Chris Pronger: gutsy, smart, wry and witty and a player who knows a thing or two about suspensions, having established a well-worn path to the league's woodshed during his long career.
But -- and this isn't a particularly well-kept secret -- Pronger is an employee of the Philadelphia Flyers. While his playing career is almost certainly over as a result of post-concussion issues, he is making $4 million this season and then is owed another $1.15 million through the end of the 2016-17 season.
Now -- and here is the strange part -- as of this writing, Pronger also has a job working for the National Hockey League in the department of player safety, where he will, among other things, help determine supplemental discipline.
We will pause here for the irony to stop foaming over the top of this mug.
Would Pronger be a valuable addition to an increasingly important part of the league's machinery? Naturally. But did we mention he is a member of an NHL team?
Let's assume that Pronger will recuse himself from any incidents involving the Flyers. That's a given.
But is he going to recuse himself from every incident relating to a team in the Metropolitan Division?
What about the entire Eastern Conference?
Given how tight the playoff races figure to be, how can any team feel it is being treated fairly when the long arm of the league law taps one of its players on the collective shoulders?
And Shanahan was retired, unconnected except by history to a single team. Chris Pronger is a Philadelphia Flyer.
Some will suggest he is a Flyer in name only. But it's not so. He is a Flyer because he is being paid by them, and this job is not going to change that.
We empathize with Pronger, with whom we speak at length during training camp a year ago as he continued to deal with post-concussion issues. He will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and he should be connected to the game in a meaningful way. The game is richer for his involvement.
And were he to walk away from the final three years of his deal to take this job, then more power to him and the league. Or if he and the league were to bide their time and make such a move when his contract expires, more power to both Pronger and the league.
But the fact that appears not to be the case means the league willfully creates an optically bad situation. As smart and capable as Pronger is, is he the only smart and capable hockey man around? Isn't there someone who isn't already attached to an NHL team who could fill this position?
Of course there is.
And the NHL should have found that person.
No matter what safeguards are in place when the league is forced to suspend a Pittsburgh Penguin or a New York Islander or New York Ranger, there will be a shadow of doubt about Pronger's role. For a league that has had so much going for it on the ice and in the boardrooms, it is a curious move to make a hire that is already arching eyebrows around the NHL for its strangeness.
The league somehow managed to move beyond the sometimes embarrassing and at times potentially damaging situation of having former league disciplinarian Colin Campbell preside over supplemental discipline in spite of the fact his son Gregory played in the league.
Why the league would choose to court similar distractions and negative press is more than a little baffling.