Questions continue to surround Pronger

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 5:40 PM ET

MONTREAL - The trade that brought Chris Pronger to the Philadelphia Flyers was announced here, in the Bell Centre, during the NHL Entry Draft in June.

The towering defenceman was viewed as the key piece that could elevate the Flyers to a level with the very best teams in the Eastern Conference (notwithstanding the perennial quest for a goaltender, which has seemed to be a more pressing concern since, oh, when Ron Hextall was stopping pucks and chasing Chris Chelios around the rink).

But here, now, just five months removed from the deal, Pronger was sitting in his stall answering questions about a coach being fired and whether he was at the heart of a power struggle with captain Mike Richards over control of the Flyers dressing room.

Itís not where he expected to be.

"Not at all. We got off to a pretty decent start, playing a little inconsistently at times, but seemed to be getting over that. We got on a six-game winning streak and started to feel pretty good about ourselves," said Pronger. "For whatever reason, we stopped doing the little things. A lot of times itís the not the team with the most talent thatís going to win. Itís the team that plays as a team. We need to get back to that."

John Stevens was fired as the Flyers coach Friday with the team on a 1-7 slide, having been outscored 31-14 in that stretch (with just two goals scored in Stevensí last three games as coach) and having fallen out of a playoff spot.

Normally, when a new coach takes over, like Peter Laviolette did for Saturdayís game against the Washington Capitals, thereís a good bounce-back. The Flyers, though, lost 8-2 in a game in which the Caps were handed a nine-minute power-play, thanks to Daniel Carcillo.

Maybe there are more problems than the coach.

In the wake of Stevensí firing, there was a report in Philly indicating Richards was going to relinquish the captainís "C" to Pronger.

"No, no," said Pronger Monday.

If he was given the nomination...?

"No," he said, flatly.

"Those were bloggers, Internet-ers. If you want to follow bloggers around the world, youíre going to be in trouble.

Thatís why the Internet is a very dangerous thing, gentlemen. A lot of that stuff is..." said Pronger, not finishing the sentence. (Still, there are some pretty good bloggers out there and some print stuff that is...)

The fact remains the Pronger/Richards locker room question hangs out there. When the Flyers' room opened after their loss to Vancouver the other night, with all the players in their stalls, Pronger made it clear he would speak first to address the team's plight.

"I think itís pretty unfair," he said of questions about Richardsí leadership. "The fact is, at the end of the day, thereís 20 guys in the locker room and thereís a lot more to the leadership group than just him. Itís an awful lot to put on his shoulders."

Laviolette gave Richardsí captaincy his blessing.

"Iím just getting in here right now, but my observation is heís a pretty good leader," said Laviolette. "Heís a fierce competitor. Heís a young kid and, like a young coach or a young leader or hockey player, you always learn. "Weíre fortunate. Weíve got other guys who can contribute, too."

Richards, the 24-year-old in his second season as captain, said he does feel additional pressure on his leadership in the wake of Stevensí firing.

"Maybe a little bit. Everyone can be better. I think can do a little better job leading the team and Iím going to do a better job leading the team. Iím the captain here," he said. "Thing are going to take care of themselves. I have full confidence in this dressing room and the players here and my leadership ability."

Was the coach the problem?

The players will answer that question now.


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