MONTREAL -- Philadelphia Flyers captain Chris Pronger will miss the rest of the regular season and playoffs because of severe post-concussion syndrome.
Philadelphia general manager Paul Holmgren made the announcement through a team spokesman early in the first period of the Flyers' 4-3 victory over Montreal on Thursday night.
"After consultation with respected concussion specialists Dr. Joseph Maroon and Dr. Micky Collins, it is the opinion of both doctors that Chris is suffering from severe post-concussion syndrome," Holmgren said. "It is the recommendation of doctors Maroon and Collins that Chris not return for the remainder of the 2011-12 season or playoffs. Chris will continue to receive treatment and therapy with the hope that he can get better.
The revelation that Pronger absolutely will not play in the 2011-12 season is almost a relief, in a sense.
In 2006-07, Flyers captain Peter Forsberg found himself in and out of the lineup with foot issues as he tried to recover from offseason surgery on his right ankle.
Forsberg’s inability to be in the lineup night-in and night-out had a detrimental effect on the young core of the Flyers, including Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
The issue wasn’t necessarily that they were playing without their captain; it was that the unpredictable nature of Forsberg’s injuries made it impossible for the Flyers to establish a team identity.
They were not really Forsberg’s team, but they weren’t anyone else’s team, either.
After February, when Forsberg was traded to Nashville for Ryan Parent, Scottie Upshall and a first-round pick, the Flyers played much better hockey, because younger players could step into Forsberg’s role.
They may not have been as effective as a healthy Forsberg, but the situation was better than not knowing whether or not the captain would be in the mix on a nightly basis.
In 2011-12, the Flyers again find themselves with a young team and a captain who (through no fault of his own) cannot be depended upon to be on the ice each game.
For these impressionable teams, not knowing their captains’ fates can cause the team to rely too heavily on the assumption that the season is on hold until that player returns.
Once a team knows for sure that they are without their captain, they lower their heads and power through the season.
Regardless of how the Flyers deal with Pronger’s absence, Thursday’s announcement was relieving if only because it rid the team of the distraction that was his health.
The team is still winning without Pronger, sitting atop the Eastern Conference. The team is still scoring goals, and the defense doesn’t look half-bad for a team that has seen three players on the depth chart succumb to injuries.
The goal is still a Stanley Cup, and it is now Paul Holmgren’s job to decipher how this can be achieved.
On a team as character-driven as these Flyers, the leadership will take care of itself. Young players will continue to develop, veterans will continue to set the tone on the ice, and Peter Laviolette will continue to demand more and more from his players.
Pronger status has not left the defense weak. It has not left the team unmotivated. It has not swayed the team from its goals.
It has merely left the team with a question on defense, and an opportunity to adjust the roster to put together a true powerhouse in the Eastern Conference.
We will not see Pronger on the ice again this season. But as long as we continue to see his influence, the Flyers will prevail.