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.

Comments (6)

  1. No retirement for Pronger, he’s a 35+ contract and wouldn’t come off the book.

    • Very good point, but if I recall correctly – and I could be wrong – Pronger could retire and the Flyers would be on the hook against the cap.

      • I think that’s what becanucks is saying – if Pronger retires, he’s still on the cap for four-point-whatever million, whereas if he remains unable to play and stays on LTIR, he gets paid and the Flyers get the cap space compensated. I think Ed Snider’s pockets are deep enough, and his hopes for this group high enough, that he would be willing to pony up for Pronger to not play and allow the team to spend to the cap on someone else to fill a hole.

        To anyone who remembers – is the scenario I described above similar to the Rathje situation, or did he stay on the cap hit? I remember feeling that Rathje was doing a disservice to the team at the time, but I was younger and did not know much about the CBA.

    • Becanucks, not so fast though.

      The NHL has retirement due to injury clauses in the CBA. If a player, regardless of age, retires because of injury and not voluntarily then the contract might not count towards the cap.

      I read the headlines and the first thing that popped into my mind is: The Flyers can completely avoid having his salary count against the cap as long as the injury is approved for LTIR status. This means Philly might be doing two things:

      1. Asking Pronger to continue to have concussion/post-concussion issues for a few more years.

      2. They could be building a case for a retirement due to injury which is called “Career Ending Disability” 23.4. The CBA does not explicitly say what the answer is here but I can see the contract coming off the cap because of this clause.

      That could be the way to have Pronger “retire” but avoid his cap hit.

      • The article you’re referring to deals more with insurance; it guarantees that a player who is forced to miss time (or retire) due to injury will continue to receive his salary and team and League benefits per his SPC – that’s why the CBA doesn’t give you an explicit answer regarding the cap hit here.

        I think that it has always been the case, regardless of injury, that player salaries come off the salary cap upon retirement. The difference here is that a voluntarily retiring player will not receive his salary, whereas an injured player can continue to collect his salary for the remaining term of his contract.

        The addition of the 35+ clause states that, regardless of where or whether a player with a 35+ contract is playing, the cap hit will remain, and the maximum cap relief for moving such a player to the minors is $100,000. I don’t think there are any exceptions for the salary cap if the player retires due to injury.

        I’m not terribly worried about this from a salary cap perspective, though. If Pronger would retire /due to injury/, he’d be in a state that would qualify him for LTIR, and since it doesn’t make any difference to what he has to do, what has to be paid, etc, I suspect he’d be happy to stay on LTIR. If Pronger is not made to retire, he’ll be able to play, in which case the Flyers will be getting their money’s worth for another year, at least. If he comes back and then retires before age 42 (likely), his salary will remain on the cap hit until the contract expires. I think that whether this is ‘worth it’ or not will be determined only by whether the Flyers win a Stanley Cup before Pronger retires.

        I am worried about him as a person – I hope, hockey or not, that he’s able to recover fully!

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