The Philadelphia Flyers, who already lost star forward Claude Giroux to a concussion, got some more crushing news on Thursday night.
General manager Paul Holmgren announced on the Flyers website that defenseman and team captain Chris Pronger would be shut down for the season. Pronger is dealing with severe post-concussion syndrome, and after meeting with doctors in Pittsburgh, it was determined to be best that Pronger miss the remainder of the regular season and postseason.
As Pronger heads to injured reserve and the debate about concussions in the NHL rages on, the Flyers have big issues on their hands. While there's no telling how their season will finish, they must figure out who will be captain in Pronger's absence, if they appoint one at all.
Here are six Flyers players who could wear the "C" for the rest of the year.
Briere is a veteran forward who is in his fifth season with Philadelphia. He has been in the league for 10 years and previously played for the Phoenix Coyotes and the Buffalo Sabres. While with the Sabres, Briere led the team with 19 postseason points as they went to the Eastern Conference Finals.
In 2010, he was again a solid playoff performer as the Flyers advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. He led the team with 30 points, so he can step up when the stakes are high, and right now, there is enough pressure on the Flyers to continue performing despite key losses.
He is currently an alternate captain, and at 34 years old, he still has some good years left in him. Also, after playing just 29 games in 2008-09, he has played at least 70 games the last two years. He has not missed any of the Flyers' 30 games this season and is fifth on the team with 24 points.
Carle came to Philadelphia in 2008-09 after being traded by the Tampa Bay Lightning, and he had 24 points in 64 games. He has continued to improve every year and led Flyers defensemen with 40 points last year. He was also tied for first with a plus-30 rating.
Carle does not take a lot of penalties, as his career high in penalty minutes was 30 during the 2006-07 season, when he played with the San Jose Sharks. This means he will be able to be on the ice most of the time and won't cause any controversy or draw attention to himself.
The captaincy would likely not affect his play, as he is currently second among the team's defensemen with18 points, and he also has a plus-eight rating. In fact, he has had a positive plus/minus for the last four seasons.
He is 27 years old and under contract through the end of the year. Assuming the Flyers are not looking to replace Pronger as captain over the long term, Carle would be a good choice to fill in.
Hartnell is in his sixth season with the Flyers and came over to the team in a trade with the Nashville Predators. He has posted four 40-point seasons in Philadelphia, including a 60-point campaign in 2008-09.
He currently sits in eighth in the NHL and second on the Flyers with 15 goals. He is also second on the Flyers scoring chart with 27 points. In addition, he's had at least 100 penalty minutes in the last four years, posting a career high 159 penalty minutes in 2007-08.
Hartnell has proven to be a solid point scorer and has an interesting personality, which makes him popular among the fans. However, his tendency to cause controversy on the ice could cause the Flyers to hesitate when deciding who to name captain.
Meszaros is in his second season with the Flyers, having previously played with the Ottawa Senators and the Tampa Bay Lightning. While with the Senators, he was a Stanley Cup finalist in 2007 and had seven points and a plus-five in 20 postseason games. However, the Sens lost to the Anaheim Ducks in five games.
Last season, he had 32 points and a plus-30 to tie for first on the team in plus/minus rating. He was also third among defensemen in scoring. As a reward for his performance, he won the Barry Ashbee Trophy, presented to the best Flyers defenseman.
The 26-year-old currently has nine points and a plus-11 and has only missed two games in his time with Philadelphia. Durability should be a strong trait for the Flyers' next captain, and Meszaros brings it, along with championship experience.
Timonen came to Philadelphia with Scott Hartnell in 2007 and is in his sixth season with the team. He has played 82 games in the last two seasons and is currently an alternate captain.
He went to the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals with the Flyers and had 11 points and a plus-six in 23 games.
Last season, he was second among Flyers defensemen with 37 points and also had a plus-11 rating. Currently, he has 20 points and a plus-11 through 30 games. He is under contract until 2013, and if he can stay healthy, there is no doubt he'll continue to be a solid defenseman and strong leader.
Timonen has won three Olympic medals with Finland (two bronze, one silver), so although he has not won a Stanley Cup or Olympic gold, he has been on the brightest stages at both the NHL and international levels.
The only drawback is that Timonen is 36 years old, and would the Flyers want to take the risk of appointing another aging defenseman to be their leader?
Van Riemsdyk is the youngest and least experienced player on this list, but he has already proven enough to perhaps be considered for a leadership role.
He came into the NHL right out of the University of New Hampshire, skipping his last two years of college to sign an entry-level contract. He had 35 points in his 2009-10 rookie season and improved in 2011, finishing with 40 points to tie for sixth on the team in scoring. He also had 21 goals.
In the 2011 playoffs, van Riemsdyk was one of the top performers despite a disappointing second-round finish. He had seven goals in 11 games.
He signed a six-year contract extension in August, and it's clear the Flyers are eager to build their future with him. He is currently tied for sixth on the team with 18 points.
Using young captains has worked for other teams in the NHL, such as the Chicago Blackhawks. Van Riemsdyk has the maturity and talent to prove he can take on a leadership role.