Philadelphia Flyers season preview: What's Kimmo Timonen got left in the tank?

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Despite injuries and aging, Kimmo was actually quite good in the shortened season last year. Can he do it again? And is this his last season?

Kimmo Timonen

Age: 38
Depth Chart: Top-pairing defenseman
Contract Status: $6 million per year through 2014
2013 Frequent Linemates: Luke Schenn (62.9% of time), Bruno Gervais (16.5%)

2013 Stats

GP TOI/GP Goals Assists Points
45 21:52 5 24 29
Corsi On Corsi Rel Corsi Rel QoC OZ Start % PDO
4.7 14.1 0.661 49.9 993

The bad from 2013

Well, Kimmo seemed a step slower last season than he has in years past, which I guess is part of the territory when you reach his age. That may have contributed to, among other things, his penalty minutes picking up a bit -- his penalties taken per 60 was the highest of any season of his Flyers career. It seemed like he was dinged up with a few injuries here and there, not the least of which was a fracture in his foot that it would appear he continued to play on until the season's final week.

The good from 2013

A lot of things. Let's name some of them.

* He was the team's only undisputably good possession player on the blueline.
* He was possibly the best power play defenseman in the league that didn't play for Montreal.
* He spent the final month of the season holding together a blue line that consisted of 3 or 4 replacement-level/AHL players -- while, once again, skating on a fractured foot.
*
He played a big role in helping Luke Schenn to the best season of his career, as those two were a positive pairing by almost any measure while on the ice together.
* He was, in sum, by far the Flyers' best defenseman (and was recognized as such).

Oh, and again, he did all of that at age 37/38.

So, y'know, not much other than all of that.

What should we expect this season?

In what may (or may not) be his last NHL season? Hopefully the same as was listed above. But after spending most of his Flyers career on an ironman streak, Timonen has indeed missed a handful of games with injuries the past two seasons, and as mentioned above they have slowed him down a bit even if he's still outstanding. There's a reason why the team has scaled back his even-strength time -- surprisingly, he was sixth among Flyers defensemen in 5-on-5 ice time per game last year -- and has instead relied on him heavily on the power play (where he's one of the best in the league) and the penalty kill (where he's pretty good).

I had initially thought he'd spend most of his ice time with Luke Schenn, since when those two were paired together last year the team came out positive on goals as well as shot attempts. But through the preseason and training camps it's looked like he'll be paired with Braydon Coburn. Those two have some history playing together dating back a couple of years, but with Coburn as a stay-at-home guy and Timonen as the puck mover, it should be a good pairing.

I assume, though, that the team will continue to keep his minutes at 5-on-5 relatively low, so it's likely that someone else (likely one of Mark Streit, Erik Gustafsson, or Andrej Meszaros) will occasionally bump up to the top pair with Coburn and give Kimmo a couple extra shifts of rest each game.

Meanwhile, they'll probably keep giving him the same kinds of minutes on special teams, and based on the preseason they likely have no plans to take him off of that top power play unit that was generally quite successful last season. He'll get some minutes on the PK as well, and hopefully doesn't break himself from blocking too many shots in doing so.

Best case...

Timonen keeps up what he did last season. He stays healthy and relatively well-rested, he reignites his good chemistry with Coburn, he's once again outstanding on special teams, and he anchors a blueline that looks markedly improved from last year's edition. And after it's all done, he decides to come back for another year.

Worst case...

The final year of Kimmo Timonen's excellent career isn't an inspiring one. He can't replicate his success from last season, he has injury problems, the power play isn't as productive and his points drop accordingly, and he wears down over the course of the season to the point where he can't possibly bring himself to come back in 2014-15.

Bottom line

Even if he's not a No. 1 defenseman logging No. 1 defenseman minutes, Timonen is definitely the best player on the Flyers' blueline, and the Flyers will hope for another really solid season from him where he'll be a positive contributor in all three zones and all three game states. Being the wonder he is, it's probably a safe bet (barring significant injury) that he'll come through for them.

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