Is Chris Pronger simply irreplaceable?

Updated: December 18, 2010 at 7:18 pm by Alexander Monaghan

Chris Pronger brings a complete package to the table every game.  His combination of snarl and skill helped catapult the Flyers into a top-flight team and even though they mired in mediocrity during last year’s regular season his statistics were all a fantasy owner could ask for.

Over the years, you could rely on the big man for 10 goals, 50 points, 80 PIM, a steady +/- and a boatload of shots. As of right now, during a somewhat down year, only 11 defensemen out-rank him with notable players like Mike Giordano and Ryan Whitney most likely slowing down at some point when their teams begin to fade.

The initial prognosis seems to be 4-6 weeks, which puts him back on the ice sometime around the All-Star Game. However, your team needs to produce and produce now, so let’s take a look at how we can replace his statistics one by one in the stat pool:

Goals

Right now Pronger’s goal production (4) is nothing to really sneeze at as you can find 29 other defenseman with at least the same amount of goals.  Cody Franson, Anton Babchuk or Carlo Colaiacovo would replace that level and could even add some powerplay points as they all at least play on the second powerplay unit (With the injuries in St. Louis, Colaiacovo plays on the first unit).

Assists

With only 11 assists on the year, Pronger is not really tearing into team’s defenses.  His total ranks 37th amongst d-men with offensive dynamos like Michal Rozsival, Marc Methot and Adrian Aucoin having at least those marks. Most defensemen know how to push the puck up the ice to their forwards so this category should be easier than others.

+/-

After leading the League most of last year in this category, Pronger has only a plus-6 rating.  Over 50 other defenseman have at least that rating with his teammate Andrej Meszaros leading the way with a plus-21 rating and former partner Sean O’Donnell carrying a healthy plus-18. Using a d-man to pad your +/- has always been a decent strategy as sometimes you miss the boat on the truly elite and have to make it up elsewhere. They also can make up for skill players with poor marks like Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrick Marleau or John Tavares.

PIM

This category is usually what sets Pronger aside from the rest, however his 24 PIM on the year seems oddly tame. Over 30 other defenseman have at least those PIM while other top-flight players like Dan Boyle, Mike Green, Dustin Byfuglien, Zdeno Chara, Shea Weber and Drew Doughty have at least that many or most likely more.  Maybe Pronger was waiting for later in the season to bring up that playoff-type intensity.  Perhaps he just did not need to with a lightened load and five other players who can step up when they needed to– the Flyers d-core is simply that good.

Shots

Pronger might have an edge in this category as his 79 shots rank in the top-10 amongst defensemen.  Nevertheless, he is tied with one defenseman who only is owned in 30 percent of Yahoo! leagues: Kurtis Foster.  Foster, who is only one inch smaller than Pronger, has just as many shots and often finds himself playing the point for the entire Oilers’ powerplay.  Yes, he does play on the Oilers which explains the low ownership numbers but he will help make up the slack in this instance.  As an aside, PK Subban also has as many shots as their player which is particularly impressive considering his recent three game benching.

PPP

We mentioned back in goals how there are plenty players who are available and still play powerplay minutes. One player we would like to emphasize, or re-emphasize is Brett Clark, who has only one less powerplay marker than the big man. Playing on the top powerplay unit on the strong Tampa Bay Lightning offense has worked wonders for his points totals as the team is second in completion percentage with 27.8.  By comparison, the Flyers rank 22nd with only a 16.5 percent rate of success.

Originally we started this article as some sort of doomsday, we can’t possibly replace Pronger.  A second look at his stats break him down to an above-average and top-15 defender but replaceable by piecemeal. With the holidays and the All-Star break, he is likely to have enough time to rest and come back stronger than before.  After missing the pre-season and the first two games of the year maybe a break was exactly what he needed after playing an exorbitant amount of games last season; at least he can relax knowing his team is the best in the League.

You can follow @dailyfaceoff on Twitter for hockey news and notes. You can also follow Alexander on Twitter @nhlhotstove.  Be sure to check out the Starting Goalies section for your fantasy starters tonight and the Team Lineups page.

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