Two sides of Pronger

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:35 PM ET

OTTAWA -- Chris Pronger is so large, imposing and erratic that the impact of his actions are often tumultuous.

He can be that great, that stupid, that undisciplined, that impactful, with the switch forever flickering on and off.

His career being a tribute to both damage and damage control.

In his only season in Edmonton, he took a team nobody believed in to within a game of winning the Stanley Cup. He chose to leave last summer for reasons that will never be properly explained and in the words of one hockey executive yesterday, "basically he ruined that team."

Before that, Pronger played nine years in St. Louis, nine times made the playoffs. Since he left, the Blues have not qualified for the post-season. In truth, they haven't been close to a playoff team.

Things happen when Pronger is around. Good things. Bad things. The circumstances somehow border on the dramatic. And at a time when he's big enough to know better, and at an age where he certainly shouldn't need to be told to grow up, the most recent of his questionable determinations could end up costing the Anaheim Ducks the Stanley Cup.

It can be that drastic with Pronger, that drastic this time. The Oilers went from contender to disaster without him. The Blues will take years to remake their franchise. It took the Hartford Whalers more than a decade and a change of address to recover from trading him away.

Now the Ducks have to get away with twice what seemed unlikely once: For the second time in the playoffs, they will lose Pronger to a one-game suspension and have to find a way to fill the 30 minutes he plays on their blue line.

For the second time in two playoff rounds, Pronger victimized his own team with over zealous decision-making, hits that weren't, as he called them "finishing his checks." Playing defence is all about making decisions: Lately, Pronger, one of the top two defencemen in all of hockey, is making too many bad ones.

His elbow to the head of Ottawa's Dean McAmmond was an unnecessary, and certainly illegal play. It's actually the kind of play that is supposed to be gone from the NHL, but you wouldn't necessarily know that from watching the Stanley Cup final.

McAmmond didn't have the puck and is supposed to have unimpeded clearance to get to it. Pronger was in position to obstruct the speedy McAmmond. He did so, in a quick and regretful manner -- inadvertently knocking him out.

"I've got to play with a certain edge and a certain style of play to be effective," Pronger attempted to explain. "And I don't think I can change that to be the type of player I am."

This is part Pronger, part Anaheim Duck. In 13 seasons away from Anaheim, Pronger was suspended by the NHL five times.

This is his first year with the edgy Ducks, a team not afraid to take penalties or push the envelope. But when he opens the envelope, he finds his second suspension in six games. Eddie Greenspan would have a hard time defending him.

Except there is that other side of Pronger, the most of the time side. No player in recent memory has taken two different teams to the Stanley Cup two years in a row.

Pronger is capable of that when he isn't losing his mind. And it usually comes when his team is losing.

"No, I'm not unhappy with Chris Pronger," said Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle, who wouldn't have passed a lie-detector test with that one. "These things happen ... and the way we look at it is, the player was out playing hard ... It's a piece of adversity we have to deal with."

It's a piece of adversity they shouldn't have had to deal with. At this time, on this stage, Chris Pronger is old enough and occasionally smart enough to know better.


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