Well, for the Philadelphia Flyers, there's good news and bad news.
As reported by Philly general manager Paul Holmgren on the Flyers' official website, hard-nosed veteran defenseman Chris Pronger's knee is improving. The bad news is that the Philadelphia captain has also been suffering from concussion-like symptoms.
Holmgren said Pronger will travel to Pittsburgh on December 14th to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) to see Dr. Joe Maroon and Dr. Mickey Collins. Maroon has been the Pittsburgh Steelers' team neurosurgeon since 1981 and works with Collins at the UPMC. Collins, the head of the UPMC's Sports Medicine Concussion Program, is the same doctor Sidney Crosby visited for his now infamous concussion.
What does this mean for the Philadelphia Flyers' chances at a Stanley Cup?
Well, there's no doubt that you can't replace a Chris Pronger. The captain is the last defenseman to win the Hart Trophy since Bobby Orr (2000) and won a Stanley Cup in '07 with the Anaheim Ducks.
Additionally, he has a pair of gold medals from the 2002 and 2010 Winter Olympic Games. His booming shot from the point is top-notch, his towering presence invaluable, and you certainly can't put a price tag on the leadership he brings to the table.
Now, the Flyers have already had to adjust to life without Pronger, as he's already been out. The kicker now is that there's no telling when or if he'll be back in an orange and white sweater. That's the unfortunate thing about concussions—the symptoms linger, and as tragically seen with Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard, you don't want to rush any player returning from one.
On the back-end, Pronger aside, Philly is also without the services of Erik Gustafsson (wrist) and Andreas Lilja (ankle). Just Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a game which they won 3-2 in regulation, the Flyers rolled with the regulars Matt Carle, Braydon Coburn, Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros seeing increased minutes.
Also, Marc-Andre Bourdon and Kevin Marshall have recently been thrown in the mix to fill in the gaps, although Marshall barely played six minutes Thursday night.
If Philadelphia's offense, namely Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr, can continue to lead the charge up front, it help should offset the offensive production of Pronger. However, I would be willing to bet that Paul Holmgren won't be content simply moving forward without him and will contemplate acquiring another defenseman, whether it be for depth's sake or to add some true offensive punch.
This situation arose last season when Pronger suffered a hand injury very late in the season, which resulted in him missing the last handful of regular-season games, as well as the entire first round against Buffalo, save for the pivotal Game 7.
Pronger then went on to play Game 1 against Boston in the next round, only to suffer another undisclosed injury (likely re-injuring the right hand) and miss the rest of the series, in which the Bruins would sweep Philly in four games. Simply put, there's no doubt that having Chris Pronger in the lineup is crucial for the Flyers.
Perhaps with the trade deadline appearing in the horizon, Holmgren will turn to the marketplace for a defender to help bolster his club's blue line en route to the playoffs. The Flyers currently have around $2.3 million in long-term injury room, so depending on Pronger's diagnosis on the 14th, and his progress made from that date, Holmgren might have to make a move—because going on without Pronger will leave a sizable gap.
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