*Since the Flyers’ season ended, the possible return of Kimmo Timonen has been a large topic of discussion. Let me preface this article by saying I am a huge fan of Timonen. This post is me playing devil’s advocate for the sake of discussion.
Another off season has come too early for the Philadelphia Flyers and one of the top priorities for the orange and black is to see whether or not Kimmo Timonen will return for another season.
As fans, we need to take a step back and address Kimmo Timonen,the hockey player, not Kimmo Timonen, the fan favorite.
Kimmo Timonen, the hockey player, is 39 years old and has played 15 seasons in the National Hockey, the last seven of them for the Flyers. He has played through countless injuries, the magical run of 2010 and the debacle that was the lockout-shortened season of 2013. Timonen has said all the rights things when questioned by the press.
This is my place. If I get back, this is where I want to be. I like our team. I like our team moving forward.
-quote via Jay Greenberg.
But we have to remember, Kimmo Timonen is 39 years old and is not the same player he was several years ago. Timonen has won the Barry Ashbee Trophy – best defenseman on the team – for the last three seasons and is still a reliable defensive force, but his skill has regressed and this season, I found myself saying “Kimmo is getting old” too often for my liking.
The Flyers lack speed in a league where great skating can be the difference between an early off season and raising a banner. This is more evident on the blue line with Luke Schenn, Nicklas Grossmann and Timonen. During the series against the Rangers, the Flyers were outmatched by the skating ability of the Rangers. Far too often during the season, the faster and stronger forechecking teams ran all over the Flyers’ defense. They forced the slower defensemen to play the puck and exploited them with relentless pressure.
Mobile defensemen are of vital importance to a team. They can jump start breakouts from the defensive zone and chip in offensively. Look at all the best defensemen in the NHL. Each of them are great skaters. It should be no surprise that Mark Streit greatly helped this team with the breakouts and offensive output. Despite his flaws, Streit is a much faster skater than Kimmo and is a legitimate threat to join the offense on a more consistent basis.
When Craig Berube took over as head coach, he stressed the need for a great-skating team. Timonen does well, but his speed leaves much more to be desired.
Timonen has been the first-unit quarterback for quite some time. During several stretches, he was effective by throwing pucks off the boards and keeping his shots low for deflections. Other times, he would go through consecutive games where he would fumble the puck at the blue line and disrupt the flow of the power play. His production took a hit as well, scoring six goals and 35 points in 77 games in comparison with his 29 points in 45 games during the lockout-shortened season. As the top power-play defenseman, Timonen was expected to produce more than that.
Timonen wants to come back and the positives are blatant. His presence could help the younger defensemen on the team and the defensive unit seems to be much calmer when he plays. His willingness to play through injury must only push his teammates to play through the bumps and bruises that are acquired throughout an 82-game season.
Paul Holmgren – if he is the general manager - needs to be honest with himself. The situation that happened with Simon Gagne cannot happen again. Not with a player as well-liked and respected as Timonen, but Holmgren cannot allow Timonen’s standing as a fan favorite to cloud his judgment on building a legitimate Stanley Cup-contending team.