“That I am still here,” he said. “Nobody wanted to give me a chance at 5-10 except for (Nashville GM) David Poile and I have played 1100 games.”
Of course, Timonen said that before finishing up as a member of the 2014-15 Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks, the kind of storybook ending many have earned and all but a few get to celebrate only in their dreams. That was some ride off into the sunset, Kimmosabe, so the Flyers want to thank him Wednesday night for his superlative service in Philadelphia, in front of most of the same Blackhawks with whom he shared champagne.
So complete was Philadelphia fans’ respect for Timonen that they didn’t begrudge him for a second that triumphant hoist last June, even as another year went by without a Flyers’ championship. But the Blackhawks will just have to excuse our slight smugness in the knowledge that Philadelphia, not Chicago, got Timonen at his best.
You can’t even call that eight minutes a game he was spotted by Coach Joel Quenneville at age 40 as a cameo. That wasn’t Timonen, just a shadow of the workhorse who:
- Is in the conversation with Mark Howe, Eric Desjardins and Jimmy Watson as a top four defenseman in Flyers history.
- Was the single most important acquisition that turned a 54-point Flyer disaster in 2006-07 into a Stanley Cup semifinalist the next season.
- Averaged .52 points per game he played in his seven Philadelphia seasons.
- Quarterbacked a Flyer power play that was top three in the NHL three times, top seven two more seasons, and only once was in the bottom half of 30 teams.
- Was matched against the opposition’s top players practically every night except during Chris Pronger’s one full Flyer season (2009-10), and was a plus player for all but one of those years.
“You knew what you were getting from him every game,” said Howe, now Director of Pro Scouting for the Red Wings. “And if you are a coach, that is golden.”
It also was worth a silver and three bronze medals in Olympics for tiny Finland. Alas, second was the best the Flyers ever came in with Kimmo, too, the 2010 heartbreak being the biggest of his career.
“We just didn’t play as well as we had against Boston and Montreal,” he recalls, but seven playoff series victories during his Philly run made Timonen arguably the top veteran free-agent acquisition in franchise history, even if, technically, he was acquired in a deal. The smartest thing GM Paul Holmgren did in the fast rebuild that enabled a team dead last in the NHL to surge back to the conference finals the very next season was to trade back to Nashville the No. 1 pick the Flyers received from the Predators for Peter Forsberg. In return, the Flyers received the rights to negotiate with Scott Hartnell and Timonen before the July 1 start of free agency.
Hartnell committed first to Philadelphia that weekend. Timonen, who had no interest in another slow build that had not enabled him to win a playoff series in eight seasons with Nashville, grilled Holmgren long and hard on the Flyers’ plans to flip the switch pronto.
It didn’t hurt their chances that good buddy Hartnell was coming or that the previous season Kimmo’s brother Jussi had played 14 games in a Philadelphia uniform. But what really got Timonen to sign on, rather than wait and see what other offers July 1 would bring, was Ed Snider’s team’s reputation for going for it.
“Kapanen (a Flyer since 2003) told me the same thing as Homer, that the organization would do anything to get better,” recalls Timonen. “I didn’t want to go through again what I did in Nashville the last four years, that was not fun.”
Even as the team improved incrementally, the Predators’ future in the city was troubled.