The Flyers are a better team with Chris Pronger than without him. This just in.
Here are some numbers, in an attempt to quantify the issue.
They played 50 games with Pronger this season and earned 67 percent of the available points in the standings in those games. They played 32 games without Pronger and earned 61 percent of the available points in those games.
With him, they scored 3.24 goals per game. Without him, 3.03.
With him, they allowed 2.52 goals per game. Without him, 3.03.
With him, the power play converted 17.2 percent of the time. Without him, 15.5 percent.
With him, the penalty kill succeeded 85.2 percent of the time. Without him, 77.7 percent.
You get the point. Everybody gets the point. And as we all wait on the decision about when Pronger is returning to the lineup -- the broken hand surgery was almost a month ago -- we all are trying to calculate in our heads exactly what his absence might mean in a first-round playoff series against the Buffalo Sabres.
Here is the problem: trying to decide if the rough ending to the regular season was because Pronger wasn't in the lineup. The guess here is that it contributed, but that the issues were more widespread. They missed Pronger for 15 games prior to February 1st and were 10-4-1 in those games. The inside-the-game numbers suffered but the overall results were good in that stretch -- and it wasn't a quirk of easy scheduling; they did fine against the playoff teams whom they played during that run.
A fair reading suggests that the problems at the end of the season were more widespread than just Pronger. The overall ennui on the roster and the falloff from that, it seems, was exacerbated by Pronger's absence. But I really don't think it was the root cause of their problems. They were way ahead in the standings, bored and unchallenged. That was the issue, not Pronger.
If they need to survive for a few games without him, I think they can. It would not be an excuse for the Flyers to lose this series.