myself a connoisseur of bad NHL trades. Especially with the time I have spent breaking down Milbury trades. Now in my opinion, nothing was worse then the Olli Jokinen/Roberto Luongo for Mark Parrish/Oleg Kvasha. Jokinen and Luongo both became All-Stars, while Parrish and Kvasha did almost nothing. But the standing notion is that the worst NHL trade in history is the Lindros trade to the Flyers for Forsberg and a handful of prospects/picks. The common stance is that while the Avs became an elite team and won Multiple Cups, the Flyers only made the Stanley Cup Finals once and were swept by the Red Wings.
I think this is horribly slanting things against the Flyers. Lindros made them an elite team and had some great seasons. Unfortunately the failing of the Flyers was the always changing situation in Net. While the Sabres had Dominik Hasek, the Rangers had Richter, The Pens had Barasso, the Caps had Kolzig, the Panthers had Beezer, the Devils had Brodeur, the Leafs had Potvin and Joseph, and so on. While the east seemed to be overflowing with elite goalies, the Flyers were alone in not having a really great goalie. Now while Hextall was good, his time had passed. At the same time Snow, Boucher and the other Flyers goalies were good but not that good. It’s not surprising that in a period of time in which the league seemed to rely on clutch and grab and top goaltending, that the Flyers struggled.
But the Flyers still managed to make a good run of things. Meanwhile the Avs managed to fleece Patrick Roy, widely considered the best goalie in the league, who became the cornerstone of their runs to the Cup. One can only imagine what might have happened if Roy was playing for the Flyers instead of Snow for the season they made it to the Finals.
How do the two teams line up? It’s time for a breakdown of their standings from 92-93 to 99-00
Nordiques 47-27-10 104 .619 Lost in Round 1
Flyers 36-37-11 83 .494 out of playoffs
Nordiques 34-42-8 76 .452 Out of Playoffs
Flyers 35-39-10 80 .476 Out Of Playoffs
Nordiques 30-13-5 65 .677 Lost in Round 1
Flyers 28-16-4 60 .625 Lost in Round 3
Nordiques 47-25-10 104 .634 Won Cup
Flyers 45-24-13 107 .628 Lost in Round 2
Avalanche 49-24-9 107 .652 Lost in Round 3
Flyers 45-24-13 103 .628 Lost in Finals
Avalanche 39-26-17 95 .579 Lost in Round 1
Flyers 42-29-11 95 .579 Lost in Round 1
Avalanche 44-28-10 98 .598 Lost in Round 3
Flyers 37-26-19 94 .567 Lost in Round 1
Avalanche 42-28-11-1 96 .585 Lost in Round 3
Flyers 45-22-12-3 105 .640 Lost in Round 3
For much of Lindros’ time with the Flyers they were pretty much on an even footing with the Avs. But the goaltending struggles is obviously the difference here. For an Example, here’s Patrick Roy’s save percentages in the playoffs for the Avs: .921 .932 .906 .920 .928
In Comparison here’s Hextall’s playoff save percentages:
.904 .915 .892
Look, if you put Roy on the Flyers, they are probably just as dominate as the Avs were. The thought that the Lindros to the Flyers trade is “One of the worst” in NHL History is overblown. Both teams joined the elite of their conference not too long after the trade. The rise of the Nordiques was long in coming as they were bad for years before. It ignores all their drafts (including the addition of Joe Sakic) and movements of their own to get better. The Lindros deal in the end was basically Forseberg for Lindros. There were a lot of spare pieces, and the draft picks became Fiset and Baumgartner.
For a trade to be truly bad, it should dam near destroy one team and make another a powerhouse. Head to Head the Flyers matched the Avs/Nords almost every season. The difference was Roy in net. Had the Flyers ever had an answer to the struggles in net they probably would have won at least 1 Cup. There’s nothing in this trade that says if the Flyers don’t trade for Lindros they win the Cup instead. If anything they might have finished even worse then they did.