Oh Pronger, My Captain? Who Will Be the Next Flyers C?

Oh Pronger, My Captain? Who Will Be the Next Flyers C?

We're still chewing on the deals that blew up the nucleus of the Philadelphia Flyers as we knew them, but it's hard to escape the probability that the Flyers thought they needed a new captain. On the ice, there was little more you could ask of Mike Richards wearing the C. That's what we as fans saw most of all, and it was rare he left us wanting for more in his game. Off the ice, we know Richie wasn't much of a public figure, developing contentious relationships with the media on the whole and individually, in some cases.

In the locker room, behind closed doors… we don't know for sure. But the fact that he was traded opens those doors up some, allowing imaginations to wander and assume the team didn't feel Richards was the guiding force of this team going forward.

So who will become the 17th full-time captain in Flyers franchise history?

The easy money is on Chris Pronger, who despite being something of a charming barb in dealing with the media, actually does deal with the media, rain or shine. As a fan, I didn't really get too bent out of shape at the degree to which Richards got… bent out of shape with the media. I vacillated between total empathy (I sometimes thought I'd react the same way to some of the questions he got) and eye-rolling wtf'ness (you wanted to be captain, this is what captains do).

But hockey is a business, and Richards was a poor press liaison in a big money industry. Pronger, despite his rope-a-dope routine with the media, gives usable quotes and pickup-able soundbites while never tossing anyone under the bus.

Long before this trade, a faction of fans wondered aloud whether the team would be better with Pronger as the C, with some already decidedly in Prong Daddy's corner. It goes without saying that Pronger is a leader on the ice and in the locker room, a seasoned veteran, and a Stanley Cup champion.

However, Pronger's prognosis was one of the biggest questions facing the Flyers heading into the off-season, and trading Richards and Jeff Carter only amplifies those worries.

It's unknown whether Pronger will be on the TD Garden ice on October 6th when the Flyers open their season in Boston. Four days later, he'll turn 37. A series of injuries and surgeries beset him over the past year, leaving plenty of room to worry that his career has reached its twilight stage. Still, his effectiveness when he was on the ice gave hope that he need only get past this spate of injuries, and he'll be back on track as one of the most feared defensemen on the ice.

With the captain and an alternate captain gone, Pronger is the obvious choice. Tim Panaccio has sources saying he'll be offered the C (Pronger, not Panotch). But what happens if injuries affect his season to the degree they did last year? Does Danny Briere take over the C?

All of a sudden, it's no longer Richards' team. Most of us expected the C to reside on the #18 jersey for the rest of the young decade. For now, it looks to be Pronger's, but the gap between young and old, injured and healthy, on this team could mean the letter changes hands a few times this season, and in the years to come.

Anyone think Pronger doesn't end up with the C? Who's your nomination? The A's?

Photo: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane scored three goals for his third career hat trick to lead the surging Chicago Blackhawks past the Arizona Coyotes 6-3 on Thursday night for their third straight win and eighth in nine games.

Kane has 23 goals to lead Chicago, which closed within three points behind first-place Minnesota in the Central Division and Western Conference.

Rookies Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman each had a goal and assist. Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival scored his first goal of the season in his first game since Jan. 15.

Chicago captain Jonathan Toews added two assists to extend his points scoring streak to five games and increase his output to 22 points in his past 13.

Jakob Chychrun, Ryan White and Radim Vrbata scored for the Coyotes. Chychrun and Vrbata each scored for the second straight game (see full recap).

Rangers outlast Maple Leafs in shootout
TORONTO -- Mika Zibanejad scored the shootout winner and the New York Rangers continued a strong February with a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves and J.T. Miller scored the game-tying goal in the third period for the Rangers, who improved to 8-1-1 this month.

New York moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division with 80 points.

Connor Brown scored for Toronto, which fell to 1-7 in shootouts this season. Frederik Andersen had a stellar performance in defeat with 37 saves.

The Leafs hold the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division (68 points), two points back of Ottawa (70) and four back of Montreal (see full recap).

Islanders shut out Canadiens
MONTREAL -- Rookie Anthony Beauvillier scored in the first period, Thomas Greiss made 24 saves, and the New York Islanders beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 Thursday night.

Anders Lee scored in the second period and John Tavares added an empty-netter in the final minute to seal the Islanders' third straight win. New York has won the first two games on a crucial nine-game road swing and improved to 12-4-2 since interim coach Doug Weight replaced the fired Jack Capuano.

Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson each had two assists, and Greiss got his third shutout of the season.

Carey Price finished with 21 saves as the Canadiens lost coach Claude Julien's 1,000th NHL game. Montreal is 1-2-0 since Julien replaced Michel Therrien last week and has totaled just 14 goals while going 2-7-1 in the last 10 games, including four shutouts (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

NEW ORLEANS -- The Boogie-and-Brow era in New Orleans is off to a highly inauspicious start.

The Pelicans' tandem of newly acquired All-Star DeMarcus Cousins and All-Star Game MVP Anthony Davis was no match for the surging Houston Rockets on Thursday night.

Reserve Lou Williams hit seven 3-pointers and scored 27 points in his Rockets debut, and Houston crushed New Orleans, 129-99.

Davis had 29 points, and Cousins finished with 27 points and 14 rebounds. But New Orleans turned the ball over 20 times couldn't keep pace with the firepower of the Rockets, who hit 20 3-pointers.

Eric Gordon scored 19 points and Ryan Anderson added 17 in both players' first game in New Orleans since leaving the Pelicans. James Harden had 13 points and 14 assists (see full recap).

LeBron triple-double powers Cavs past Knicks
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James recorded his 48th career triple-double and Kyrie Irving scored 23 points, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 119-104 victory over the New York Knicks, who hung on to superstar Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose at Thursday's trade deadline.

James scored 18 points and had 13 rebounds with 15 assists for his sixth triple-double of the season.

Anthony, the subject of trade rumors because of a strained relationship with Knicks President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson, scored 20 points, going 9 of 25 from the field.

Kyle Korver scored 20 points for Cleveland, which is 8-1 in February and has beaten New York 10 straight times.

Courtney Lee had 25 points for New York, which has lost six of seven and is 12th in the Eastern Conference playoff race (see full recap).

Pistons rally from 18 down to beat Hornets in OT
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 33 points, including three 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter during a pulsating Detroit rally, and the Pistons outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 114-108 in overtime Thursday night.

Caldwell-Pope scored Detroit's last 11 points of regulation, and his 3-pointer with 18.2 seconds to play tied the game at 100. Kemba Walker scored Charlotte's final nine points of the fourth, but the Pistons forced him to give up the ball on the last possession, and Marco Belinelli missed a 3-pointer that could have won it.

Detroit, which was behind by 18 in the third quarter, never trailed in the overtime. Caldwell-Pope's 3-pointer with 55 seconds remaining put the Pistons up 110-102.

Charlotte led 85-70 at the start of the fourth but missed 14 of its first 15 shots in the period, enabling Detroit to cut into the lead.

Walker scored 34 points. Tobias Harris had 25 for the Pistons (see full recap).