One of the NHL's most irritating but effective players was super-pest Claude Lemieux. The playoff whiz started his career in Montréal, later played in Colorado and finished his career with San Jose. The Oilers had a Claude Lemieux schedule last week with games against Montréal, Colorado and San Jose. The Oilers lost all three games: they lost 5-3 to the Habs, lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Avs and 3-2 to the Sharks.
The curse of Prongs
I noticed a couple seemingly unrelated hockey items recently—and then I found a way to put them together. First item: the St Louis Blues popped up to the top of the NHL standings. Second item: Chris Pronger's career is at risk because of concussion.
The Theory: Chris Pronger is a jinx, a curse, a gremlin. He's great to have on your team, but don't let him leave. Once he's gone, your team is whammied.
Let's go to the tape and visit the effects of Chris “Scorched Earth” Pronger.
Peterborough Petes (OHL): Pronger's junior hockey squad. In 1991-92, the team finished first in its division. In 1992-93, it was Memorial Cup finalists. Then Prongs left and during the next two years, the Petes had the team's worst seasons in three decades, with 15 and 26 wins each.
Hartford Whalers: The Great Destroyer of Worlds was drafted by Hartford and played two seasons before getting traded to St Louis. Two short years later, no more Whalers.
St. Louis Blues: From 1980 to 2004, the Blues did not miss the playoffs (the third longest such streak in NHL history). Calamity Chris was part of the team from 1997 until 2004. As soon as Pronger was no longer on the squad, the streak ended.
Edmonton Oilers: We know this one. Let's move on.
Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks with Pronger won a Cup in 2007. He was traded to the Flyers after the 2009 season. Since then, the Ducks have missed the playoffs in 2010, lost in the first round to Nashville in 2011 and are as good as out of the playoffs this season.
The Take-away: As good as Pronger is, he decimates teams after he leaves. Is he a witch? Does he take all the motivational posters with him when he leaves? Who knows? It took the Blues six NHL seasons to recover from the Pronger Voodoo. The Oilers are five seasons in so there's at least one more cursed year to go. “At the end of the day” Edmonton fared better than Hartford. His evil powers were obviously stronger then. DY
Not since the days of the Original Six has there been so much parity in the league. And while it makes for some indigestive weeks for fans leading up to the playoffs—how is it your team can go from third to 10th in a matter of days?—it certainly is exciting.
Perhaps the CBA is working. It has made long dormant teams—Phoenix, Florida, St Louis—into competitive ones, even dominant ones in the case of St Louis, which underwent a miraculous turnaround on the shoulders of new coach Ken Hitchcock, and will challenge for the President's Trophy as regular-season champions after missing the playoffs five out of the last six years.
With the CBA up for renewal in the near future, management and the players' union would be wise to reflect on what incredible positives the salary cap has brought us. When teams as skilled as the Chicago Blackhawks, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the San Jose Sharks and the Washington Capitals are sitting on the bubble, the NHL is more exciting than ever. BB
Oilers Player of the week
Tom Renney: Glad he found his balls in his purse and tore a strip off the no-compete Oilers. BB
Taylor Hall: Three straight goals versus MTL, COL and SJ. Still working hard. DY