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End of the Road for Laperriere, Betts, Pronger?

Before diving into the myriad changes that could take place over the summer of 2012 as the Philadelphia Flyers once more look to rebuild their roster, there are several Flyers whose playing careers may be at an end that are worth paying tribute to.

Ian Laperriere hasn’t played a single game since the end of the Flyers’ Stanley Cup Finals run in 2010. Signed as a free agent the previous summer, Laperriere finished his inaugural season in orange and black with 20 points (in line with his offensive output over the past few seasons with the Colorado Avalanche) and a career-high 25 fights.

If not for an unfortunate eye injury sustained after blocking a slapshot against Patrick Elias in the 2010 Stanley Cup Quarterfinals, Laperriere could have been a fixture on the fourth line this year. Instead, Laperriere has spent the last two seasons in an unofficial role as a mentor for the team’s draft and AHL prospects.

Tim McManus of the Post Star caught up with “Lappy” earlier this year. “I’m still young. I’m 38 soon and that’s why I’m trying everything before I make a decision. That’s why I don’t say no to anything,” Laperriere said. “Coaching is the closest thing you can get to the game. It’s something that’s inside of me. But we’ll see. We’ll see.”

Laperriere also won the Bill Masterton Trophy in 2011 for the NHL player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.”

Blair Betts, 32, found himself in a similar state of limbo after the Flyers put him on waivers at the end of the 2011 preseason. Betts was claimed by the Montreal Canadiens, but then “returned” because he had failed his physical. The Flyers put him on LTIR and he has been spotted rehabbing intermittently throughout the season.

The organization never once gave an update on either what Betts’ injury was (believed to be his knees) or what the timetable was for his return. The only update from any member of the media came from Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who wrote on January 16, “Center Blair Betts, sidelined with a knee injury all season, skated before practice again and said he hopes to play this season.”

Betts will be a free agent this summer. If he isn’t healthy enough to earn a tryout in the NHL, he will likely retire, which is a shame. Betts was one of the best special teams players in the NHL when he wasn’t sidelined with an injury. Unlike Laperriere, Betts has not found himself a role within the organization and may not be seen around the Wells Fargo Center next year.

Chris Pronger is the albatross of the trio.

While Betts and Laperriere’s contracts will expire in July, Pronger has five more years left on his contract, five of which he may never play.

On the receiving end of a devastating stick swing to the eye from Toronto Maple Leaf Mikhail Grabovski, Pronger’s last game was a 6-4 loss to the Winnipeg Jets in November. Pronger remained out of the line-up with a “virus” that was later qualified as a “knee injury,” and then later assessed by actual doctors as a severe concussion.

Pronger has made limited public appearances since the injury, including at least one visit to the locker room and one press box appearance. The blog Broad Street Hockey published a transcript of the final media session of the season with general manager Paul Holmgren, who provided the best update he could on the Flyers’ captain.

“Update, he’s doing probably the same and any chance of returning, I would say your guess is as good as mine…  I think at some point I’ll sit down with Chris and see where he’s at. Probably prior to July 1, we’ll make an assessment on where he’s at. I’m still, as it relates to Chris and as much as anything else, I’m a glass is half full kind of guy. I believe he’s going to play, but I don’t know, I don’t have anything to back that up… I think he still has headaches from time to time. Yeah, he has concussion-like symptoms.”

The loss of Pronger can’t be attributed to the Flyers lack of success in the 2012 Stanley Cup Semifinals, but certainly he would have been a stabilizing element on the blue line if he were available to play.  The uncertainty surrounding his health doesn’t make Holmgren’s responsibilities any easier.

To Laperriere, Betts and Pronger, I wish you all the best of luck. You all remain cemented in Philadelphia history as members of a memorable Cup run in 2010 that fans will never forget. We hope to see you, in one way or another, with the organization next year.

For the latest Flyers news and updates, you can follow me on twitter (@JoshJanet).

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Posted by on May 13 2012. Filed under BREAKING NEWS, Flyers, News, NHL. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

10 Comments for “End of the Road for Laperriere, Betts, Pronger?”

  1. JJ, nice job as always.
    Lappy & Pronger are true Flyers, through & through, Betts, not so much. He was pretty much a non-factor & insignificant. Even when he was healthy, while here, in which he hardly ever was, he didn’t give us much of anything. He was an OK penalty killer, wasn’t physical & gave nothing offensively. He deserves nothing from this organization. He sucked up alot of $$$ being hurt all this time. He wasn’t here long enough, nor gave anything of positive significance. The other 2 yes, Betts would be a negative. Just saying. BTW, keep us updated on any juicy rumors. Hopefully we remake this DF with a couple of young studs. IMHO, Weber must be gotten at all costs & the JVR for Schenn deal must be revisited. I heard/ read few rumors that the new CBA is going to change rules for the LTIR, the over 35 retirement contract BS, a possible amnesty clause & the cap might not go up to $69M like all hoped. The latter would suck, but the other 3 would benefit us, in a huge way. If LTIR is able to be used before the start of the season- thumbs up. If the age for contract retirements, become a moot point- thumbs up. Amnesty clause- 2 thumbs up. Cap not going up to $69M- 2 thumbs down. Lets hope for a good off-season from Homer again.

  2. For what it’s worth, Blair Betts made $700K a year. I’d hardly say he “sucked up a lot of $$$,” but I get what you’re saying.

  3. Flyers should move on from all 3 Players who are injury prone, and old anyways with not much left in the Tank regardless of their injury situations..
    I stated at the end of last seasons Playoffs, that it would be foolish for the Flyers to Count on Pronger as their # 1 Defenseman and to expect him to play more than 40-50 games in 2012 due his various Knee,Shoulder and Back injuries , obviously no one counted on him getting hurt and with the high stick incident and eventual concussion at the beginning of this season which just adds to unpredictability of when he would be able to return ..
    Pronger’s situation to me is similar to the Phil’s Situation with 2B C Utley..
    Everyone loves the guy, but when you take the sentamentality out of it, these players are in the twilight of their careers and just can’t be counted on and are just not productive any longer.. if he can return, than great, but Holmgrem must make plans and re-build this Defense as if there is no Chris Pronger..

  4. Agree with Paulman, time to move on from all 3. Can the Flyers get any cap relief if Pronger retires?

  5. As the CBA is currently written, salary cap hits remain on a team’s payroll if they retire early, regardless of the reason. This is why Laperriere remained on LTIR for two seasons after unofficially “retiring” in the fall of 2010. Hell, Sean Couturier wore #14 this season, which was Lappy’s number; he obviously wasn’t coming back.

    There has been speculation that the new CBA could have language that allows for this contingency so that players can move on with their careers after severe injuries.

    FWIW, I’d still like to see Lappy and Pronger with the organization. Lappy has been great with the prospects, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him take on either a scouting or a minor league coaching position within the organization.

  6. I don’t for one minute believe Holmgren believes any of those guys will be back, much less capable of playing at 100%. He’s putting his “hope face” on with Pronger, a guy he goes way back with to Hartford. Holmgren will do everything possible to get one or two guys like Weber because he KNOWS what this team desperately needs. Pronger’s wife in an interview I saw said he’s just trying to put together a couple good days in a row… Chris needs to retire so he doesn’t take any more blows to head and have some quality time with his kids; he had a very solid NHL career.

  7. FWIW I didn’t mean to suggest Betts or Laperriere will be back (unless it’s in a head office role). I was thinking more “end of the road” in terms of careers.

  8. eagles0superbowls

    last year the flyers looked too small to compete against Boston when they were sweeped in the playoffs — a year later — the flyers looked to weak to compete against the Devils — how do they add stregnth to this team to win in the playoffs?

  9. eagles0, that’s why I’ve been touting a revamp of the defensive corp, like Homer did with the forwards last season. They must get younger, tougher & faster. Shea Weber & Luke Schenn fix both f those problems. We’ll have to wait until after July 1st & see what the new CBA brings too, before hopefully Homer does his magic. IMHO, he is the best GM in this city.

  10. *all three of those problems* LOL!

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