He is embattled. He is aging. He is snarky and entertaining. Chris Pronger is the Flyers' stalwart on defense. And no one inside the Flyers' dressing room questions Pronger's talent, experience and leadership.

For a franchise that has a penchant for spending big dollars on big-name players well past their prime - the names Paul Coffey, John Vanbiesbrouck, Peter Forsberg and Adam Oates come to mind - few blue liners in Flyers history have made the impact Pronger did in his first season.

Pronger, 36, won the Bobby Clarke Award as the Flyers' MVP last season in their run to the Stanley Cup finals. He is credited with helping the Flyers' young core and savvy veterans mesh in the locker room after a rocky period which cost coach John Stevens his job.

On the ice, there is a noticeable hole on the Flyers' back end without Pronger - even this season on one of the deepest teams in club history.

"Chris at 75 percent is more valuable than most other players at 100 percent," Flyers assistant coach Kevin McCarthy said earlier this season.

And he has provided some of the best bulletin-board material in years, making reporters nervous while doing it. Pronger was pressed by reporters about the personal comments of Chicago's Adam Burish, a healthy scratch in the Stanley Cup finals, who called Pronger the "biggest idiot in the league" if he would respond to Burish this season.

"Where's that? In the minors?" Pronger deadpanned. *