logo

44 Days Until The Season Begins

Zach Laing
9 months ago
Throughout the summer and into the fall, we’ll be counting down the days until the Edmonton Oilers begin their 2023-24 season with a daily trip down memory lane.
What exactly is Chris Pronger’s legacy in Edmonton?

Clippings from the June 24, 2006 edition of the Edmonton Journal details Chris Pronger’s trade request.

PLAYER COUNTDOWN PRESENTED BY BETWAY


Much ink has been spilled over the years about the Chris Pronger era in Edmonton. It was a short one, at that, lasting all of 335 days between his arrival from St. Louis, and his departure to Anaheim.
The move itself had massive impacts on the Oilers season in that 2005-06 season. He scored 12 goals and 56 points and led all Oilers skaters with a staggering 27:59 average time on ice per game. Come the playoffs, his point totals rose as he scored 21 points in 24 games and his ice time climbed three minutes per night to 30:57.
His legacy left behind is an oft-confusing one.
What he did for that team can never be taken from him and the truth of the matter is the Oilers likely couldn’t have gone as deep in the post-season as they had. His play hit another level in the post-season, and performances like his three-assist game in the Oilers 3-2 game five win over the Detroit Red Wings in the quarter-finals were crucial.
The goals he scored in that playoff run were often tone-setters. Two of his five goals — in games two against Detroit and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim — were the first goal of the game and those games were won by the Oilers. How could anyone forget his penalty shot goal in game one against the Carolina Hurricanes to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead?
It wasn’t always just the goals, either. On nights where the Oilers had to go to double overtime against Detroit and triple overtime against San Jose — both in game three of their respective series’ — Pronger totalled 47 minutes a night in each game. Workhorse.
Pronger was the rising tide that lifted all the boats. A number of Oilers from that 2005-06 team had career years with each of Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff, Jarrett Stoll, Raffi Torres, Fernando Pisani, Marty Reasoner and Steve Staios setting career highs in totals. Each of those players ranked above were among the Oilers’ top 12 scorers.

A headline from the June 25, 2006 Edmonton Journal shows reaction to the Chris Pronger trade request.

But in Pronger’s wake, he left a mess that still has Oilers fans feeling indifferent. Step into any establishment in the city in 2023 and in short order, I guarantee you’d find somebody who has something to say about Chris Pronger. It’d probably start with some level of vitriol about him asking for a trade out of Edmonton after the playoffs, but I’d be willing to bet they’d sing praise about his nightly performances on the ice.
Don’t take it from me. After he asked for his trade out of Edmonton four days after the team was eliminated from the playoffs, the Edmonton Journal ran comments from fans in the paper. Here’s a few of them:
It breaks my heart to hear that Chris Pronger requested a trade from the Oilers. He captivated us with his defensive skills, stamina… and let us not forget his record-breaking “penalty-shot” goal. Edmonton is just coming out of its Stanley Cup low, but we were proud of “our” Oilers. It was a blow to our hearts that he did not love Edmonton back. We don’t understand their reasons, but Chris and his family should be allowed their privacy. – Rose M. Gagnon
Trade him to the worst small-market, hickiest team you can find, for ALL of their decent players, and let him labour in vain in the sticks for the rest of his career! – W.A. Gillespie
Let Chris Pronger go. He is obviously not a true-blue Oiler, just look at the fcat that he did not show up to accept thanks from the fans at City Hall. Kevin Lowe, find some Alberta boys who appreciate E-Town and its image as a City of Champions. As for Pronger, goodbye, I certainly won’t miss you. You had the chance of a lifetime. – Annette Bourque

A clipping from the June 28, 2006 edition of the Edmonton Journal details fan reaction to Chris Pronger’s trade request.

I’ll admit, it’s hard to think about what could’ve been had he stuck around. The Oilers in 2006-07 started out good going 13-10-1 by American Thanksgiving sitting seventh in the Western Conference, in the playoff picture, and three points up on the Calgary Flames, who were on the outside looking in at the time.
By the new year, they were three points back of a playoff spot and come the trade deadline, things were a lot worse. The Oilers were 30-27-3 and nine points back of the playoffs. Then, the Ryan Smyth trade.
Pronger, who would go on to play six more seasons in the NHL after he left Edmonton, would’ve been 32 years old. It’s hard to imagine him do anything but continue to rise the tides.
Instead, Oilers fans will always be left wondering: What If?

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

Previous days

Check out these posts...