In the interest of full disclosure: I’m not a fan of Chris Pronger. I don’t think he’s been a quality defenceman since his season in Anaheim. I think he was royally exposed at the Olympics in 2010. I could really live without him from an on-ice perspective.
Just because I don’t think he’s the guy I want on the ice to shut out the world’s best forwards and win me a Stanley Cup doesn’t mean he has no locker room presence. I fully believe that the presence of one of the game’s all-time top intimidators is an immense lift to any squad. There’s a feeling of invincibility you get when you take a look around the room and think “I’m glad he’s on my side.”
The issue of Pronger’s presence and effect on teammates came up today after yet another Flyer loss to the New York Rangers today. Kimmo Timonen was the most vocal about his displeasure after the game, calling his teammates effort level into question after the loss.
“I’m a little disappointed at the effort, the emotional level, a top team in the conference and league and to be honest. We got half the guys going and half not,” he said.
“That was my opinion. You might see differently, but that is what I saw. It’s a big game for us and I was expecting more. It was tight game, they got three power play goals, we didn’t score any.”
“They play the same way every night. There’s no surprises and if there is a breakdown their goalie makes the save and they block a ton of shots. Somehow they get the job done. They work hard. They play the same system every night and their goal plays really well every night.”
“You have to bring it every night,” Timonen said. “I don’t care who you are … Every game matters. You have to bring it!”
That’s when the issue of Pronger was brought up to Timonen. Namely, would having the big captain around rattle enough cages to kick the Flyers into high gear?
“He’s not here and we all should get by that by now – he’s not coming back,” Timonen said. “We’d be more than happy to take him back but he’s not here. Would he say something? I don’t know. Who knows?”
It’s certainly an interesting question whether Pronger’s presence would make a difference at all. Sure, the Flyers’ mental disposition would be different, as would the Rangers. It’s not as though these games are lopsided losses in the first place. I suspect a large part of the drop in effort level from the Flyers can be attributed to the rock in goal New York has named Henrik Lundqvist. Chris Pronger can raise your team’s nasty level to new heights, but nothing changes the demeanour of an opponent like a strong goaltender. Henrik Lundqvist is the definition of game changer between the pipes, and he is the primary difference between these two teams.
Talent-wise I’d take the Flyers, but the Rangers have Lundqvist and I’ll take King Henrik every time.
Here’s the Timonen scrum.
Kudos to Timonen for taking the leadership role here. He’s an all-star, a veteran guy with only so many kicks at the can left in him. As someone who’s normally pretty reserved his words should mean that much more, and if the Flyers don’t take what Kimmo Timonen is willing to say going forward, they’ll be in some trouble.
Here’s some more thoughts from the mind of Timonen.
“Talent? Well, it comes down to effort,” he replied. “I don’t think there’s much skill level difference from bottom team to the top team, but it comes to the system, how you execute the system, how you play every night. Sometimes we go up and down. Then you lose games. That’s not the way championship teams play.
“… Everyone realizes we could have played better,” Timonen said. “It was a tight game, 2-2, but I felt we could have pushed more and pressured more. They got another two points.
“… We need everybody going at the same time. We just can’t have one or two lines going and four defensemen or whatever. We need everybody going. This is the time of year when you need everyone going.”
“Tomorrow, if we’re not ready to play, it’s even a tougher opponent than today,” Timonen said.
The Flyers take on the Red Wings in Detroit tomorrow at 7:30. That’ll be a good measuring stick to see how they bounce back, no?