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Dallas Stars center Eric Lindros is all smiles after scoring a third period goal against the New Jersey Devils during their NHL regular season hockey game in Dallas, Texas October 7, 2006. (MIKE STONE/REUTERS)
Dallas Stars center Eric Lindros is all smiles after scoring a third period goal against the New Jersey Devils during their NHL regular season hockey game in Dallas, Texas October 7, 2006. (MIKE STONE/REUTERS)

Mirtle: Is this finally Eric Lindros’s year for the Hockey Hall of Fame? Add to ...

It’s been a four-year wait for The Big E – seven since his retirement – and there remains little indication that the Hockey Hall of Fame committee is any closer to deciding what do with him.

But if they wanted an opening, this year could well be the one to induct Eric Lindros.

Dominik Hasek will be a slam dunk on Monday afternoon when the votes are tallied, going in immediately in his first year of eligibility with no questions asked.

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Peter Forsberg will likely join him, too, despite a career devastated by injuries, as he’ll go down as one of the greatest Swedish players of all time.

Beyond that, there’s a grey area, with Mark Recchi and Mike Modano two other first-time eligibles who had marvellous careers and who will end up in the Hall, if not this fall, then in the very near future.

But there would be some nice symmetry in inducting Forsberg and Lindros together. After all, they were traded for one another right in the beginning, in that blockbuster deal that gave the Philadelphia Flyers a franchise player and made the Colorado Avalanche a perennial contender, back in 1992, and they’ve been compared to one another ever since.

Their careers also overlapped right when the league began to enter its Dead Puck Era, when their size and strength combined with talent made them difference makers – and their bodies took a beating for it.

In all, Lindros managed only 760 regular-season games, or a little more than nine 82-game seasons; Forsberg played slightly more than 700, albeit with a remarkable 151 more in the postseason, where he was often at his best.

At various times, both were considered the best player in the game – even if fleetingly so – and both won a single Hart Trophy designating them so.

With Pavel Bure and Cam Neely’s inductions already setting the precedent, injuries also shouldn’t be what holds them out of hockey’s highest honour.

With so many similarities between the two, it would be only fitting if, 22 years after the trade that shook hockey, the pair go into the Hall alongside one another.

Habs loss is Panthers gain

Given the meagre lifespan of Florida Panthers coaches of late, it’s no wonder their hiring of Gerard Gallant went through rather quietly late last week.

But if anyone can tough it out and make it work in Sunrise, it’ll be the Prince Edward Island native, who many credit with being a strong stabilizing force as an assistant coach on the Montreal Canadiens team that surprised in going to the conference finals this year.

Gallant’s had a kick at this before. He was the head coach of a weak Columbus team for 142 games ending back in 2006, but he’s since paid his dues all over the place, including a wildly successful tenure with the Saint John Sea Dogs that included winning Canadian junior hockey’s coach of the year twice.

He’ll be reunited with former Dog Jonathan Huberdeau in Florida, one of the Panthers budding stars who he had a great relationship with, but the challenges remain myriad with an organization that’s had one fluky postseason appearance in the past 13 years.

There’s a lot more young talent coming, including via the first overall pick on Friday at the draft in Philadelphia, where it’s believed GM Dave Tallon will select defenceman Aaron Ekblad.

What they need more than anything down there is stability – especially considering this is their ninth head coach since 2001 – and Gallant is a good step in that direction.

Devils a team to watch after analytics hire

The folks in New Jersey aren’t commenting, but the rumours appear to be true: The Devils have hired a pro poker player and jazz guitarist based in New Orleans as their director of analytics after a long and thorough search.

Sunny Mehta, a Wyckoff, N.J., native who’s widely respected in hockey’s small statistician circle, will join the Devils as the latest example of a battle over analytics in an NHL front office.

This wasn’t GM Lou Lamoriello’s idea, as the 71-year-old has a healthy skepticism for hockey’s newer numbers despite being a former mathematics teacher. New owner Josh Harris, who also owns the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, wants both organizations to be at the forefront of the so-called Moneyball push, and this is a first step in that direction.

(It’s one that remains much more the accepted practice in basketball compared hockey these days.)

How much impact Mehta can really have in such a traditional organization remains to be seen, but the Devils are one of a number of teams beginning to wrestle with that dynamic and commit resources to it.

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

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