Exactly...Bill touched upon all of this today. I mean what does one "expect" Pronger to say? As a professional athlete his mind is conditioned to be optimistic but right now his body isn't conditioned to lift a medicine ball. He's got a tough climb but I hope he does make a full recovery.
I did not listen in on the Chris Pronger conference call yesterday (I was in transit back to Philadelphia virtually the entire day). In reading the transcript, however, I got a different sense than Tim Panaccio did about whether the Flyers' top defenseman is likely to be ready for opening night.
Tim is optimistic about it, based on Pronger's upbeat demeanor. But I think the player's actual words suggest that nothing much has changed -- for the worse or for the better -- since he last spoke on the subject at the start of the offseason. The good news is that he's been recuperating and his hand and back are on the mend while he does some cardiovascular conditioning. So far so good.
However, there are still several mighty tall hurdles for Pronger to clear in the process of returning from back and hand surgeries -- regaining strength and getting through his off-ice training in preparation to skate, light skating, more intensive skating and shooting the puck, no-contact participation in scrimmages and then trying to get game-ready.
The timeline for each and every step depends solely on how Pronger feels, and it's impossible to know right now how quickly he'll bounce back and be ready to play NHL hockey.
The player realizes that the process absolutely cannot be rushed because the risks of rushing back greatly outweigh any potential benefits. If Pronger is ready for opening night, terrific. But if he needs a month or more into the season to return to his standards and feel reasonably confident that his body will hold up the rest of the season, so be it.
If I had to make a prediction right now, I would say that Pronger will NOT be ready for opening night. It's now Aug. 9 and Pronger is still a week away from taking step one of aforementioned process (lifting weights). If he had zero setbacks the rest of the way, he could conceivably be ready for opening night.
More likely with a soon-to-be 37-year-old player, he'll have some good days and some bad days physically (especially early in the process). Pronger's brain knows when the season starts and how to prepare. But he will have to obey the dictates of his body, not the NHL schedule. With back surgery in particular, the body can be fickle even if he follows his rehab plan scrupulously. Pronger knows this and has said over and over again that there cannot be a timetable set until he starts to undergo the physically strenuous portions of the process.
Bottom line: Pronger will be ready when he's ready. The Flyers still need to be prepared for the possibility that it will take a significant amount oftime for Pronger to be able to return at close to full strength.
I think his back will be ready to go for the start of the season, but that he won't be where he wants to be strength and conditioning wise due to his inability to do his normal offseason routine. I think he'll be playing in October though, and get in close to a full season. Maybe like 72-75 games.