The Flyers have all but exhausted ways to replace Chris Pronger at this point. The NHL trade deadline is Wednesday at 3 p.m.
It’s virtually impossible to replace a future Hall of Famer, but the Flyers have tried with offers to Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.
“They’re trying to fill a hole and it’s not easy,” said Pronger, who is in town for follow-up medical care and to assist the Flyers on trade deadline day. “They gave up a lot to get me, and usually, when you’re trying to get players you've got to do that. I think with who have become available, we’ve tried to fill certain holes. You bring in [Mark] Streit for power play and offense. You bring in [Nick] Grossmann to play physical. You bring in [Luke] Schenn.
"You bring in different pieces and you look at the way the game is played now, it’s pretty hard to roll two sets of defenseman. You need three sets. The game is fast. You can’t just spot a third pair. They’ve got to play. To get six or seven NHL-caliber defensemen is not easy to play at a high level.”
He mentioned the difficulty of getting young players to develop quickly, such as Erik Gustafsson.
“He goes to the Worlds last year and plays great and come here and plays good some games and not so good other games,” Pronger said. “It’s a matter of consistency. That’s what you are trying to get. The sign of a true professional is consistency in how you play every night …”
Pronger has been scouting Western Conference players for the Flyers. His work out of St. Louis now is entirely with NHL players -- not amateurs or prospects.
It’s no secret the Flyers need to bulk up on defense, although there has been widespread speculation that the Flyers are trying bulk up on centers where they are already overloaded by acquiring Ryan Kesler. Whether that’s serious or driving up the price on Pittsburgh remains to be seen.
Pronger would not evaluate the Flyers defense in specifics.
“I’m more looking at the defensive zone as opposed to just the defense,” he said. “It’s more than just the defensemen. It’s the forwards, it’s the interaction with the goaltender. There’s more to defense than just the defensemen.”
Can the Flyers win with this defense?
“I think it’s good enough,” Pronger replied. “I think we need to play as five-man units and, more to the point, six-man units when you count the goalie. You have to buy into the system. It’s hard work. It’s making sure you’re not cheating on passes. You’re taking away passing lanes.
“You’re eliminating players and stopping cycles and things of that nature. It’s tough. It takes a lot of hard work. When you do it fast and efficiently, you’re going to have that much more energy to go back and try to score some goals…but you’ve got to buy into playing defense.”
Do the Flyers have to make a deadline deal?
“I don’t necessarily think they have to make a trade,” Pronger said. “At the end of the day, they’ve climbed themselves out of a huge hole. Now they’re in a great position and they’re holding all the cards.
“It’s just a matter of how they continue to play. The consistency level has been a lot better. It can still be even better than it has been. Continuing to buy into the defensive system and structure and playing well defensively will translate into more offense for us and allow us to keep the puck out of our net and score some goals.”