In this part of “Meet the New Flyers”, we look at a player who without a doubt is the biggest free-agent signing by the Flyers since Danny Briere was signed two off-seasons ago. An all-star player who has been given kudos for his character, leadership, offensive power, and his in-your-face, hard-hitting attitude. The man who was “Born to wear orange and black”, 34 year old veteran defenseman Chris Pronger.
Chris Pronger was selected 2nd overall in the 1993 NHL Draft by the Hartford Whalers (see: Carolina Hurricanes). When he finally made his rookie season appearance by playing in all 81 games, he made the NHL All-Rookie Team, one of the highest honors for a young player in his first season in the illustrious National Hockey League. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in 1995 and played there until 2004 under former Flyers head coach Mike Keenan. He would then have a stint with the Oilers before finding a job in Anaheim with the Ducks from 2006-2009 where he was a huge part of their 2007 Stanley Cup victory, and was named team captain in September of 2007 after Scott Niedermayer fell to an injury.
And then on June 26th, 2009, there was light for the stubborn Philly faithful who demanded the Flyers improve their blue line with a veteran “true # 1” defenseman. Chris Pronger and AHL forward Ryan Dingle from the Ducks organization were traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for scorer Joffrey Lupul, promising defensive prospect Luca Sbisa, a 2009 and 2010 first-round pick, and a 2010 or 2011 conditional pick. A hefty price to pay, but something that needed to be done nonetheless. Paul Holmgren and the Flyers believed that they were built for the future as well as now, and were willing to sell some picks and young talent away in order to get a veteran defenseman that would fill the void in their defense while younger players moved up in the system. Shortly after the trade, he was signed to a 7-year contract extension which most likely makes him tenured in Philly until his retirement. Could this be one of the final pieces to a Flyers team that has been to the playoffs all but one season since 1996? For a team that has reached the Cup Finals, The Eastern Conference Finals twice, and numerous Quarterfinals and Semifinals in the past 14 seasons; could this be it? Many of the Phaithful hope so, and there is much to be said about Pronger and his achievements.
Pronger was named to the NHL All-Star team in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2008 while winning the Norris Memorial Trophy (best all-around defenseman) and the Hart Memorial Trophy(League MVP) in 2000. He won a Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007, and has a decorated resume that any team would like. But why does this future hall of famer think he will fit so well in Philadelphia? He is known for his physical and gritty play and has been scrutinized by the league and media many times for dirty hits; some that even have gotten him suspended. Checks and elbows during the 2007 playoff run had him suspended for a game each, but he still would go on to win the Cup anyways. That victory made him one of the few players to win a Stanley Cup, World Championship gold medal, and an Olympic gold medal; a “Triple Gold Club” member.
His on-ice presence is dominant and intimidating at 6’6, 223 pounds. Pronger is a guy that can move the puck, quarterback the power play, shoot, pass, clear the crease, win one-on-one battles, lead by example… this guy can do it all and he is reportedly happy to be playing/finishing his career in Philadelphia.
So what can Chris Pronger do for you?
Slow down the speedy offenses of our rivals, and possibly win the Stanley Cup. With a lineup like this and the addition of other bigger, physical players such as Tollefsen and LaPerriere, perhaps the Broad Street Bullies are back…