Programming Note: It's been a while since we left off on this list, but since we needed to finish it anyway, we figured what better time for a countdown than the holiday season. In case you forgot where we left off the number 10 Duck of all time was Andy McDonald, #9 Guy Hebert, #8 Steve Rucchin and now... number seven. Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving. -CK
The idea of heroes and villains are ever popular in culture, spreading across all mediums of storytelling as a means to frame participants and drive the narrative. Sports are no different, but one of the fun aspects with the yearly renewal of competition and fluid nature of player movement makes those roles ever-shifting. Patrick Roy tormented the Quebec Nordiques in his 12 years with Montreal, but became the difference maker for the franchise the season they moved to Denver and ultimately lead the Avalanche to two Stanley Cup titles. Brett Hull was always a thorn in the side of the Red Wings when he was with St. Louis and Dallas, but signed with Detroit in 2001-02 and won the Stanley Cup. Fans grow to despise opposing stars, but quickly learn to love them once they put on the sweater of their team. Such is the case with Chris Pronger, who went from knocking the Ducks out in the Western Conference Finals one season to winning hockey's ultimate prize with them the next.
Drafted second overall by the Hartford Whalers in the 1993 NHL Draft, his imposing frame mixed with skill and mean streak had Pronger projected as a top pairing defenseman from his time with the Peterborough Petes in the OHL. Thrust into the NHL the following season, he played in 81 games as a 19-year old rookie with the Whalers and made the NHL All-Rookie Team. The Whalers were a basement dweller in his two years with the club, and Pronger struggled in the lockout shortened 94-95 season leading to a trade to St. Louis in exchange for Brendan Shanahan before the following year. Over the course of the next three seasons he evolved into one of the most imposing defensemen in the league, and assumed the Blues captaincy in 97-98 when Hull left for Dallas. Pronger spent a total of nine years in St. Louis, winning the Hart and Norris trophies in the 99-00 season, being selected a First Team NHL All-Star once, Second Team NHL All-Star twice, and also earning two additional Norris finalist finishes. Despite his personal success the Blues were a perennial playoff disappointment, and he missed significant time in two of his final four seasons with St. Louis due to injuries.
With the Blues for sale and needing to cut salaries, Pronger was allowed to walk and signed a five-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers before the 05-06 season. He earned a spot on the Canadian Olympic squad for their third competition in a row, and was a vital part of the Oilers stunning run to the Stanley Cup Final. Pronger lead the Oilers with 21 points in the 24 postseason games as Edmoton upended Detroit, San Jose, and Anaheim before falling in seven games to the Carolina Hurricanes. During the offseason he requested a trade, and general manader Brian Burke and the Ducks were an eager suitor, parting with Joffrey Lupul, Ladislav Smid, a pair of first round picks and a second round selection. With the acquisition of Pronger Anaheim had a pair of titans on the blue line in Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, while Francois Beauchemin, Sean O'Donnell, Kent Huskins and Joe DiPenta rounded out the unit.
Entering the 06-07 season as a heavy Stanley Cup contender, the Ducks didn't disappoint in finishing tied with Nashville for the third most points in the league at 110, and allowed the 7th fewest goals against in the league. Pronger finished second amongst defensemen with 59 points in 66 games played, and topped the team with a plus/minus of 27. During the playoffs Pronger lead the unit with 15 points in 19 games, and was an intimidating physical presence throughout. He introduced the world to "Pronger Physics" in describing a hit that resulted in a suspension against Detroit in the Western Conference Final when he hit Tomas Holmstrom high into the boards; it's tough keeping ones elbows from doing damage when you're as tall as Pronger. He was again suspended in the Stanley Cup Final for a forearm shiver to Dean McAmmond, but the Ducks went on to claim the Cup in five games with Pronger assisting on Andy McDonald's opening goal in the clinching game.
Pronger remained a fixture in Anaheim for the following two seasons, wearing the captain's "C" when Scott Niedermayer contemplated retirement following the Stanley Cup win in the 07-08 season. The Ducks made the playoffs twice more with him on the blue line, knocking out the President's Trophy winning Sharks in 08-09- the same year Pronger appeared in his 1000th NHL game. In the offseason he was traded to Phildelphia with Ryan Dingle for Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, two first round picks and a conditional third round pick. With the Flyers he helped the team make a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Final in 09-10, and appeared in his fourth Olympiad with Canada where he set the county's record with 25 career Olympic appearances. He would play two more injury riddled seasons before being forced to shut it down thanks to post-concussion syndrome in 2011. With a spot on the long term-IR with the Flyers, he was hired by the NHL to work in the discipline department before this 2014-15 season.
An oft reviled figure in many markets around the league, Pronger went from object of scorn to figure of jubilation in his three years with the Ducks. His acquisition by Burke was a "this is the year" statement that helped the Ducks roar out to one of the greatest regular seasons in franchise history and ending with California's first Stanley Cup visit. Pronger's three years in Anaheim account for his longest tenure with a club outside of St. Louis, and he scored only three fewer playoff goals in his three postseason runs in a Ducks sweater than in his nine trips (10 goals) with the Blues. The fluid nature of professional sports means it's generally only a matter of time before a hero becomes a villain or vise versa, and Pronger switched sides in the eyes of Anaheim over the course of a single season in securing the franchises' first Stanley Cup championship.