Chris Pronger aims to bring wisdom to Flyers

By Sam Carchidi

The Philadelphia Inquirer


MONTREAL — Chris Pronger, the Flyers’ new defensive cornerstone, still has a mean streak in him, but if you listen to those close to the Player Who Was Acquired to Win the Stanley Cup, it’s now a “controlled mean streak.

He still clears bodies from the front of the net, still is a ferocious hitter, still is the personification of a throwback player.

But, at 34, he’s much wiser than the guy who has collected nine suspensions during a sometimes stormy but brilliant 15-year career. The suspensions ranged from dirty hits to stomping on an opponent.

“Chris has adjusted to the rules,” said Anaheim general manager Bob Murray, who sent Pronger to the Flyers in Friday’s blockbuster trade. “He plays the game smart.”

Murray said Pronger was a different player last season, one in which he played in all 82 games.

He changed “because he doesn’t want to get any more suspensions,” Murray said with a smile.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said he, too, had noticed how Pronger had adapted to an NHL game that has less hitting than the Broad Street Bullies’ NHL.

“Chris’ hockey intelligence and hockey sense is off the charts,” Holmgren said.

He called Pronger a “skilled player … who happens to be physical and has a nice little mean streak, but he plays within the rules more often than not.”

Pronger may not touch the fine line between being an aggressive player and a dirty one as much as he did earlier in his career, but is still a physical force. He also has a calming effect, much like a new teammate, standout defenseman Kimmo Timonen.

“He has a presence on the ice and makes the whole team better,” Columbus general manager Scott Howson said at this weekend’s draft here.

“He’s a fantastic defender with a great reach and he just puts the puck in the right place, and he’s got a big cannon from the point,” Howson said. “He’s one of the greatest defensemen of all time, in my mind.”

Because of the way he manages the puck and defends, Howson said, Pronger makes it easier for his teammates.

“Your team doesn’t end up working as hard in their end as they would if he wasn’t on the ice, because he gets the puck in the right spot and away it goes,” he said.

The Flyers are getting a player who was drafted second overall in 1993 by the Hartford Whalers, and one who, while with St. Louis in 2000, became the first player to win the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP and the Norris Trophy as its top defenseman in the same year since 1972.

Some guy named Bobby Orr won it that year.

Pronger helped Edmonton reach the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006, but shortly after the season, he asked to be traded for personal reasons.

Reportedly, his wife, Lauren, was unhappy in Edmonton, prompting the request. Unsubstantiated rumors about marital issues – the Canadian press and the Internet had a field day – also may have contributed to his request.

“We thought (a trade) was best for our family,” Pronger told the Los Angeles Daily News after being dealt. “As far as discussions we had as a family, they’re going to stay private. … It’s none of your business, basically.

“I’m a big boy and I have a thick skin, but it’s unfortunate that your family has to get dragged into it. … At the end of the day, they’re just rumors and it’s somebody trying to stir the pot.”

Pronger thrived in Anaheim and helped the Ducks win the Stanley Cup in 2007.

“A little while ago, we traded a few guys from our Stanley Cup team, and now trading another one, it’s no fun,” Murray said after sending Pronger to the Flyers. “We accomplished something good together. It’s tough” to let go.

Of course, landing talented young players such as Joffrey Lupul and Luca Sbisa, along with a pair of No. 1 draft picks, eased the pain.

Still, Anaheim will miss Pronger, and not just because of his outstanding two-way play. He also is regarded as an in-your-face leader whose fiery nature should enliven the Flyers’ laid-back locker room.

“He gives them a chance to win the Stanley Cup immediately,” Murray said. “Paul Holmgren’s trying to win. We were there three years ago. He’s there now.”


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