Will the real Flyers’ captain please stand up?
At 35-years old, defenseman Chris Pronger was brought into the Flyers organization in the offseason to help shape up a young squad and act as guidance for 24-year old captain Mike Richards. But after losing five of their last six games and battling ever-growing pressure to improve, the real locker room leader is emerging and it’s not the one wearing the “C”.
“We need to make it [bleeping] happen on Thursday [versus Vancouver],” Pronger said. “It needs to [bleeping] happen now, so we can get over that hump and get this ship headed into the right direction.”
Clearly turning his intensity up a notch, the former Hart Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion made some candid comments to CSNphilly.com’s Tim Pannacio about what Richards needs to do and why he feels like he’s walking a “tightrope” in the locker room.
“He hasn’t asked me for any help,” Pronger said about Richards. “I’ve been in his shoes. It’s not [bleeping] easy. The expectations are high on him and on the team. We’re not playing to the best of our abilities, and a lot of that gets shouldered by the captain.”
As the going has gotten tougher for the Flyers, who if the playoffs started today wouldn’t make the cut, Pronger has been the one deflecting most of the media attention. After Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Atlanta, Pronger refreshingly suggested there has been too many “passengers” on the ice.
“[Richards] hasn’t come to me [to] ask me anything, and it’s delicate because at the end of the day, it’s his team,” said Pronger. “He’s the captain. He needs to show the rest of the players that it is his team. I don’t want to be the guy that has to stand up every day and tell ourselves to look into the mirror and play better and all this stuff.”
It seems as if Pronger is ready to take control of the team but is afraid of going over Richards’ head. But by questioning Richards’ lack of headstrong leadership, he’s essentially telling the Flyers’ center to shit or get off the captain pot.
“I don’t know if he is ‘rah-rah’ type or talkative type. It is a difficult tightrope to walk. I don’t want to step on his toes,” said Pronger. “Maybe he is evaluating. You can’t just jump into a situation and ranting and raving without understanding what has gone on here in the past, as well.”
Now that the ball is in Richards’ court, will he pout or listen to the grizzled vet? Only time will tell,