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Top 100 Oilers: Chris Pronger (15)

Even before the Edmonton Oilers went on a magical playoff run that took them all the way to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup finals, it was obvious the Oilers had found the franchise cornerstone they needed in Norris Trophy winner Chris Pronger and that the five-year contract they’d signed him to during the summer of 2005 was a bargain. Pronger was a stud, a skilled, mean, minute-eating freak and the straw that stirred the drink.

What wasn’t obvious is that date with the Carolina Hurricanes, as the eighth seed out of the Western Conference wasn’t the beginning of a return to contention by the Oilers most fans anticipated. It was a blip on the screen, a one-off. While Pronger embraced the city, his wife Lauren, a wealthy St. Louis socialite, never did. She didn’t want to be here. In the end, that simple truth spelled the end of Pronger’s tenure as an Oiler after 80 regular season games and 24 more in the playoffs. It marked the beginning of a decade of defeat and some of the darkest days in the history of this storied franchise.

Chris Pronger

Defense
Born Oct 10th, 1974 — Dryden, ONT
Height 6.06 — Weight 210 [198 cm/95 kg]

Drafted by Hartford Whalers

Round 1 #2 overall 1993 NHL Entry Draft

BY THE NUMBERS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

TOI

ATOI

1993-94

19

HAR

81

5

25

30

-3

113

174

2.9

1994-95

20

HAR

43

5

9

14

-12

54

94

5.3

1995-96

21

STL

78

7

18

25

-18

110

138

5.1

1996-97

22

STL

79

11

24

35

15

143

147

7.5

1997-98

23

STL

81

9

27

36

47

180

145

6.2

1998-99

24

STL

67

13

33

46

3

113

172

7.6

2050

30:36

1999-00

25

STL

79

14

48

62

52

92

192

7.3

2389

30:14

2000-01

26

STL

51

8

39

47

21

75

121

6.6

1415

27:45

2001-02

27

STL

78

7

40

47

23

120

204

3.4

2299

29:28

2002-03

28

STL

5

1

3

4

-2

10

11

9.1

108

21:39

2003-04

29

STL

80

14

40

54

-1

88

203

6.9

2197

27:28

2005-06

31

EDM

80

12

44

56

2

74

155

7.7

2239

27:59

2006-07

32

ANA

66

13

46

59

27

69

166

7.8

1789

27:06

2007-08

33

ANA

72

12

31

43

-1

128

182

6.6

1872

26:00

2008-09

34

ANA

82

11

37

48

0

88

196

5.6

2209

26:56

2009-10

35

PHI

82

10

45

55

22

79

175

5.7

2126

25:56

2010-11

36

PHI

50

4

21

25

7

44

112

3.6

1125

22:30

2011-12

37

PHI

13

1

11

12

1

10

23

4.3

292

22:29

9 yrs STL

598

84

272

356

140

931

1333

6.3

10459

29:03

3 yrs ANA

220

36

114

150

26

285

544

6.6

5870

26:41

3 yrs PHI

145

15

77

92

30

133

310

4.8

3543

24:26

2 yrs HAR

124

10

34

44

-15

167

268

3.7

1 yr EDM

80

12

44

56

2

74

155

7.7

2239

27:59

Career

1167

157

541

698

183

1590

2610

6.0

22111

27:28

PLAYOFFS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

TOI

ATOI

1995-96

21

STL

13

1

5

6

0

16

20

5.0

1996-97

22

STL

6

1

1

2

0

22

19

5.3

1997-98

23

STL

10

1

9

10

-2

26

24

4.2

1998-99

24

STL

13

1

4

5

-2

28

43

2.3

466

35:53

1999-00

25

STL

7

3

4

7

0

32

22

13.6

212

30:14

2000-01

26

STL

15

1

7

8

10

32

35

2.9

508

33:50

2001-02

27

STL

9

1

7

8

5

24

16

6.3

251

27:51

2002-03

28

STL

7

1

3

4

3

14

15

6.7

172

24:36

2003-04

29

STL

5

0

1

1

1

16

8

0.0

139

27:54

2005-06

31

EDM

24

5

16

21

10

26

61

8.2

743

30:57

2006-07

32

ANA

19

3

12

15

10

26

58

5.2

574

30:11

2007-08

33

ANA

6

2

3

5

-1

12

12

16.7

145

24:14

2008-09

34

ANA

13

2

8

10

4

12

27

7.4

354

27:13

2009-10

35

PHI

23

4

14

18

5

36

41

9.8

668

29:03

2010-11

36

PHI

3

0

1

1

-3

4

4

0.0

42

13:55

Career

173

26

95

121

40

326

405

6.4

4274

29:41

NOTABLE

EDMONTON, AB – JUNE 12: Chris Pronger #44 of the Edmonton Oilers in action against the Carolina Hurricanes during game four of the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Finals on June 12, 2006 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The Hurricanes defeated the Oilers 2-1 to take a 3-1 game series lead. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

I can’t think of anybody in the history of the franchise, save for perhaps owner Peter Pocklington after he sold Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings, who went from hero to villain as quickly as Pronger did when his trade demand went public within days of Game 7. Obtained from the St. Louis Blues in a deal that sent Eric Brewer, Doug Lynch and Jeff Woywitka the other way, Pronger, a former Hart Trophy and Norris Trophy winner, arrived with five-year deal worth $31.5 million in his pocket. Pronger was the biggest catch during a summer and a season that would see GM Kevin Lowe add Michael Peca, Jaroslav Spacek, Dwayne Roloson and Sergei Samsonov in the lead-up to that fabulous playoff run.

“There’s nothing in the game he cannot do,” head coach Craig MacTavish said when Pronger was acquired from the Blues on Aug. 2, 2005. “There’s nothing in the game that he does not excel at. He’s got an edge to him, which we all know, in our division, is going to be really important this year.” It didn’t take very long for fans around here to find out MacTavish was understating in the extreme. As the season unfolded, Pronger more than delivered on his advance billing by any measure you’d care to use. He was the game-breaker and difference-maker the Oilers needed.

Pronger could move the puck. He had a great first pass. He battered opponents. He played the tough shutdown minutes. Pronger raised the bar on expectations. He wielded great influence in the dressing room. Pronger averaged 27:59 of ice time during the regular season, fourth-highest in the NHL. He tallied 12-44-56, the second-highest point total, at the time, of his career. He averaged 30:57 of ice time in the playoffs, second only to Nick Lidstrom. His 21 playoff points led the team and ranked third overall. He scored the first penalty shot goal in the history of the Stanley Cup final. Then, just like that, Pronger’s time as an Oiler was soon over.

THE STORY

Lauren Pronger spent more time living at the couple’s home in St. Louis than she did in Edmonton during the season. There had been trouble brewing for months. While I’ve got to admit I never got a whiff of that discord during the season – nobody in the local media corps did – Lowe, management and the ownership group was well aware of it. The Oilers kept a lid on all of it during the season, hoping it would sort itself out. Then, the lid blew off – two days after the Oilers lost Game 7, veteran Toronto writer Al Strachan, a pal of Pronger’s agent, Pat Morris, broke the story. Pronger wanted out.

Lowe ended up trading Pronger to the Anaheim Ducks for Joffrey Lupul, Ladislav Smid and two first-round draft picks – one the Oilers traded to Phoenix, the other they used to select Jordan Eberle, and a second-rounder they traded to the New York Islanders that was used on Travis Hamonic. Fans, still outraged at Pronger demanding out, didn’t much care for the return, either. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had a more stressful time in trying to piece all this together on the heels of an incredible playoff run,” Lowe said. “It was the last thing we wanted to do.”

Without Pronger, the Oilers wouldn’t have got within a $5 cab ride of that Game 7 loss to Carolina in 2006. Yes, many others, like Roloson, Fernando Pisani, Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Smyth and Ales Hemsky, played significant parts in that playoff run, but Pronger was the horse that team rode in on. Despite off-ice issues and trouble percolating on the home front for months, Pronger put on his gear, went out the gate and delivered everything, and then some, anybody could reasonably expect during his time as an Oiler.

This series will look at the top 100 Edmonton Oilers from the NHL era 1979-80 to 2014-15, starting with 100 and working up.

PREVIOUSLY:

  • dsanchez1973

    Probably the toughest player in the history of the Oilers to rank in a list like this – one transcendent season and a lot of personal animosity with the fan base still remaining. You could argue he belongs higher in terms of objective “best hockey players to play for the Oilers”, and you could argue he should barely be on the list due to playing only one year. Probably a bit higher than I would have placed him, but can’t argue that much.

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    Love him, or Hate him, you gotta admit…Prongs was a beast. I LOVED that 06 run, just for the pure rush of it all, and he was a big part of it. Sh!te happens, move on. You slotted him in right where you should have Robin.

  • ubermiguel

    Pronger was capable of picking up a team and carrying them to the Stanley Cup finals (see: Anaheim, Philadelphia, Edmonton) and he was one goalie injury away from delivering the Stanley Cup to Edmonton. Pronger would have won the Conn Smythe if the Oilers had won the Cup, he was that good. And he did that knowing he was probably not returning the next year. His trade-demand tanked the Oilers plans, but mismanagement extended the darkness for a decade.

    Another not-popular opinion: for one glorious year Kevin Lowe was a brilliant GM. Brewer, Lynch and Woywitka for Pronger?! C’mon, that’s highway robbery. Adding: Roloson, Spacek, Peca, Samsonov: fantastic year.

  • Garnett

    I remember thinking all season long how lucky we were to have this guy. And feeling like he was too good for us. It was the first year into the cap era, and for years we were losing players who deserved good money. In my mind it was too good to be true.

    I was driving when I looked over and saw an Edmonton Sun box with a black background, Pronger’s face, and big white block letters. I almost crashed trying to read what I already knew was written. I pulled over to go buy the paper. (Yes kids you actually had to get a paper to read about news in those days).

    If it’s true that he left because of his wife, you can’t get angry. He put his family first.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    They say time heals all wounds, but this is a tough one.

    I realize that Pronger had to look after his family – and, truth be told, I do respect him for that – but make no mistake. The fallout of his wife’s complete unwillingness to try to move or set up a life here (for eight or nine months of the year) essentially poisoned the well for this franchise in terms of its “quality-of-life reputation” around the rest of the league.

    From summer 2006 onward, we had to deal with same old whispered complaints about Edmonton’s weather, its downtown, the demilitarized zone surrounding Rexall Place, or the general lack of amenities required for the care and comfort of socialite spouses. From summer 2006 onward, the best we could hope for on the free agent market were unmarried single guys whom we were willing to overpay or Alberta-born players we could beg/shame into coming home for two years plus an option.

    Otherwise, it was going to be cross our fingers and draft and trade where we could… and when we could. One thing we’ll never know is how many “no-trade/no-movement-to-Edmonton” clauses that materialized around the league in the months and years after Pronger left. I’m guessing it was a lot. Like I say, the well got poisoned here.

    And, as I also noted, the Oilers keep the well bad, organically, long long after Pronger left.

    But it all started with him. Robin – I’m actually OK with him at #15, because it’s an indicator of the impact he had on this franchise for the 11 months he was here … and what his departure wrought soon after.

  • JSR

    I would have him higher on the list, probably the top all around defenceman to play for the Oilers.
    Pronger’s trade out of Edmonton was when I lost all respect for Six Rings…you can’t let the best defenceman in the world call the shots. This forced Six Rings to deal from a position of weakness, as everyone knew Pronger wanted out. Six Rings should have told Morris he will attempt to trade him, but it will be during the following season.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    I think this whole mess really started with Al Strachan. Had he just reported Pronger wanted out it might Not have come off so personally. Instead the last lineof his season review was “Pronger should be able to get out of Edmonton with his good behaviour.” Something along those lines. The city erupts and about 36 hours later everyone realizes the Oilers and Pronger are both pretty quiet.

    It got to a personal level from the get go with the city and the fans. And it didn’t need to be. “Family issues might end Pronger’s career in Edmonton early”. Same information. Different story.

  • LibrarianMike

    I remember hearing that Pronger got picked up by the Oilers in 2005, and I would have bet money at the time that they were talking about Sean Pronger and then after finding out it was Chris, “I think I’m going to like this salary cap.” Alas…

    Also, as much as the circumstances around him leaving were terrible, the fact is the Oilers wouldn’t have gotten into the playoffs that year, much less pushed to the final game of the season. Credit where it’s due, he was one hell of a hockey player.

  • D'oh-ilers

    It’s disappointing he wanted out after one year, but it is what it is. Regardless, he was still probably the best all-around defenseman to wear Oil silks. Other guys were better offensively, or defensively, but Pronger stood out as being one of the all-time greats at both ends of the ice. Just wish we got to see him do more of that in Edmonton.

  • ponokanocker

    I would have him higher. I know it was only one season, but wow, was it ever a season. I’ve never enjoyed watching a D dominate in the post 2005 lockout era more than him during that cup run. He just seemed to be able to control the complete game so well, and play half of it. The ending was unfortunately dramatic, but it sure was awesome to have him here.

  • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

    Had the Oilers won the Cup, I believe Pronger would have won the Conn Smythe trophy. Look no further than the Ducks victory in ’07 as evidence of the Pronger effect. The Pronger trade was the reason the Oilers went into a death spiral for 11 years.

  • Jordan88

    Does Pronger belong on this list? Absolutely. He was the best player in the league at the time in my opinion. ( I will stand by that).

    I don’t care about his off ice issues. I have issues outside my job and the moment they effect my performance than yes by all means bring it up. But they never do and they never did for Pronger.

    Pronger took us to the SCF and he almost got us our 6th cup.

    I wish nothing but the best for the man in his post NHL playing career.

  • O.C.

    Pronger was unbelievable that one season. I don’t blame him or his wife or anyone else. Life outside of hockey happens.

    I was crushed watching him collapse on the ice when the whistle went in NC in 2006. He left it all on the ice that series.

    Glad he got his cup. Glad he was an Oiler. If only…

  • Oilerfool

    I’m having a hard time with the ranking of this one. Enjoyed the list so far, but can’t fathom how he ranks higher than so many long-serving oilers that were crucial to the team’s success and championships. Great player, but was only an Oiler for one year… and didn’t really seem to like being an Oiler very much. Pronger should have ranked in the 75-100 section. Sorry RB.

  • giddy

    Has there ever been a more all around full package defensemen? He was an absolute jack of all trades monster. He had it all. Fantastic numbers on offence and played a killer defensive game. Massive size at 6’6″ and knew how to use it. Fantastic hockey IQ and played an interesting high reward, low risk game on defence. Moved the puck anywhere he wanted. Redefined the word “mean” while on the ice. Ultimate powerplay QB, especially with that clap bomb he had. Didn’t take any **** from anyone and apparently would call guys out in the locker room on their BS. Could be on the ice for literally half the game (in the playoffs!) and dominate for every second of it.

    Maybe it’s my rose-colored fan glasses, but I think you could make a seriously convincing argument that Pronger was the greatest dman of this salary cap era. Although, after watching this year’s playoffs, I think that title may belong to Karlsson all said and done.