Chris Pronger: Philadelphia's Next Great "Final Piece"?

Kevin LagowskiCorrespondent IJuly 16, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - JULY 06: (EDITORS NOTE: THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN DIGITALLY ALTERED) Chris Pronger #20 of the Philadelphia Flyers poses for a portrait after his first press conference as a Philadelphia Flyer at Flyer's Skate Zone on July 6, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

History does indeed repeat itself. Sometimes it just takes a couple decades to get around to it.


With Chris Pronger now patrolling the Flyers’ blueline and dreams of Stanley Cup glory dancing in fans’ heads, the situation is reminiscent of yesteryear, when both the Phillies and 76ers acquired that “final piece” to push them over the top.


For the Phillies, it was Pete Rose. Brought in before the 1979 season, Charlie Hustle sparked the Phils to their first ever World Series win in his second year with the club.


For the Sixers, superstar Moses Malone was the driving force behind the team’s title in 1983, his first year in Philadelphia.


And now, it is Pronger who looks to join the fraternity of “perennial all-star, Hall of Fame-bound players who finally get a Philadelphia team over the hump and to a championship”.


Yes, I know Rose isn’t technically in the Hall, but you know what I mean.


It won’t be easy. The last man to fit the profile, Terrell Owens, couldn’t do it. But Pronger is working with what appears to be a bigger window of opportunity than Rose and Malone were since the Flyers are still a fairly young team.


When Pete Rose came to the Phillies, the team had a reputation for falling short when it mattered the most, having lost in the NLCS three straight seasons.


Things were even worse for the Sixers before Malone came on the scene. The team had endured three NBA Finals losses and two conference finals losses in the previous six years.


It would be a reach to say that these situations are the same as Pronger’s. The Flyers only have one conference finals appearance to show for their efforts in the four seasons since the NHL returned from its yearlong lockout.


But parallels can be drawn.


Rose was two years removed from his second World Series championship when he signed with the Phillies, while Pronger is now two years removed from his Stanley Cup title with Anaheim in 2007.


Rose came to the Phillies with 16 years of major league experience under his belt, while Pronger has played 15 seasons in the NHL.


In terms of individual accolades, Pronger, Rose, and Malone all won MVP awards before they landed in Philadelphia, although Malone had won two fairly recently when compared to Rose and Pronger.


Pronger and Malone were also five-time all-stars at the time of their trades to Philadelphia, while free agent signing Rose had received the honor 12 times.


Of the three, Malone was by far the youngest and is the only one of these three who could claim to still be one of the very best players in the league at the time he landed in Philadelphia. 


But by the same token, he was the only one out of these three who was without a title when he came to town.


While Malone learned a thing or two about winning while he was in Philadelphia, the influence he had over future Hall of Famer Julius Erving and a cast of other very good players was undeniable. Rose was similar in finally getting Schmidt, Carlton and company to the promised land.


Pronger is not as fortunate to have any established superstars to work with, although Mike Richards and Jeff Carter have set down that path and could get there sometime soon. Perhaps even young Claude Giroux or someone else entirely can surprise us.


There is no question that Pronger has the biggest challenge ahead of him and needs to lead by example off the ice as much as on it. But that’s just the life of being a consistent winner and leader on a young team in need of those things.


If Pronger can take the Flyers to the Stanley Cup during his tenure in town, he will be lauded and celebrated as a hero for years.


But if he fails to deliver, he will probably be looked upon as just another player past his prime that a Philadelphia team gambled on and lost.


It may be completely unfair, but that’s how it goes in a town like this. Especially when you’re supposed to be the final piece of the puzzle.