A glimmer of hope that wasnt present Thursday night when the Flyers announced that Chris Pronger would miss the rest of the regular season and the playoffs surfaced on Friday.
General manager Paul Holmgren didnt outright dismiss the possibility that the Flyers' defenseman could ask to be re-evaluated months from now if his symptoms from post-concussion syndrome disappear.
Well cross that bridge when we come to it, Holmgren said during a Friday news conference.
I think right now, Chris is not an option. If he gets better somewhere over the next month, months, well address that when we get there.
Asked why the Flyers eliminated the playoffs as a possibility even though April is more than four months away, Holmgren replied, Well, thats a good question. I dont know. I guess just the way hes felt since we believe what was the original injury, maybe years of playing in the NHL. I cant answer that.
If you think about it, by announcing that Pronger is done for this year, including playoffs, the Flyers have removed uncertainty from the dressing room. Hes gone, hes not coming back, the team moves forward.
This is in contrast to how the Penguins handled Sidney Crosby last season, never saying he was done, allowing their players to believe he might return. Crosby even practiced with the club during the playoffs.
And while it may be coincidence, Holmgren also said hes leaning on not naming a captain because he feels the leadership group, led by Kimmo Timonen and Danny Briere, is capable of handling things themselves.
Though theres no conclusive proof that Prongers post-concussion syndrome can be traced to a single incident, Holmgren agreed that a series of incidents are likely responsible, beginning with the stick to the eye he took from Torontos Mikhail Grabovski on Oct. 24.
I think that probably was the initial thing that started this whole process, Holmgren said. Chris had a little timeline. First of all, hes a hockey player. He wants to play hockey. He still wants to play. To do the timeline with him yesterday and what happened since that injury, he came back and practiced with the team prior to going to Florida.
He played the game in Tampa Nov. 5. He kind of felt like he was out of shape when in fact he was still having some symptoms that continued. It came to a head in Winnipeg Nov. 19.
In between, on Nov. 14 at Carolina, Pronger went to break up a two on one and slid hard into the side boards. Three days later against Phoenix, Pronger was drilled by Martin Hanzel along the boards.
Two days later, the Flyers were in Winnipeg. That was Prongers last game. During that game, Pronger was having issues dealing with both the noise in the building and the lighting, which affected his vision, Holmgren said.
Early in the second period of that contest, Pronger fanned on a one-timer during a power play, then fell down, as Jim Slater scored a shorthanded goal.
Pronger just felt awful, Holmgren said, adding that his symptoms then escalated when the club returned home.
From that point on, hes just continued to have these symptoms that are not feeling like himself, very bad headache, nauseous, Holmgren said. So thats where were at.
Incidentally, Ian Laperriere had lighting and vision issues with his post-concussion syndrome, as well. He hasnt played a game these last two seasons.
Holmgren said Pronger never told the team of any suspected head trauma arising from the incidents against Carolina or Phoenix.
He certainly never reported those hits at the time, and probably never thought anything of it at the time, Holmgren said. He probably thought hes still not in great shape. He missed a lot of games. He missed a lot of training camp. I think most guys that played as many games as he has in the NHL have a good understanding of their body and how he felt.
I think the Winnipeg game, that was the last straw and theres something wrong here.
Essentially, Pronger unknowingly played five games with an ocular concussion that got progressively worse.
The Flyers have been winning without Pronger theyre 12-4-1 and have gotten surprisingly good results from rookies Marc-Andre Bourdon and Kevin Marshall.
Perhaps thats why Holmgren said theres not an urgent need to make a trade right now. Its almost certain, however, that something will be done at the trade deadline, which is Feb. 27.
Nashville has to decide whether to move pending unrestricted free agent Ryan Suter or restricted free agent Shea Weber. Its highly unlikely both will be re-signed while its also very likely that Detroit, San Jose and Vancouver will be lining up to get into the Weber sweepstakes.
From the Flyers perspective, any move for either player will cost them dearly in terms of players and prospects.
Obviously, if we have the chance to improve our hockey team both now and for the future, were probably looking at a lot of different things, Holmgren said of a trade.
But I dont think I made 29 phone calls since today or yesterday when I got this news ...
I certainly dont expect anything to happen anytime soon.
Rookie defenseman Erik Gustafsson, who was playing well as Prongers initial lineup replacement before he broke his wrist, has been skating. He is about a week away from getting back cleared to play again.
Gustafsson would add more depth to the blue line, as will Andreas Lilja, who is due to return soon, as well. Lilja was loaned to the Adirondack Phantoms Friday, to begin a conditioning assignment with the Flyers' AHL affiliate.
Brayden Schenn (concussion) did not skate on Friday and Holmgren admitted he didnt know why. Coach Peter Laviolette said he knew why, but wouldnt say. ... Holmgren said Claude Giroux (concussion) still has not progressed to the point where he has consecutive days of feeling symptom-free and good. So until he feels right for a whole day and we get to the next day and he feels good another day, it is what it is, Holmgren said. Hes not going to be back in there. In preparing to reactivate defenseman Andreas Lilja, the Flyers sent him to the Phantoms on a conditioning assignment.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com