When the Flyers acquired Chris Pronger three years ago by trading Joffrey Lupul, Luka Sbisa and two first round draft picks, some pundits thought that the price was too high for the aging future Hall Of Fame defenseman.
And then Pronger led the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals during his first season, the 2009-10 campaign. After becoming the Flyers defensive anchor and a leader, who would eventually become team captain, the third such honor in his illustrious career, nobody complained about the compensation.
Teammates and Flyers fans loved the big blueliner's extraordinary ability and nastiness. Foes were uncomfortable in the slot when Pronger, who is on indefinite hiatus courtesy of a concussion, was on the ice.
Pronger just might be the biggest reason the Rangers have been running amuck against the Flyers. The Broadway Blueshirts are 5-0 versus the Flyers this season.
All five of the Rangers' goals during a recent 5-2 win over the Flyers were from within 10 feet of the Flyers net. That area was once no-man's land for Flyers opponents when Pronger was healthy.
Is Pronger's absence a big reason for the Ranger's success against their arch-rival? "It definitely hurts them not having him out there," Rangers center Brad Richards said. "He's a great player. But he hasn't been out there for most of the season. They have to deal with it but injuries are part of the game and we have our share of injuries too."
So what should the Flyers do? "I think they have to act like Pronger may never be back," a NHL scout said. "He's apparently not coming back this year and his future is very uncertain for him. The Flyers need to decide what they want to do this season."
The Flyers could pass on a big trade and ride out its youth movement, which is sprinkled with old, established veterans such as defenseman Kimmo Timonen and winger Jaromir Jagr, who looks great when healthy.
Or the Flyers could decide to make a deal for a big, imposing defenseman, who could help the team battle with the New York Rangers, who they will most likely meet, if they want to go deep in the playoffs.
It's difficult to imagine the Flyers prying either of the Nashville Predators elite defenseman Shea Weber or Ryan Suter away from the contending team. The price would be very high and the Predators could very well make a Stanley Cup run this season.
There are rumors about the Montreal Canadian defenseman Hall Gill, who is Pronger-sized at 6'7", 250 pounds. Gill, who will turn 37 April 6, has also played well this season against the Rangers. The Habs are 2-1 versus the Rangers.
The Flyers need to have very strong defense at playoff time since goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has been incredibly inconsistent. The Flyers don't have a shutdown goalie like Rangers Henrik Lundqvist, who Timonen praised after Saturday's drubbing.
"We just have to play as well as we can down the stretch," Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds said.
A big, new defenseman could help the Flyers go a long way.
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