Pronger's only concern is playoff success

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

ANAHEIM -- There's a lot of ice under the Zamboni now. The raw emotions of Chris Pronger's departure from Edmonton don't exist like they did when he was booed even when he played in Calgary.

But his storyline - as a new Stanley Cup playoff series opened here last night against the Vancouver Canucks - is still, in many ways, Oil based.

Last year as a member of the Oilers in the playoffs, Pronger turned Anaheim, as the headline writers had it, into "Dead Ducks."

This year he's arguably "Head Duck."

Leading Anaheim in scoring in the playoffs with six points in five games, Pronger has gone from leading what turned out to be Canada's Team last year to leading the Ducks against what is now Western Canada's Team.

"He carried their hockey club," said Carlyle. "He played as well defensively in that Edmonton series last year as anyone I've ever seen."

Carlyle laughed when asked what difference Pronger has made to this team 50 weeks later.

"He made me a better coach," he said.

He said Pronger is doing for the Ducks in the playoffs this year what he did for the Oilers to get them to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last year.

"Prongs seems to have the ability to take his game to the next level in the playoffs. And he's such a confident player, the young players seem to feed off that."

Even Pronger having led Edmonton over Anaheim last year has helped the Ducks this year according to Carlyle.

"When we lost to the Oilers we were determined that mediocrity was not going to be acceptable when we came back in September. Our young players grasped that."

Pronger said playing against the Ducks in that series last year also made it an easier adjustment to playing for them.

"Coming here I had a better understanding of the system, the players and the make-up of the team and how close they are. They got a taste of it last year."

Last year it was unexpected, even with Pronger, for the Oilers to go from eighth place to within a win of winning it all. But this year by adding Pronger, it's a different deal with the Ducks.

"Expectations are up from last year," he said. "This year it's not just about making the playoffs, it's about winning the Stanley Cup."

The subject of Edmonton and Pronger has mostly been taboo around the Ducks dressing room all year, but Carlyle opened the door on it a bit at the morning skate yesterday.

"Chris Pronger leaving Edmonton was a situation in which there was a lot of talk about him and his family deemed negatives," Carlyle said of the events the player has still never manned up to.

"It was a hard thing to recover from in a short period of time."

Carlyle wanted to give him all the room he could "to go be himself, go be Chris Pronger.

"I think it was an advantage in a non-traditional hockey market for him to go hide a little bit. We understood the situation he'd just been through. After about three weeks, he was OK."

The quote was repeated to Pronger.

"Hide? I don't know about that."

He did admit it's a totally different environment without the intense media coverage and the total involvement of the community.

"It's a little easier to go about your daily business without people staring at you," is how he chose to put it.

The Oilers, of course, were out of playoff contention before the trade deadline and some would say were dead in the water the moment Pronger asked to be traded.

He still shows no guilt about that.

He even questioned dealing Ryan Smyth.

"That surprised me a little bit. He was known as Mr. Edmonton."

When it was suggested his departure and everything which happened to the Oilers this sorry season might make it damn difficult for Edmonton to attract free agents as they attempt to reload with plenty of money to do it, Pronger was presented with a wonderful opportunity to offer something helpful and hopeful.

He passed.

"It's a possibility," he said. "It'll be interesting to see what happens this summer."


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