Why Wings Fans Should Want Pronger Healthy
Adam Foote might be the only NHL defenseman more despised by Wings faithful than Chris Pronger over the past 15 seasons. That's a big might. Pronger is strong, mean and skilled; he's a player you hate for your squad to play against but would love to have him on your team. Whether it was with St. Louis, Edmonton or Anaheim, Pronger gave the Wings trouble in the postseason with crunching hits and booming point shots. His battles with Tomas Holmstrom were epic and memorable.
Unfortunately the concussion epidemic sweeping the league also struck Pronger who is shut down for the remainder of the season with post-concussion syndrome. It's a detriment to the league when any player especially highly-skilled ones such as Pronger and Crosby miss substantial time due to injuries but the roster consequences of Pronger's injury are dangerous to the future plans of Red Wing brass.
It's a poorly kept secret that Ken Holland and the Detroit braintrust are Ryan Suter fans. Suter plays in Shea Weber's shadow in Nashville but is also an elite, young blueliner. He may not have Weber's cannon shot but he is offensively gifted, physical and a solid size (6-1, 198 lbs). Suter will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and will be a popular man come July 1. If Nick Lidstrom retires, one of the calls will be from Ken Holland and Jim Nill trying to draw the 26 year old to the Motor City. The Wings will have over 7 million alone just from Lidstrom's departure. If Brad Stuart signs on the West Coast, as anticipated, then there is even more money for an offer, and a more urgent need for a top-2 defenseman. This is where Pronger's injury gums up the works.
If Pronger's injury is so bad he must retire his contract will not count against Philadelphia's cap. This leaves another top contender with lots of money to throw at Suter. News broke today that Philadelphia has been in talks with Toronto to trade James Van Riemsdyk for Luke Schenn. Schenn is a younger, bigger defenseman coming from a high draft position and Philly's actions demonstrate a hunger for a blue line stud. If Pronger is able to return either late this season or next then his contract will handcuff the Flyers and make it harder to acquire a top defenseman.
Of course, we shouldn't wish ill on any player and always want a speedy recovery. This time around, I think Wings fans should pray to the hockey gods for a dreaded rival's recovery so there's one less entry into the Suter Sweepstakes next summer.