Philadelphia Flyers: Is Kimmo Timonen the Best Defenseman No One Talks About?
Kimmo Timonen was named to his fourth career NHL All-Star Game when rosters were announced for the midseason exhibition last week.
2012 marks Timonen's second All-Star season with the Philadelphia Flyers, having previously represented the orange and black in 2008.
Timonen is respected around the league as a working man's defenseman, a "true hockey player."
When the Flyers acquired Timonen in the summer of 2007 he was advertised as the steadying force on the ice that had been missing in the previous season's 22-60 debacle.
Timonen was the puck-moving, power-play improving (power play success jumped from 14.10 percent in 2006-06 to 22 percent in 2007-08) defenseman that had been missing since the retirement of Eric Desjardins, but he became so much more as well.
To this day I'm astounded by the 5'10", 194-pound Finn's toughness. It seems a nightly occurrence Timonen blocks a shot and limps off the ice in considerable pain only to be right back out there for his next shift.
Opposing teams try to use Timonen's size against him, dumping and forechecking to his side to lay hits on the smallish defenseman in an attempt to wear him down, but it does not seem effective, as Kimmo's plus-41 rating in four-and-a-half seasons with the Flyers would suggest.
Yet there is this air of underappreciation around Timonen that does not seem to have dissipated.
Sure, it was understandable when playing with the Nashville Predators, a less than stellar hockey market to say the least.
But since Timonen came to town the Flyers have had remarkable success.
Philadelphia has averaged 97 points per season in Timonen's first four years in town, and are on pace for 108 points this season.
The Flyers have reached the playoffs all four seasons Timonen has been in town and made it through the first round in all but one season (2008-09).
Through 44 games this season Kimmo Timonen has put up two goals, 25 assists (fourth among all D-men) with a plus-13 rating.
While Timonen may not put up the same goal totals as the Charas or Lidstroms of the league, his impact on the game on a nightly basis is equal to any Norris Trophy contender.
With nearly 22 minutes per game Timonen is the anchor on both the power play (ranked seventh in the NHL) and penalty kill (working at an effective-with-room-to-improve 82 percent kill rate).
In the absence of team captain Chris Pronger, Timonen has once again stepped up as the No. 1 defenseman, both on the ice and in the locker room.
Timonen's patience on the ice is second-to-none, a skill/instinct he has attempted to pass along to his younger teammates.
No Flyer underrates No. 44's presence, as the 36-year-old assistant captain has been the glue of consistency over the past several chaotic seasons for the Philadelphia hockey club.
The Flyers have played 372 regular season games since acquiring Timonen, and Kimmo has played in all but seven of them (365 of 372), including back-to-back 82 game seasons (2009-10, 2010-11) as well as 53 of 57 possible playoff games (Timonen missed four games in the 2008 playoffs).
No, Timonen's game is not flashy, which could explain his debatable status as the most underrated player in the NHL.
He makes the smartest possible play rather than chance putting his team in a vulnerable situation.
His most valuable attribute is not a blazing shot or the size to lay the biggest hit but the vision and instincts to know he has a little more time than appears evident. He usually uses that time to find an open teammate with the puck rather than taking an ill-advised shot or turning it over in the neutral zone—he rarely wastes a possession.
Timonen is a lead by example player, and the perfect veteran on a team made up of so many youngsters (15 of 29 players on Flyers roster are 25 years old or younger).
His toughness and respect for the game are lessons for any player and while he may not be considered one of the elite defensemen in the league numbers-wise, he is, without question, the best man to anchor Philly's blue line.
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