A little under eight minutes into the first period in what would be the Philadelphia Flyers’ first win, assistant captain Kimmo Timonen was called for a holding penalty that led to a two-minute powerplay for the Florida Panthers. The same happened twice in their opening loss to Toronto – one being interference and the other in the form of high-sticking – and once in Montreal on a holding call. Two of those instances led to goals by the opposing team.
At 38-years old, it’s not fair to think Timonen can produce like he once did earlier in his career; however, his regression is starting to impede the Flyers’ defensively.
Violations like holding and hooking are the laziest form of a penalty. Usually when a player is cited for one of those calls, it’s because he was beat by the oncoming player. This is exactly what’s happening with Timonen now. Currently, his eight minutes of penalties are the highest total for a Flyer who hasn’t drawn a fighting major (Jay Rosehill has 16 PIM, Wayne Simmonds has 11 PIM).
It may only occur once or twice in a game, but in a league where one or two goals can be the difference, having a top-line defenseman who has trouble keeping up with the attacker is dangerous. If Timonen gets beat, he has to resort to grabbing his man and taking the penalty – or if worse comes to worst, allow a breakaway opportunity because he can’t catch his man.
Known as an offensive-minded blue liner, Timonen never was a liability on defense until last season. During the lockout-shortened schedule, the defenseman registered the highest penalties per 60 minutes (1.2) in his Philadelphia career. That problem has carried over into the start of the new season and doesn’t appear to be improving.
While his defense is becoming more and more of a concern, his offense is slowly beginning to decrease. Gone are the days of 40-50 points for the 14-year veteran. Four games into the 2013-14 season, Timonen has failed to record a point. He’s not the only top line guy on the team sporting a goose egg in that column, but his ability to be a cornerstone on offense from the backend goes a long way in their offensive production. For a team who has only scored five goals, they need to start seeing more scoring opportunities created by their defensemen.
Aging is something that can’t be stopped. There’s no fighting Father Time (unless you’re Chris Chelios). Yet, one thing that will only make things worse for a player in his fight with time is injuries. Last season, Timonen missed the remainder of the year with a fractured right foot. Once considered an iron man, he’s beginning to show signs of vulnerability.
His $6 million price tag is not being matched by his production and it’s starting to become very likely that this may be his last season. If he wasn’t relied upon to be one of the team’s top blue liners, his regression wouldn’t be put under a microscope. But because he’s on their first pairing, plays an integral part on special teams and is making a hefty amount of money, the fact that he’s lost a few steps is worrisome.
As is the case with every player who has gotten off to a slow start, there are still more than 70 games remaining on the schedule to turn things around. Unfortunately for Timonen, though, it won’t be as easy to recover due to the aging process becoming more prevalent.