Chris Pronger: Victim of Circumstance Or Thuggish Douche?

The NHL Closer is written by Greg Wyshynski, of FanHouse and The Fourth Period. He is also the author of Glow Pucks And 10-Cent Beer.

When you're Chris Pronger, you're crucified for the bad things you do and the bad things everyone assumes you did (even after the girl denied it). And while many hockey fans were were preparing to see him slapped with a substantial suspension for stepping on Vancouver's Ryan Kesler on Wednesday night, the NHL decided yesterday that the incident wasn't sponge-worthy.

It's a decision that has split the hockey world into two camps: Those who believe Pronger is a traitorous thug whose famous name saved him from the gallows (although that sure didn't help him in the playoffs last season); and those who actually watched the following video, can see the mountain is actually a mole hill, and know that the other camp is delusional at best and imbecilic at worst.

Most of the reaction had been based from this YouTube clip from the Canucks/Ducks game, which has the clarity of Abraham Zapruder filming Bigfoot. But the following from TSN's news coverage (and when will Fox News be scooping up this blonde for its army of Femmebots?) provides the best angle I've seen of the stomp:

Watch Pronger's head when Kesler gets stepped on. Kesler tries to take him out of the play with a pair of leg scissors, and Pronger is turning around to break the hold and skate away. It's hard for me to heap loads of premeditated malice on Pronger when he's already looking up ice at the time of the "stomping."

This Kesler thing is being compared to the Chris Simon stomp on Jarkko Ruutu, which is absolutely stunning to me. Refresh your memory on the Simon incident — which earned him 30 games and a trip to Arkham Asylum for some cool-down time — and then explain to me how his attempt to prison-slice the back of Ruutu's Achilles tendon is even in the same conversation as Pronger/Kesler, besides the fact that they both involved skates and took place on ice. Seeing these two incidents as somehow relatable should be grounds for a state-mandated re-administration of a driver's test, because you're blinder than Andrea Bocelli staggering around Jame Gumb's basement.

In summary, here's a beefcake shot for our many female hockey fans here on the Closer, featuring two of the most talented and unfairly maligned players of the last two decades. Here's a hint: One has mush for brains, and the other is Eric Lindros.

Chris Pronger: Victim of Circumstance Or Thuggish Douche?

Nobody Beats the Bryz. And today's award for the most obscure opening to a game-story goes to Larry Pruner of Black Press: "The Vancouver Canucks looked Thursday night like the Argentinian military during the 1982 Falkland Islands war - no leadership, no defence." Ilya Bryzgalov backstopped Phoenix to a 2-0 win over the Canucks, pulling the Coyotes within three points of the final Campbell Conference playoff spot. Vancouver is slumping, and the Sedin twins are getting tossed around like they were made by Nerf. So when does the whining start from the rest of the conference bubble that that NHL wants Gretzky to make the playoffs?

You Just Got Served, Yo. I was talking puck with someone in the know last night, and he made a good call on the Ottawa Senators: They're gamers. You watch them play against teams like Pittsburgh or Montreal, whom they shutout 3-0 last night to move into first place in the division, and the Senators can look like champions-in-waiting. They're a more experienced team than people realize, and they're getting two things heading into the playoffs that they haven't gotten throughout the season: Healthier, and good goaltending from Martin Gerber. Ottawa pounded the shit out of Montreal last night, and will do the same to anyone it sees in the postseason. Fuck another banner: The Penguins and Devils should be trying to win their division to completely avoid seeing Ottawa in Round One.

Puck Headlines

* Wow, a lot went on yesterday: With a 5-3 win over Dallas, Detroit clinched its 17th straight playoff berth, seventh straight division title and eighth straight 100-point season, which tied a record set by the Habs from 1974-82. And they'll still lose before the conference finals...

* Nashville and Boston are doing their best to piss the postseason away, losing to Los Angeles (4-1) and Tampa Bay (3-1) respectively. And now Calgary is only four points from missing the playoff cut after blowing a three-goal lead against the crap-tacular Thrashers last night. Ilya Kovalchuk scored a hat-trick against the Flames. I honestly had no idea collecting hats was one of the Puck Girls' primary duties. I wonder what that question looks like on the application...

Chris Pronger: Victim of Circumstance Or Thuggish Douche?

* If Colorado's proven anything this season, it's that it can play through injuries: Avs 5, Oilers 1, and Colorado moves into first place in the division despite missing half its players (or so it would seem). By the way, Ian Laperriere loves him some YouTube and Hockeyfights.com action ... as well as some Andre Roy. [Vancouver Sun]

* Is your team going to miss the postseason? Time to turn to booze, baseball and blogging. [The FanHouse]

* Finally, big win for the Devils last night in Minnesota to reclaim the top seed in the conference. But David Clarkson got his ass handed to him in this fight with Chris Simon. We can all hate Simon for being a psychotic thug who shouldn't have been let back into the League this season ... but props to him for a textbook smack-down: