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