On Tuesday, the Flyers front office revealed that Kimmo Timonen has been hospitalized with blood clots in his leg and lungs. Though stable. and likely to be released from the hospital soon, Kimmo’s playing career may be in jeopardy. Its unclear when he will return to the Flyers if at all. Losing Kimmo’s contributions is literally the worst case scenario for the Flyers blue-line. Even at 39 years old, Timonen was the keystone of the defense and one of the most effective two-way players in the league. Despite a growing sentiment among fans that Kimmo had lost a step, he stood head and shoulders above everyone else in terms of tangible on-ice results.
Possession and Scoring Chances
As you can see, Kimmo’s ability to win the territorial battle and drive play into the oppositions zone was unmatched. He more than quadrupled his nearest competitor, Coburn by this measure. Timonen’s success on the ice is the result of his unique two-way skill set and an incredible hockey sense. With the possible exception of Coburn, everyone else on the Flyer’s blue line is a one zone specialist. Kimmo earned his money by being efficient in all 3 zones of play. And that success translated into scoring chances as well.
What should be most troubling about the list above, is the Flyer’s have definitely lost Gus to the KHL and potentially Kimmo Timonen to LTIR or retirement. That leaves only two defenders in Coburn and Streit who can break even or better in scoring chances and who have an appreciable impact on puck possession. This doesn’t bode well for the Flyers even strength woes.
Special Teams Value
Kimmo was the Flyers 2nd highest scoring d-man behind only Streit, thanks in large part to his position on the 1st unit PP.
Kimmo was the 4th most effective player per PP ice time at creating scoring chances. So not only are the Flyers potentially losing their most effective even strength defender, but also one of their best PP quarterbacks. Streit will likely assume the 1st unit responsibilities next season, which leaves MacDonald or the freshly signed Michael Del Zotto running the 2nd unit. Although MDZ has the PP skill-set to potentially offset this loss, it remains to be seen if he earns a regular roster spot.
He kills penalties too!?!?
One aspect of this injury that might fly under the radar is Kimmo’s short handed value. He was quietly the Flyers most successful penalty killer last season and a big reason why the Flyers put up elite short handed numbers as a team. None of the Hextall’s recent acquisitions will be able to replace the value Timonen brought on the PK.
A Giant Step Backwards
An elite, all situations talent like Kimmo Timonen will be simply irreplaceable in the short term. No one on the current roster has the track record or the skill set to step into his role and produce at the same level. And with a front office already mired in an ugly salary cap situation, there isn’t likely to be an adequate replacement coming in via trade or free agency. Michael Del Zotto, who was signed hours after Kimmo’s health issues went public, is an intriguing young offensive talent. But his game in the d-zone is no where near as polished as the Finnish veterans. Del Zotto’s contact is low risk and the 24 year old defender has Top-4 potential, but fans should not expect him to replace Kimmo’s on ice value. At best, he’s a stop gap while the Flyers stable of defensive prospects develop. An already struggling Flyers defense is all but guaranteed to take a step backwards next season. If Kimmo cannot make it back at all next season, a shadow is cast over the team’s already questionable playoff hopes.