Early reports speculating about the potential 18th captain of the Philadelphia Flyers show that it is down to a two-horse race between veterans Chris Pronger and Daniel Briere.
Conspicuously missing from that race is veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen.
Timonen, one of the longest-tenured Flyers, is a shining example of what a team should look for in a captain. He plays hard and through injuries. He’s honest and not afraid to speak up to say what he feels, even if the sentiment is unpopular. He’s a dark horse and an often overlooked star who gives 100 percent every night, although the spotlight is rarely on him. A natural leader, he’s an inspiring figure and mentor both on and off the ice.
When Mike Richards was named captain back in 2008, some whispered that he was given the responsibility too early and that Timonen would have been a better fit. When Richards struggled at times under the weighty expectations that being a captain in Philadelphia brings along with it prior to Pronger’s arrival, those whispers turned to shouts.
With the position vacant, one would think that the former captain of the Nashville Predators would be a frontrunner to wear the “C.” So, why is that not the case?
That window of opportunity may have closed on him.
“I think I’m going to wear an “A” next season,” said Timonen, according to a Broad Street Hockey report. “I don’t think they’ll give the “C “to me. If they give it to me, I’ll gladly accept it, but I believe it’s going to be an “A” for me.”
With two season left on his current contract and a body that’s absorbed its fair share of abuse over 963 regular season and playoff games in the NHL, it’s likely that 2013 will be Timonen’s last year in the league.
That is probably the biggest factor in the equation.
The Flyers once again have a young group of players who could benefit from the stability of a long-tenured captain reaching into the upper range of four-to-six seasons, echelons last reached during the Keith Primeau and Eric Lindros eras.
Conveniently, Pronger and Briere, who have six and four seasons remaining on their contracts respectively, can provide such stability.
Any of these three players would be a good choice to captain the Flyers. Each would also admit that a player does not need to wear a certain letter on his sweater to lead.
“Is it something that matters?” Briere asked in an interview with CSN Philly. “No. That I have a letter or not, I won’t change the way I play or act in the dressing room. If I have something to say, I don’t need a letter to stand up and say to guys, ‘This is the way I see it.’”
No matter who the Flyers choose to captain the Flyers in the 2012 season — if they even choose anyone at all — there is little doubt that the Flyers already benefit from solid leadership.