Over the past 110 regular season games stretching back to the beginning of last season, Chris Pronger skated for a mere 63 of those games.
A plethora of differing injuries kept him out of the lineup for long stretches. Now, he is out indefinitely with what is being called “concussion-like symptoms”. Or you know, as the rest of us call it, a concussion.
Barely into the second season of his seven-year contract extension, he rarely looks like his typical, grade-A self. The older he gets, the more he cuts back, playing a less physical and less aggressive style, likely in an attempt to preserve himself to last through the duration of his contract.
To date, that method has yet to prove to be successful and now the Flyers may have to plan for life without Chris Pronger, as some wonder if he’ll ever return from this injury.
The panic level in Philadelphia officially raised from orange to black.
So, what should the Flyers do? Nothing — at least not right now, anyway. Let’s look at some reasons why:
- When the prognosis on Pronger’s health worsened, the reality of the situation did not change, merely our perception of it. The Flyers are currently the best team in the Eastern Conference and the third-best team in the league. They’ve achieved this feat while Pronger skated for fewer than half of the games this season. Losing Pronger technically hasn’t hurt the team and, from a statistical standpoint, the Flyers actually have a better winning percentage without Pronger in the lineup.
- Paul Holmgren already said that many teams in the league are searching for defense. That means the Flyers would have to pay a premium for a defender. There’s no point in doing that at the moment. The team is not in dire straits.
- Drastic moves are typically bad moves. The Atlanta Thrashers were desperate to add a veteran, stabilizing presence to the blue line for the team’s attempt to make the postseason in 2007. As a result, the Flyers fleeced Atlanta by trading Alexei Zhitnik for budding prospect, Braydon Coburn. Now imagine how it would look five years from now if Holmgren shipped Erik Gustafsson to Ottawa as part of a deal for Sergei Gonchar.
- Many writers suggest that the Flyers have offense to spare and could trade a forward for a defender. That may be the case but the offense is the reason that the Flyers are winning games. They’re scoring the most goals per game in the NHL. It’s a formula that’s currently working and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
- Claude Giroux could very well miss some time too. It is imperative that the Flyers wait to see how his situation plays out before making any moves.
- The Flyers have some decent defensive prospects, including Kevin Marshall, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Blake Kessel, and Gustafsson. The injuries on defense resulted in opportunities for these players to prove their worth. It would behoove the Flyers to see if any of these players could blossom into regular NHLers, especially since the team could have some difficult decisions to make in the offseason.
- The Flyers do not need a quick fix on defense. The team needs a top-pairing defender with franchise potential. It’s difficult to acquire such players during the regular season. However, if it turns out that Pronger’s career might be over — and I certainly hope that is not the case — the team could be a player for someone like Ryan Suter in the offseason.
- But where did the cap space come from? The Flyers are already playing with fire by juggling players to stay under the cap. Adding a defensemen who could be considered capable of filling Pronger’s shoes would likely come at a hefty cost both in terms of assets and cap space. The end may not justify the means.
There is a time and a place for everything. Now does not appear to be the time to make a move to replace Pronger. As usual, I believe the team needs to be patient. At some point in time, an opportunity may present itself to make a deal that benefits the team. Or, Pronger could return later in the season and return to prime form. There’s no telling what could happen but history has shown over and over again that a knee jerk reaction might do more harm than good in the long run.