Photo via CBSSports.com
After the Flyers finished with a league-worst 56 points following the 2006-07 season, the Flyers made a number of drastic, organization-changing moves to help push the team forward into the new era. Among them were acquiring winger Scott Hartnell and defenseman Kimmo Timonen from the Nashville Predators for the first-round pick they acquired in the Peter Forsberg trade. Timonen instantly became the face of the Flyers defense until future Hall-of-Famer Chris Pronger was acquired in the summer of 2009.
Timonen enjoyed many solid seasons with the team, including four Barry Ashbee trophies as the Flyers’ best defenseman (’08, ’09, ’12, ’13) and three All-Star game appearances representing the Flyers (’07, ’08, ’12). He also showed his worth as a power-play specialist, including 29 points in 2007-08, however, injuries have seem to taken their toll on the rugged defenseman, as shown this year by his sloppy and slow play on the Flyers’ blue line.
Never the fastest player on the ice, Timonen would use his astounding hockey mind to give himself time and space to make the right decisions with the puck. But numerous injuries including back surgeries, and countless other upper and lower-body injuries have slowed the 38-year old Finnish-born defenseman almost to a crawl. It’s as if we are watching the hockey version of Roy Halladay, breaking down in a way that makes watching him almost heartbreaking.
Many wondered if re-signing Timonen to the one-year, $6 million dollar contract was really worth it for an old defenseman hampered by injury on a team who desperately needed to get younger and gain valuable cap space. But now 11 games into the 2012-13 season, Timonen has failed to register a single point and has ten penalty minutes, many of which came from simply being beat and being forced to take a holding or hooking penalty.
The writing on the wall is slowly starting to appear for Timonen, and it’s very similar to the decline we witnessed with Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay. Once a dominant athlete, a force to be reckoned with, we’d been reduced to watching him fail start after start the past two years, and the high number of innings pitched every year eating away at Halladay’s body, including three injuries to his throwing arm and shoulder.
Unfortunately, no one wants to see a player of Halladay’s or Timonen’s stature end his career like this, but the Iron Man status the two had been accustomed to seems to finally have marked the end for Timonen’s career. A free agent after this year, it seems unlikely a team will offer him a contract given the way he’s played this year, and Timonen’s stance on whether he wants to play past this year are uncertain as well.
Timonen will go down as one of the best defensemen to lace them up for the orange and black, no doubt, but it hurts watching his play come to the way it has this season.