Monday, June 26, 2006


Pronger Q&A

[Editor's Note: not a real interview, I was just having a hell of a time structuring my take on this dealy.]

Q. Chris Pronger has asked for a trade out of Edmonton. Surprised?

A. I'm not at all surprised that what is essentially an American Midwestern family doesn't want to live in Edmonton, but I was stunned by this particular development.

Q. He has said it's for "personal and professional reasons" -- true?

A. No. The "professional" part is a bald-faced (and futile) attempt to take some heat off of his wife. I generally don't have much good to say about the Oilers, but the facts are that they are presently a very stable franchise, from the ownership down through management to the coach; they're good; and they are clearly earnest about getting better and winning. Pronger is King Shit of the team. There is no possible amount of philosophical differences or the like with MacT that would make this claim plausible.

If Pronger were a bit older, or closer to the end of his contract, then I suppose he could think that a reduced travel schedule would improve his play and thus his prospects for his next contract. But he's not.

Q. So what about these "personal and family considerations", then? You have a wife and two kids - do you empathize with Pronger?

A. Sure. I thought Tyler made a good point yesterday. What good is being (A) damn rich and (B) at the top of your profession if you can't influence something as elemental to your quality of life as Where You Work?

Q. But Colby Cosh made this comment on your blog on Saturday, which seems pretty fair:
At this point all I really want is an actual reason the Prongers can't (a) live here or (b) live apart for part of the year, with the family commuting between homes. About 25% of this city lives with one parent in the household away in the patch for two weeks out of every three or four. As a rule they get 1% or 2% of Pronger's salary to do it. The wife doesn't like the city? She doesn't have to live in it. The kids don't like the schools? Hire a tutor. Someone needs special healthcare? Surely $6M will buy an awful lot of it?

Tyler says this amounts to "Why can't he suck it up like us little people?" - is that right?

A. No. It's a serious and legitimate question.

When I put myself in Yoko Pronger's shoes, this is where I find myself: I married a hockey player in my hometown. The franchise was strong, and there was really no reason to believe that we'd ever go anywhere else. The difficulties that all hockey families go through (mainly due to the extended absences caused by road trips) were mostly mitigated because my extended family was right there.

The collapse of the Blues was a shock. I was terribly unhappy that Chris would have to go play in Edmonton, but at the time, it was mitigated by two things: (1) a huge new contract, and (2) he had to go somewhere, and I figured, if it's not St. Louis, what the hell's the difference?

And to my mind, that's what Cosh's question addresses: even today, what the hell is the difference? I can see why Pronger's family wishes he was still playing for the Blues--if I was on the road a lot, I'd prefer my family to be with my in-laws etc. too--but playing anywhere else would seem to hold the same set of problems, just in slightly varying degrees.

Q. Varying degrees? Eastern teams get home earlier from road games have shorter road trips. There's lots of cities that have direct flights to St. Louis, without connections. Closer the better, no?

A. Look, either the Pronger family will have two homes or one, and they will either live in the same city as the extended family or they will not. All the other considerations are minor in comparison, which is why if Pronger (or his agent) ever fleshes out his reasons for the Edmonton fans, they will seem whiny, and just make things worse, if that's possible at this point. (If the weather or taxes come up, look out.)

Q. You seem to be saying his preferred destination would be back in St. Louis.

A. I don't think there's any question about it. On its face (or from what we've heard), the trade request is to go "somewhere else", but I wouldn't be surprised if it's far more specific than that.

Q. So, you don't think that Lowe's talks with Ottawa, for example, are in good faith?

A. No I don't. I suspect that there is a very short list of cities, with St. Louis at the top, to where Pronger has requested to be traded. There's probably not more than 5 people who know what this list is (Pronger, his agent, Lowe, and one or two others in the Oiler organization), because the facade of an auction will help Lowe maximize his return for Pronger.

Q. What? You mean not only has Pronger requested a trade one-fifth of the way through his contract, but he's being picky about where he goes?

A. Oh, grow up.

Q. What are the chances of sending him back to St. Louis?

A. Kind of lousy, but a little better than you'd think. There's nothing on the Blues' roster right now that could make it happen, but now that their ownership situation has been resolved, they might be able to acquire someone via trade or free agency who they could then put at the top of a package for Pronger.

Q. So, what do you think would be the perfect resolution to this for Edmonton?

A. Sending Pronger to Chicago for Brent Seabrook and Adrian Aucoin. Most of the Hawks chat I've seen talks about Barker, not Seabrook, and I can't agree. I know Barker was drafted 3rd overall (Seabrook 13th) and is a year younger, but we've already seen good evidence that Seabrook has NHL game. He was +5 this season on a disgustingly bad Hawks team, and led their defense in scoring. He'd already be a top-pair guy on Edmonton, and easily be their #1 starting next season, if not sooner. Aucoin is tied up for the next few years and can replace Pronger's PP contributions.

The delightful cherry on top of this would be doing Pronger the service of taking him at his word about his "personal reasons". Chicago is as close to St. Louis as you get in the NHL, and is geographically less than a 1-hour flight. Of course, he'd be going to probably the worst franchise in the NHL, with an owner who shows no interest in winning, an incompetent GM, and Bob Pulford. You win, buddy!

Q. Yeah, I could see Oiler fans taking a bit of solace in that. Anyway, you don't view the trade request, in and of itself, as evidence of weak character. What about the fact that he took off for Mexico instead of standing up and facing the music?

A. Well, you have to consider that Lowe might want it this way to make his semi-phony auction easier. Pronger talking would inadvertently, but certainly, send a number of teams the message that he doesn't want to go there, either.

That said, at some point he's going to have to man up and answer questions about his decision, from people who aren't very happy about it. It is incredibly ironic -- Pronger is literally the last player in the NHL who you would expect to have to urge to get in front of the fans and show some balls.


Actually he doesnt' have to give his reasons if he doesn't want to. His agent has indicated that it is a personal issue which means it's no one elses business. I'm sure that Oilers mgmt and his agent are aware of the situation. What makes everyone in this city feel that they DESERVE an answer. That's the way professional sports work.

And I'm sick and tired of people bashing Prongers wife. Has he come out and said it's her that wants to leave? "Personal" reasons could encompass any number of things but of course, the easiest target for everyone is his wife. Let's blame it on her, not him. Maybe it's HIS decision to leave. Perhaps he was cheating on her with some Edmonton hottie? Perhaps there's something happening with his kids that they need to be somewhere else and he wants to be with them? Or how about another scenario I read today that Pronger and Ryan Smyth hate each other and there's NO way the Oilers are going to get rid of him instead of Pronger. Smitty's been with the team for what 10 or 11 years and gets paid less than some hotshot defenseman (who frankly did NOT play as well as he should for over $6million a year). Money does strange things to people.

I wish people would quit calling her a bitch and saying it's all Lauren's fault. None of us know that's true. Sure we're all upset he's leaving, and the way it's been handled but get over it. He owes us nothing.

I think your comment is misplaced, Karen. As in, it belongs in some other thread (for one, I'm not upset that he's leaving - I'm not even an Oilers fan).

I don't think I was hard on Mrs. Pronger at all. And it's not exactly beyond the pale to imply that if Pronger was single, this wouldn't be happening (because, you know, it wouldn't).

As for the "it's his own business" bit, well, it certainly is. I don't want to get into a whole meta discussion about what pro athletes owe the fans, but I would certainly suggest that if Pronger ever wishes to be taken seriously again about anything, he needs to stand up and take his abuse before he moves on.

Sorry about that. It seems that everything I've come across regarding "Pronger Gate" seems to be revolving around how it's the wife's fault. Guess my frustration with the whole fiasco ended up being directed at you (looking back at my comment I can't believe how much I went on about it!). I'm an Oilers fan but unlike a lot of people, I say let him go. If he doesn't want to be here, it's no good forcing him to stay.

Again, apologies for letting loose on you. ('re not a *gasp* Calgary fan...!!!!)

Your rationale for the Prongers' list of cities is well taken. It makes sense and so does Chicago.


Seabrook would be in Edmonton's top pair already? #1 after one season? This comment explains a lot about the Phaneuf love-in. I expected more from you, Matt.

Anyway, I think this deal is flawed because they put all their eggs in one blueline basket again. They also reduce their flexibility to improve their forwards and depth by wasting $4MM/yr on Aucoin. This proposal makes little sense. They'd be better off throwing big money at a UFA and then trading for a truly cheap package of which Seabrook could be a member.

Chicago makes sense to me Matt but I don't see Aucoin coming our way - his contract is a boat anchor.

As a former Hawks' fan I can attest to the stupidity of their front office. My guess is that Lowe could make out like a bandit and probably score three or four good young players including the kid they just drafted.

Nobody does stupid like Bill Wirtz and Bob Pulford. Not even MLSE.

You might be right Q, but the wild card is that we don't really know how much wiggle room Lowe has. It is possible that his options are limited enough that he'll have to take salary back, in which case, Aucoin doesn't seem that bad (it beats taking Khabibulin).

It also obviously depends what you think of Aucoin; I'd tend to agree that he's overpaid, but you'd get a lot of disagreement as to how much.

And I see that the CW in the Oilogosphere is that forwards and Goal are where you get your EV+/-, but how much help does the Oil need at forward? Assuming Pronger goes, they need a tremendous amount of help on D. It's all well and good to point at Carolina and say they didn't have any stars back there, but jeez: if the Oil starts the season with Staios & Smith (and/or Spacek) as their top guys, they'll get fuckin' steamrolled, IMO.

Awesome thinking and insight.

Except that you forgot that a St. Louisan would rather bathe in acid than move to Chicago. Something about the railways going through Chicago and leaving St. Louis high and dry, even though the city deserves better because it's on the river.

St. Louis peaked in 1904 and its denizens have never forgotten the glory days. Consider it an American version of Hamilton.

Actually, it might be cosmic justice for Lauren to spend 2 h every day stuck on the Kennedy Expressway while she's soccer-moming, dreaming of the empty freeways and vacant lots of St. Louis. Be careful what you wish for.

I say get a young, good goalie. Roloson is 36 for god's sake. Goalies decline a lot with age. Pick up a good young one who can stay with the franchise for a while.

We all know that it was actually Lauren Pronger who caused the trade request to be made. That is the one thing we know to be true. So, Karen, it is your desire to keep the sister out harms way that is misplaced. I agree that we shouldn't be calling her a whore or a bitch, as some have done, but I have no problem assigning blame to her.

And I think he does have a responsibility to at least come partially clean. My guess is that they aren't telling us the real reason why they are leaving because they know the real reason is petulant and petty.

I wouldn't mind seeing that sort of trade with Chicago as Aucoin and Smith would give us a very respectable first pairing. Seabrook I think showed enough last season to say that he could be a second pairing guy. If we resign Spacek, it would be fairly ironic that we could be playing 3 Hawk defensemen in our top 4.

I'd rather drink Pronger's ball-sweat than end up with Aucoin and Seabrook. I swear the Oilers are out to destroy my life.

Agreed on the Aucoin aversion. Seabrook too, unless they the bulk of "Pronger money" to sign a top-end UFA (like Redden, Chara, Elias, Kubina, etc.). Then flipping Pronger to pick up "potential" would be a good thing. Something like:
Pronger & MAB
Seabrook, Barker, & 1st-round pick.

Works for me, provided UFAs are picked up for "today's needs".

Bonus with a Chicago trade is that the Rexall crowd could be guaranteed a Pronger visit. ;-)

Even though the pick wouldn't be as good, I'd rather have Pitkanen, Carter/Richards and a #1...for Brutus, MAB, and Winchester...

Well from a personal standpoint Aucoin and Seabrook doesn't look as bad to me as the possibility of Kaberle and Steen.

On the other hand, I agree that its definately not an optomal return and would prefer a Boumeister/Horton package or Piktanen/Carter package from Florida or Philly respectively. Seabrook and Bell and maybe a draft pick would also probably be preferable and would give us a heck of a young core moving forward. Although you can say the same thing about the other two packages except that they're somewhat more tested.

I tend to think Pitkanen/Richards would probably be our best outcome, Kaberle Steen or a lousy package from St.Louis would be the worst.

Why aren't any of you pointy heads looking for 3-team deals where CP ends up in St Louis?

Because if Pronger goes to a Western team and has to visit Edmonton twice a year, he's going to have bigger problems than a quarrelsome wife.

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