Hockey is a sport where the forwards and goaltenders get the majority of the attention and then whatever is left goes to the defense. With the exception of big time players like Pronger and Chara, your casual hockey fans rarely notice the defenseman unless they make a huge mistake. Even less attention is given to those defenders who are not goal scorers. With the Flyers Captain out indefinitely with concussion issues, the young flyers team has looked to veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen. He wears one of the Alternate Captain (A) patch and is very quietly one of the team’s most important players. His leadership and savvy defensive play land him at #13 on BLN’s best athlete in Philadelphia.
Kimmo has seemingly been overlooked throughout his entire career. He doesn’t possess the physical stature of a Pronger, he doesn’t have the scoring ability of a Bourque but Timonen just gets the job done. He wasn’t selected until the 10th round in the 1993 entry draft by the Los Angeles Kings. Timonen then spent the next few seasons molding and growing his game in his native country of Finland. Then in 1998, before he even had an opportunity to play one shift with the Kings, he was traded to the expansion Nashville Predators. Then after making 2 all star games in his seven seasons with the Predators, he along with Scotty Hartnell were traded to the Flyers.
The 37 year old has been a key part of the Flyers team ever since he was acquired in a trade in 2007. He is far from an offensive minded defenseman, but he can defiantly help on that side of the ice when he is called upon. His time on the power play has allowed him to lead the team in points for defenseman the last 2 seasons and 4 of his 5 seasons with the team. Throughout his long career he has found the back of the net 106 times and has assisted on 401 goals.
Kimmo is consistently among the team leaders in total ice time and was 2nd on the team this year in blocked shots. Even with his lack of size and his willingness to put his body in front of puck, he rarely misses any games. His ironman streak was snapped early this season when he was forced to miss 5 games with an upper body injury.
Timonen racked up 248 straight games played over the last few seasons, which was good for 6th best in the history of the illustrious franchise. While being a full time player, he has played in at least 72 games in every season and has played in 80+ games in 6 of those seasons. In his 11 full seasons, he has averaged 79 games played. That is remarkable given the physicality and rough play that the sport is known for.
Timonen doesn’t have the imposing size of a Chris Pronger, but honestly who does? He had 68 hits this past season which is about middle of the road on the Flyers. But he showed his leadership and true grit in game 3 of the Penguins series. During one of the scrums, he found himself fighting a much younger and more experienced fighter Kris Letang. But Kimmo didn’t back down while Letang tried to ring blow after blow on him. He held his ground and his team first example played a big part in their huge game 3 win.
The Flyers have gone through the majority of the season without having a Captain on the ice. With the slow process, the severity of the injury and Pronger’s age, there is a very good chance he has skated his last shift as an NHL player. If Pronger does retire, the team will have to make a choice on who will take over as the team’s Captain. Many may expect emerging superstar Giroux to take over but the team may be a little gun shy over the Mike Richards experiment. I would suspect the team to give the C to someone has already worn a C with another team and a player who is as battle tested as they come. That player is Kimmo Timonen.
He was selected to the all star game in 2008 and was also selected to play in this past seasons all star game. With the installation of the draft during the all star game, we were able to see where some of the best players in the game rank some of their peers. Kimmo may be overlooked by a lot of fans, but his peers know what the veteran can bring to the table. Team Chara selected Timonen with the 9th overall pick, one selection behind teammate and super star Claude Giroux. Besides team Captain Chara, he was 2nd defenseman to be selected.
His peers are not the only ones who have taken notice to what number 44 brings to the table. Flyers fiery coach Peter Laviolette speaks very highly of the veteran.
“It’s everything with (Timonen),” Laviolette said earlier this season. “It’s the leadership in the room, it’s the fact that he plays against the other team’s top players, it’s the passes out of the zone, he plays 5 on 3. He does everything. He’s the first call for everything.”
It seemed as though there was little defense played in the last series. Many of the Flyers players will admit that they didn’t play great defense during the series. But any time the teams choose to play a wide open style of hockey, there are going to be a lot of goals scored regardless of the caliber of play from the defense. If the Flyers have any chance at winning the Stanley Cup, they are going to have played a more defensive minded game. Timonen will be a crucial part of that game plan and a big part of any success this team has going forward. His leadership and consistent level of play make him the #13 player on BLN’s Best Athlete’s in Philadelphia.