Chris Pronger’s Season Is Over

15 Dec

Thursday night marks the 17th game Chris Pronger has missed this season. That total will grow much, much longer. The Flyers’ captain traveled to Pittsburgh to meet with neurologists Dr. Joe Maroon and Dr. Mickey Collins on Wednesday and the news was not good.

“After consultation with respected concussion specialists Dr. Joseph Maroon and Dr. Micky Collins, it is the opinion of both doctors that Chris is suffering from severe post-concussion syndrome,” said general manager Paul Holmgren. “It is the recommendation of doctors Maroon and Collins that Chris not return for the remainder of the 2011-12 season or playoffs. Chris will continue to receive treatment and therapy with the hope that he can get better.”

Pronger called last season the “year from hell,” but this has clearly become another circle of inferno for him. He has missed time with an eye injury, knee injury and now severe post-concussion symptoms.

There is speculation that the 37-year-old defenseman’s career may be over after this news and it’s easy to see why. With the Flyers alone, Keith Primeau, Ian Laperriere and Eric Lindros all serve as examples of what can happen with head trauma.

Pronger is in the second year of a seven-year, $34.45 million deal with the Flyers. He won’t officially retire until 2017 when that contract retires, but the fact that he also might not play over the next five seasons is a scary thought.

In the short term, the Flyers have done well to cope. In the long term, their top four defensemen could be burned out down the stretch, heading into the postseason that Pronger will apparently not be able to participate in. They’ve won games without him this season largely because of their depth.

“All teams want to have that,” said Jody Shelley on Tuesday. “All teams wonder what happens when you’re down, what happens when things are bad, what happens when guys are missing. We haven’t spent any time talking or thinking about it as far as Pronger and now [Claude Giroux] and things like that. That’s just a test of our system and our young energy, I guess. It’s almost like an ignorance to even spend time looking at that. We just stay focused.”

The Flyers will have long-term injured reserve cap relief for as long as Pronger is out of the lineup, but it seems pretty clear that they need to find a way to get some relief on the blue line as well.

He would be really difficult to replace. In 1,167 career NHL games, Pronger has 157 goals and 541 assists. He has two Olympic gold medals, a Stanley Cup and a World Championship gold medal. He also won the Hart Trophy in 1999-2000 with the St. Louis Blues.

It’s tough to imagine, but the last game he played in, on Nov. 19, may have been the last in his career.

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