It’s easy to dislike Chris Pronger considering his tendency to bend or even break the rules, but you have to give him his due. When Pronger plays in front of a netminder, they often enjoy a mysterious ascent; a mediocre goalie starts to look good and a good goalie might even seem great.
Of course, for him to make that impact, Pronger actually needs to be on the ice. That was a pretty big problem during an injury-ravaged 2010-11 season he referred to as “the year from hell.”
There’s more than a little worry that Pronger’s current contract might be a deal with the devil for the Philadelphia Flyers, but the more immediate concern revolves around his rehab from back surgery and problems with an injured hand. A recent post revealed that Pronger is “progressing nicely” but could miss the beginning of Flyers training camp. The bigger question for the Flyers is whether or not he could play when the games start to count, though. The latest reports indicate that Pronger thinks he’ll play a full 2011-12 season, although much of the evidence about his training regimen make that hard to believe.
CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio caught up with Pronger, who reportedly hasn’t lifted a heavy weight in six months and is about two months behind where he would normally be when it comes to strength training. Although he had surgery for a herniated disk in his back this summer, Panaccio reports that his biggest issues have been with that injured hand.
Pronger said his right hand is holding him back from resumption of a full workout schedule. The hand surgery came last March.
He estimated that his hand is 80 to 85 percent healed. The screws have been removed and subsequent holes need to be filled in. Pronger won’t be permitted to begin heavy weight training for about another week, he estimated.
While Pronger is the aggressor far more often than he’s not, his bruising and unforgiving style – not to mention the accrued hockey mileage from all those long playoff runs – might be catching up to him at 36 years old. The towering defenseman brushed off the talk of his body “breaking down,” though.
“I don’t know if you could say I was breaking down with broken bones and being hit by pucks and all the rest of that,” Pronger said. “Those are things that can sometimes be avoided. Perhaps now I may not block as many shots. I might just get out of the way and let our million dollar goaltender [Ilya Bryzgalov] stop those things.”
Pressed further about his durability, he replied, “If I’m going off last year, I guess I’d call myself a Band-Aid. But I’ve got many other years where I’d say I wasn’t a Band-Aid. Sometimes you just have years where things don’t go your way.
When it comes to injuries, players generally exprience more years that don’t go their way once they get older. Barring a new loophole from a future Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Flyers are on the hook for his near-$5 million annual salary cap hit through the 2016-17 season whether Pronger keeps playing or retires altogether. They better hope that his “Band-Aid” years are few and far between, beginning with the pivotal 2011-12 season.
It’s hard to imagine Pronger being 100 percent healthy next season, but we’ll keep you updated regarding the big blueliner’s attempt to back up his hopeful claims that he’ll play all 82 games next season.