Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger said Thursday that his recovery from May 12 back surgery was progressing, but that he didn't know if he would be ready for the start of training camp in September.
"I'm not Kreskin," he said. "I can't look into the future."
In a wide-ranging conference call with reporters, Pronger said he was acquired two seasons ago to help Mike Richards with his captaincy, added that the surgery for a herniated disk had eased the pain in his leg, and questioned whether a new goalie would help the team.
Pronger, whose team was swept by Boston in the conference semifinals, was asked about Richards and how he has handled the captaincy.
"When a team wins, players get pats on the back . . . and that's usually your captain and goalie," said Pronger, a future Hall of Famer. The opposite happens when a team loses, he said, and that is unfair.
"People can say whatever they want about Richie. At the end of the day, it's a team sport," he said.
Pronger added, "I saw one headline, 'Should Mike Richards step away for a year from the C?' What good does that do? That is the most ridiculous thought I have heard yet. This is on-the-job training for Mike. I was brought in to help him be a captain and do all the rest of that and kind of help with my experiences. I think when I got here, he was 24; he's now 26. I think he's made some strides. Everybody does things their own way. I wasn't always this vocal with the media, or this patient. It takes time."
Pronger said it was "a little ridiculous for people to be blaming one person" - Richards - for the Flyers' playoff failure.
Asked if he thought the Flyers needed to add a goaltender, Pronger said: "Goalies don't grow on trees. . . . The difficult part is, who do you have to give up to get one?"
Getting a topflight goalie is "not a guarantee that you're going to win. Which seems to me, you guys think you go get a goalie and all of a sudden you win. It's not that easy."
Pronger, who will turn 37 on Oct. 10, said he did not know when he could begin skating, adding that he faced "lots of hurdles before I can do anything."
The defenseman's back surgery was his fourth operation in a 91/2-month period. He also had foot, hand, and knee surgeries.
The latest surgery "relieved a lot of the weakness I was having in my leg, and now it is just a matter of how the nerve regenerates itself and the range of motion and all the rest of that stuff," Pronger said. "How it recovers, [we're] probably another four to five weeks before we see where that is at."
Pronger, who played in the third-fewest games (50) of his 17-season career, has six years left on his contract. "In order for me to try and play hockey again, it was pretty cut and dry" that he needed the surgery, he said.
Asked if doctors told him he can expect to return at full strength, Pronger said: "Well, like anything else, especially with the back, there's no guarantee. . . . Everybody recovers differently, and you hope that you're able to recover 100 percent, but that's never a guarantee. It's still very early to be able to tell that. I won't know that until probably training camp or maybe even further on. Who knows?"
Pronger will return to the doctor in about a month, then start his back rehab. In the meantime, he is doing therapy on his surgically repaired right hand.
Despite the Flyers' early playoff exit, Pronger agreed with teammate Danny Briere's assessment that the team is closer to challenging for the Stanley Cup now than last year, when it reached the Finals.
He pointed to huge strides made by young forwards Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk.
Pronger tried to play through the pain in Game 1 against Boston and was minus-3 in a 7-3 loss. He did not play again in the series.
He said he would "like to think" he could have made a difference if healthy, "but I don't know. I am not going to look into the past and say could've, should've. We lost, plain and simple."