We won't be seeing Chris Pronger for a while

There was breaking news out of the Philadelphia Flyers camp tonight as GM Paul Holmgren finally announced that Chris Pronger will not be returning to the lineup this season – regular season or playoffs – due to post-concussion syndrome.

The official statement out of Philly per Flyers PR:

After consultation with respected concussion specialists Dr. Joseph Maroon and Dr. Micky Collins, it is the opinion of both doctors that Chris is suffering from severe post concussion syndrome. It is the recommendation of Doctors Maroon and Collins that Chris not return to play for the Philadelphia Flyers for the remainder of the 2011-12 season or playoffs. Chris will continue to receive treatment and therapy with the hope that he can get better.

Obviously this is a blow for Pronger who has been the subject of retirement speculation since he was plagued by injury problems during the 2010-11 playoffs. I’d have to think that hanging it up will be an even more appealing option for Pronger who doesn’t need to deal with the problems that come with concussions, let alone the general deterioration of being an NHLer at 37 years old.

Figuring out exactly what happened to Pronger has been an interesting point of debate as it is hard to pinpoint exactly what caused Pronger’s concussion. Most of the concussion talk has centered around Pronger’s eye injury on October 24 against the Toronto Maple Leafs when a Mikhail Grabovski shot was deflected into his face, injuring his eye. Pronger missed six games for the Flyers before returning on November 9 against Tampa Bay. He played five more games for the Flyers until November 19 against Winnipeg and hasn’t played since. It was initially reported that Pronger had a “virus” but clearly whatever ailed him must be tied to his post-concussion issues.

But where did Pronger get this concussion? Was it against the Leafs when that Grabovski puck struck him in the eye? Obviously it couldn’t have been too severe if he rejoined the team just a few games later. Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News has a theory:

With 2:09 remaining in the third period, Pronger was crunched on the boards in his own end by the Coyotes’ Martin Hanzal. It was a routine, clean hit. But it may have a lasting impact on the Flyers’ season.

Pronger was hit from the side, but went into the glass face first. He bounced off the glass and immediately fell to his knees and was slow to get up again. Pronger eventually re-joined the play, made a pass, and exited the ice.

Could this Hanzal hit have triggered the concussion? Who knows. According to the Flyers it wasn’t until after the Winnipeg game that Pronger’s conditioned got bad enough to hold him out of the lineup.

Obviously the wish is for Pronger to have a successful recovery and return to the Flyers next season at full strength. That being said, how does this loss impact the Flyers going forward?

In this blogger’s humble opinion, the Flyers should be just fine without Pronger – their team captain – manning the blueline. That is a pretty contentious statement, but the Flyers have fared well without him so far this season.

Some numbers for your consideration:

WITH Pronger in the lineup, the Flyers have gone 8-3-2 (.533), allowed 35 goals and scored 42 goals of their own.

WITHOUT Pronger in the lineup, the Flyers have gone 11-4-1 (.733), allowed 47 goals and scored 64 goals. What’s interesting to consider is if you subtract that 9-8 game of shinny they played against the Jets on October 27, the Flyers have allowed 38 goals and scored 56 in the absence of their captain.

So, in 13 games with Pronger the Flyers have averaged 3.2 goals for and 2.7 goals against. On the flip side the Flyers have been averaging 4.0 goals for and 2.9 goals against without Pronger. If you subtract the Winnipeg game, that’s 3.5 goals for and 2.5 goals against.

Clearly the Flyers are doing just fine without their big name blueliner.

That being said, the Flyers won’t be able to sustain this production forever without the likes of Claude Giroux and the developing Brayden Schenn who are going to be key for the team down the stretch. Andreas Lilja, who adds lower level defensive depth for the Flyers, is out with a high ankle sprain.

The most impressive part about the Flyers? They’re on a six-game winning streak. Philadelphia is giving the NHL a crash course on how to have depth when you need it.

UPDATE: Fun fact put forth by a twitter account you need to follow here at theScore – @theScoreTicker – re: Pronger being out of the lineup:

Some more food for thought.