Chris Pronger's life in two worlds

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Chris Pronger's life in two worlds

Chris Pronger walks a fine line between working for the Flyers in a scouting capacity and sitting in on meetings with management, all the while being a dues-paying member of the NHLPA.

Such is the life of a former player, struck down by post-concussion syndrome, and living between two worlds -- permanently disabled player and club scouting.

“I have yet to be told what my duties are,” said Pronger, who still suffers from headaches from an ocular concussion and likely will for the rest of his life.

“As still an active player and a dues-paying member of the [NHLPA] and all that, I know my role will be somewhat limited still in what I can and can’t do," Pronger said on Thursday at Flyers training camp.

Pronger is not an active player in the true sense. He can’t retire without harming the Flyers' salary infrastructure. Under the CBA, they would be stuck with his near-$4.9 million cap hit for the remaining four years of his contract without the ability to place him on LTIR.

By not retiring, he goes on LTIR once the season begins, gets his money, the club gets to use his salary for cap benefits, and he gets to try his hand at evaluating talent off video and in-person scouting.

The problem is, Pronger is from a generation of players that prefers things black and white without shades of grey.

In short, Pronger doesn’t like the potential conflict of interest.

“I’m not saying I can’t [do this],” Pronger said. “There’s a lot of things I would rather not know. I don’t think I need to be part of a lot of things that go in management’s office.

“Still being part of the PA and still being a player on the team and all the rest of that stuff. Scouting is something anybody can do. Putting in reports on teams and systems is something I don’t see a problem with [doing].”

He planned to meet with general manager Paul Holmgren on Thursday to discuss living in two worlds and setting some guidelines he would feel comfortable with.

“I’m not pulling back,” Pronger said. “It’s just a matter of having a conversation."

Ethically, it’s difficult for Pronger to offer candid opinions to management on players whose entire career could go south on something he says when he is paying dues, like them, to the NHLPA.

Then again, this entire job is all new to him.

“At times you enjoy it,” he said. “Doing the pro scouting stuff is a little bit easier because you know the players and know what you’re looking for.

“The draft stuff, the junior hockey, that stuff is a lot of projection. You need to have a little bit more experience and base to understand development and where guys can end up.”

Pronger has scouted college, junior and pro athletes. When the time comes where he can retire without ramifications, he likely will make a terrific scout. He is, after all, a future Hall of Famer.

As for his health, there remains no consistency in his daily life.

“It’s a process,” he said. “Some days are still a little erratic. You have highs and lows, but my therapy is going pretty well. My eye treatment has progressed along.

“We’re moving in the right direction. Obviously, I’m still having some significant issues. I went on the ice a couple weeks ago with my kids.

“Moving in a straight line slowly was OK. You start turning and spinning and things like that, and you get lightheaded and dizzy and you start having some of those symptoms and you get brought back down to the real world, real quick. You start realizing there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

He showed up at Flyers camp and his juices got flowing before reality floored him.

“It’s not the same when you’re coming to the rink knowing you’ve got a purpose and start preparing for a season and a long stretch drive to roll through the playoffs and achieve your goal,” he said.

“Coming to the rink is always an adrenaline rush and seeing the guys coming to the locker room, seeing the staff, that’s always fun to be around. But it can be depressing at times, too, knowing you’re not able to do what you want to do and what you should be doing.”

And it will always be that way until the finality occurs when Chris Pronger is officially retired and living in one world, not two.

Flyers-Jets 10 observations: Lackluster effort, wasted opportunity

Flyers-Jets 10 observations: Lackluster effort, wasted opportunity

Our recap of Tuesday's underwhelming performance by the Flyers in Winnipeg.

Their Tragic Number is now 13, meaning the number of points either lost by the Flyers or accrued by the second wild card -- Toronto -- that totals 13 will eliminate the Flyers from the playoffs.

Sean Couturier said it best prior to the road trip: Unless the Flyers won in Winnipeg, then anything positive they achieved in coming from behind to beat Carolina was wasted.

And it was.  

If you watched the telecast with John Boruk, Alfonso Morganti and myself, you already know how I feel about the loss.

But for those of you who are gluttons for further punishment, here's 10 Things I think, I think, as Bill Lyon used to say:

1. A couple players gave everything they had to make a difference in this game. Radko Gudas had eight of the Flyers' 17 hits. Michael Del Zotto had five strong shots from the point, two of which were almost goals. Shayne Gostisbehere had four shots, two of which almost gave them a goal.

2. The Jets had five injured defensemen out of their lineup, which meant the Flyers' forwards should have been attacking them at the net. Again, the only offense generated for 50 minutes was from the point and not down low, where the Jets were vulnerable.

3. Valterri Filppula matched up against Patrick Laine and held him -- with help from Steve Mason -- to no points, a task in itself. Laine generated five shots and two prime scoring chances that Mason took care of.

4. Jets rookie defenseman Julian Melchiori had played just eight NHL games and had a total of four shots. He had three in the first period alone Tuesday and tied Laine with a team-high five for the game. He was more determined to make something happen than most of the Flyers. That should embarrass coach Dave Hakstol, who insisted the Flyers come out strong. They didn't.

5. Winnipeg moved up and down the ice well in transition. They came into the zone with speed and spread their attack out. Blake Wheeler's goal that made it 2-1 in the third period was the result of the Jets' precise puck movement from Mathieu Perreault to Mark Scheifele to Wheeler that demonstrated nothing moves faster on the ice than the speed of the puck. Wheeler got the puck with a wide-open look inside the right circle. The Flyers didn't have a single play during the game that mimicked that rush.

6. Although the Flyers' penalty kill units gave up a 10th goal in their last 24 chances, they shut down the Jets' the final four power plays of the game, including the four-minute double-minor to Ivan Provorov in the second period. The PK got no help from the power play (0 for 3).

7. Mason had four saves during the Jets' four-minute power play, which should have given the Flyers some momentum for the remainder of the second period and into the third. He also had a terrific stick save on Laine in the slot after the PP that left the rookie so angry he was jamming his stick violently into the ground on the Jets' bench.

8. Following up on that, why were the Flyers hesitant in the third period, tied 1-1, while the Jets peppered Mason at the outset? Where's that sense of desperation Hakstol's team should have shown? This is precisely what happened in Boston a few weeks ago. Game tied going into the third and instead of playing for two points they absolutely had to have, the Flyers were playing to get the game into overtime and earn at least one. That strategy failed spectacularly in Boston when the Bruins won the game in the final 5.6 seconds of regulation and failed again Tuesday.

9. Hakstol talked about effort and determination, yet the numbers say otherwise. With 13:34 left in regulation, the Flyers had just two shots in the period. Two! In the final seven minutes of the game, their sense of urgency finally kicked in when they kept the puck in Winnipeg's zone to the end and even scored shorthanded. That again raises this question: Where was that urgency at the period's start when it was 1-1 and not 3-1?

10. Finally, the Flyers had three power plays in this defeat. During their second power play, trailing 2-1, Winnipeg's lowly PK unit generated two shorthanded chances and cleared the zone four times. On the Flyers' final power play -- they trailed 3-1 at that point -- Hakstol pulled Mason to create a 6-on-4. The Flyers generated several scoring chances. They have scored three times this season under that scenario. Young goalie Michael Hutchinson, who had a 4.06 goals against average head-to-head against the Flyers, had a couple of terrific saves, including one on Wayne Simmonds in the slot. Where was that pressure on Hutchinson earlier in the period? Or earlier in the game?

Steve Mason critical of Flyers' effort in road loss to Jets

Steve Mason critical of Flyers' effort in road loss to Jets

BOX SCORE

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Steve Mason sat alone in his stall, clearly dejected by what he'd just witnessed. His team, supposedly fighting for its playoff lives, had come out with one of its flattest efforts of the season.

Where was the push? Where was the desperation? Mason certainly didn't see it.

"I don't think anyone is too pleased with this game," the candid Flyers goaltender said following Tuesday night's 3-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets (see Instant Replay). "It's frustrating for everybody, considering the situation we are in. We need to be a more desperate hockey club. I don't think we were tonight."

Mason did his part, stopping 30 of 33 shots he faced (see feature highlight). At the top of his list of complaints was the eight consecutive minutes in penalties the Flyers took in the second period. Winnipeg would score the tying goal during one of those four power plays and seemingly steal all momentum away from the Flyers.

"It gets everybody out of rhythm, gets key guys sitting on the bench for too long a period of time," Mason said. "It definitely just disrupted any chance of making a push during the second, for sure."

Forward Jordan Weal said he expected more as his team began the third period with the score tied 1-1 and the result still very much up in the air.

"Our killers did a great job to keep us in that game," Weal said. "Guys that didn't kill need to come out in the third and come up big. There just wasn't enough push in that third."

The Flyers remain seven points out of the final wild-card playoff spot but now have just 10 games remaining (see standings).

"If you want to be a playoff team, we've got to be more consistent in what we do," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. "We need to find ways to get it done every night."

Head coach Dave Hakstol bemoaned his team's play on the road as of late; it has now dropped four straight in enemy territory.

"It's been a difference for us," Hakstol said. "That's how it is right now. This is one we needed here that we didn't get tonight on the road."

Mason said struggling away from home speaks to bigger issues with the team.

"We haven't been a good road team and it's cost us. It's put us in the position we're in right now," Mason said. "It's easy to have a good record at home. You're comfortable there. But we have to elevate our games on the road. It's a little bit more difficult to feel good about your game on the road, but it's all about hard work and working for it and we're not doing a good job."

Giroux said they were aware Winnipeg was without several key players, especially on defense, but didn't do enough to take advantage.

"I think we could have cycled that puck a little bit more and created more chances," he said. "At the end of the day, we need to focus on our game. We're a better team than what happened tonight." 

Mason noted that Winnipeg goalie Michael Hutchinson was making his first start in two months, but the Flyers failed to generate much in the way of scoring chances.

"I don't think we made it hard enough on him. We need to have a better effort," Mason said. "We keep playing like this and we'll be mathematically eliminated before we know it. We've got to stop this win one, lose one. We need to have some growth as a team here."