Kimmo Timonen’s brief tenure in Chicago hasn’t gone exactly as planned. In 15 playoff games with the Blackhawks, the 40-year-old blue liner has been held completely scoreless on a minuscule 9:25 of average time on ice per game.
Clearly, this isn’t what GM Stand Bowman had in mind when dealing for the 15-year veteran. But if all the blame for being on the brink of elimination is to be aimed at Timonen, that means other factors are being overlooked.
The Teammate Effect
When the Blackhawks acquired Kimmo Timonen back in February, the plan was to use the former Philadelphia Flyer in a role to provide depth. With Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Johnny Oduya rounding out the top four, Joel Quenneville was never going to ask the aging defenseman to log major minutes. So why are so many fans singling him out?
Essentially, many feel Timonen hasn’t been worth the resources and effort to acquire him, even if it was a second-round, and conditional draft pick.
Michal Rozsival’s injury in the Conference Semifinal against Minnesota has put Timonen and his diminished role under the microscope. Instead of giving the Hawks quality minutes, however, the native of Finland is currently averaging a team-low 15.5 shifts per game.
As a result, an increased workload has been handed to Chicago’s top four on the blue line. Especially Duncan Keith, who is now averaging an ironman-like 32:02 of ice time per game. And despite the narrative that Chicago’s feature defensemen are wearing down due to increased minutes, and the physicality of the Anaheim Ducks, the production from Keith and Seabrook has remained steady.
When Keith has been on the ice this postseason, the Blackhawks have attempted more than 57 percent of the total shot attempts and outscored their opponents by a 29-19 margin. When you dig down to just the even-strength numbers, the Blackhawks have 56 percent of the total shot attempts and own a 19-14 goals advantage. And he has helped the Blackhawks do that while only starting 48 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone and constantly playing against the other team’s best players. — Adam Getz, CBS Sports
While fatigue is a legitimate factor that cannot be discredited, nor overlooked, the Blackhawks are anything but finished. Of the final four remaining playoff teams, Chicago is the least penalized squad, averaging 8.3 PIM per game, and have engaged the Ducks in a ping pong game with momentum.
“All the talk’s been about how resilient they’ve been,” Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano told NHL.com’s Curtis Zupke after Monday night’s Game 5 victory. “We know they’re resilient. We know they’re a good team. We know they’re not going to give up. But, you know, so are we, and I think we proved that tonight.”
Could it be that the Anaheim Ducks are potentially the better team? Is it possible that they deserve some credit in all of this blame game?
Through May 25th, Ryan Getzlaf’s 19 points lead all playoff skaters, while teammates Corey Perry and Jakub Silfverberg are within the top 10 in scoring as well.
Frederik Anderson’s 2.06 goals against average is tied with New York’s Henrik Lundqvist for best average in goals allowed per playoff game, while his .925 save percentage tops Chicago’s Corey Crawford, who weighs in with a .917 save percentage.
Ducks and the 1979 Rangers are the only teams to play 14 games to start the playoffs without losing in regulation. #paintitorange
— MD (@m_drinnenberg) May 26, 2015
Those numbers aren’t inflated either, nor are they disproportionate in Andersen’s favor. In fact, Chicago’s 52.05 percent SAT percentage stands ahead of Anaheim’s 51.25 percent. In other words, Andersen’s terrific numbers have been posted while seeing 39 more shots on net than Crawford.
This is where Timonen’s lack of production, or significance on the ice for that matter, receives more criticism. Sure, Philadelphia’s former top defenseman shows a disappointing 47.79 percent five-on-five SAT percentage, but it’s still better than Bryan Bickell’s 47.72 percent SAT percentage.
While that may be a case of splitting hairs, it’s evidence that Timonen’s presence isn’t the sole, or even main reason, the Blackhawks are facing a 3-2 series deficit. In fact, Timonen’s 47.71 percent SAT percentage Close puts him ahead of Patrick Kane, Brad Richards, Johnny Oduya, and Niklas Hjalmarsson.
There's a bigger issue when you dont have someone in the minors better than a 40 year old coming off blood clots. Timonen is not to blame.
— Patrick Devitt (@PatrickBDevitt) May 24, 2015
Does that statistic shift the blame off of Timonen and onto those skaters? Hardly. But at the same time too, it should take some of the heat off of the experienced veteran.
Of course the Blackhawks and their fans would like to see – and were expecting to see – more out of Timonen, a two-time 50 point scorer with Nashville. But the man deserves a little slack, given the circumstances of his arrival in Chicago.
Timing & Risk
To say the Blackhawks have missed Nick Leddy in the playoffs this year would be a dramatic understatement. Salary cap restrictions, however, forced GM Stan Bowman to choose between keeping the 24-year-old blue liner, or the more experienced, and defensive defenseman in Johnny Oduya.
Bowman opted to trade Leddy to the Islanders, despite his age and progression. And while hindsight will always be 20/20, Leddy’s 37 points, along with his five points in seven playoff games with the Isles show that he is, in fact, missed in Chicago.
Nick Leddyis the most important player on the New York Islanders. At least, from a puck-possession standpoint.
Leddy is far and away the Islanders player who best exemplifies the club’s new-found puck-control mentality; as he goes, so go the Isles’ Corsis and Fenwicks and controlled zone entries and score-adjusted metrics. — Michael Willhoft, Lighthouse Hockey
What does this have to do with Kimmo Timonen? Everything.
Strapped with little cap space to work with, the Blackhawks approached this year’s trade deadline in need of defensive help on the third pairing. Timonen, who was set to return after a season-long bout with blood clots, appeared to be their best option – on paper, anyway.
With a $2 million AAV, and plenty of experience with playoff teams in Philadelphia, Timonen stood as a solid pickup. That doesn’t take Bowman and the organization off the hook, though, just because it hasn’t played out the way they had anticipated.
Timonen, a risky pickup at the trade deadline, isn’t the player he was before blood clots threatened to end his career. At 40, Timonen doesn’t have enough left to make a difference. — Ray Slover, The Sporting News
The phrase, “a risky pickup” sums up the entire Timonen saga. The Blackhawks had to be aware of the risk involved in trading for a player who hadn’t logged a single competitive minute since April of 2014. Even with 16 regular season games to ease their new defender back into live hockey shape, no one should be surprised it wasn’t enough.
“It’s been a process,” Timonen told Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune back in March. “I knew it would be hard based on the fact that I didn’t skate for 10 months. You can ride a bike and you can run, but skating is the biggest factor here.
“I knew it would take two to three weeks to really get to know the guys and system. I’m still finding myself in a different position where normally I’m not. I’m going the right way … but I’m not there yet.”
— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) May 24, 2015
Adding to the fact that Timonen is not the same player he was in Nashville or Philadelphia, the severity of his health issues make his production with Chicago not so surprising. That falls on management even more considering how they expedited the process of acquiring a defenseman three days before this year’s trade deadline.
In their current series against Anaheim, the Blackhawks are seeing first-hand what waiting until the deadline can result in, a la Simon Despres.
The Ducks defenceman, acquired at the trade deadline from Pittsburgh in exchange for Ben Lovejoy, scored the game-winning goal and had a team-leading six shot attempts (2 SOG) while leading the Ducks in time on ice, playing 23:26 in Game Three. — Scott Cullen, TSN
While Timonen’s career is counting down by the day, Despres has gone onto notch a goal and six assists in 14 playoff games for the Ducks. Adding insult to injury, the former Penguin has one year remaining on his current contract, which hits the Ducks for only a $900,000 cap hit.
Given Pittsburgh’s return for Despres – Ben Lovejoy – who knows how little it would have cost the Hawks to acquire Despres had they waited a few more days.
If Timonen’s experience was the selling point, more patience might have rewarded Chicago with Marek Zidlicky. Instead, the 38-year-old was dealt to the Red Wings at the deadline, carrying a $3 million AAV.
Timonen’s final hours are tough to watch for anyone. Nobody likes watching a highly respected veteran go out on terms like these. But the Blackhawks haven’t been eliminated yet.
Should they be in the near future, though, dumping the blame on Kimmo Timonen isn’t just wrong, it’s flat out lazy.
Andy is a contributor for The Hockey Writers, covering the Philadelphia Flyers. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Walsh University. He enjoys spending time with his family, golfing, and reading. He is married with a daughter. You can follow Andy on Twitter @ADudones.