Broken Twigs: Kimmo's Last Season and FGSB Mailbag

Broken Twigs: Kimmo's Last Season and FGSB Mailbag

"That's it. 99 percent sure that's my last."

So you’re telling me there’s a chance….

Last winter, after signing a one-year contract extension, Kimmo Timonen shared the above quote with Anthony SanFilippo. And then in June ASanF once again pursued the topic of retirement with Kimmo Timo, who now had this to say:

“I’m not saying this is 100 percent my last year, but it could be. It’s definitely pretty close to the end.”

In essence, 99% is the same things as 50/50. It’s either going to happen or not and you’re leaving some wiggle room in case it doesn’t. I think the reason Kim Tim is leaving that window open, besides the fact that any question about one’s future can never be answered with absolute certainty, is that he knows he’s still really good and he really still does want to win a championship.

What he’s most likely waiting to see, and obviously can’t admit to the press, is how quickly the Flyers are going to get back on track. If the club has a promising season and makes a little playoff run I’d bet you my car (and it’s a nice one) that KT is wearing Orange and Black come October 2014. Here’s why:

He can still play at a high level.
It's no secret that Kimmo is, by far, the Flyers best defenseman. He’s integral at even strength and on the penalty kill while logging almost 2 more minutes on the power play per game than any other Flyers defenseman. Shoot, he’s still even a top tier defenseman in the league. He was an All-Star two seasons ago who last year, despite missing a handful of games at the end of the season, finished tied for 6th in points among all NHL D-men.

His has no chronic injuries.
Besides the blood clot in 2008 and the compression fracture this April, Kimmo’s other injuries as a Flyer have been chipped bones and the flu. He doesn’t have a wonky groin, a shoulder that keeps popping out of the socket, or a history of recurring concussions. If even half of what’s reported is true he might lead the league in bumps and bruises over the past 5 years but he is a crazy healthy, super fit older gentleman.

He hasn’t won like…anything.
This is the big one. I’m as suspicious as anyone about the motives of professional athletes. But I think it kind of works on a bell curve. You start off on a pond dreaming of the Stanley Cup, and you get older and start thinking about developing into a good player, and then you want to be the best on your team and get all the babes, and then it has to be about the money because you need to make a living. But I think as you approach the twilight of your career all the noise fades away and you just want to live out your childhood dream.

Kimmo hasn’t been entirely without success in hockey. He’s won 4 silvers in the Olympics and WCs. He won the equivalent of an NHL silver when Patrick Kane snuck around him and slipped a limp-D knuckler through Michael Leighton. But since he left Finland for North America he’s never hoisted a championship trophy or jokingly sunk his teeth into a gold medal.

I would consider Kimmo Timonen the poor man’s Nick Lidstrom. He’s not as big as Lidstrom, or as good, and he’s from Finland instead of Sweden, but they’re both Scandinavian star defensemen who look incredible in cable-knit turtleneck sweaters. (Don’t you roll your eyes at me: Kimmo can move into the mid-50’s of games played all-time by a defenseman this season and is currently 40th all-time for points by a defenseman in NHL history.)

Lidstrom was the most recent and most prominent defenseman to retire at a relatively old age. He had just turned 42 and been knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. His regular season wasn’t up to his own standards (although probably great by anyone else’s) and he couldn’t see himself going through the whole process again. Which makes sense. He looked at himself in the mirror and saw a 42 year old man adorned in gold medals wearing multiple Stanley Cup rings looking back at him. Decision made. But for Kimmo, I don’t think it’s going to be that easy.

Since 2000, 96.7% of NHL defensemen have retired before they turned 39. Just 19 D-men have retired after turning 39. While a small percentage of these elderly blueliners were still playing at a high level – Bourque, Blake and Lidstrom – most of them were just clinging onto roles as 6th and 7th defensemen. Like Lidstrom, Rob Blake was also a member of the Triple Gold Club by the time he retired. Bourque wasn’t, but left the game holding the Stanley Cup proudly above his head.

Kimmo’s not quite on their level, but he’s also not Sean O’Donnell. He is not Eric Weinrich. He is not Grant Ledyard or Glen Wesley. He can still contribute in every facet of the game. He can still be depended on to come up big. He can still lead in the room and help to shape a young team into what hopefully becomes a surprise contender.

I can't see him leaving this thing unfinished when there is still gas in the tank.

If it does in fact happen, there are only two ways I can see Kimmo retiring after this coming season. One is the Flyers have another crap year and Kimmo does not wave his NMC clause, choosing to retire and play a couple years in Finland. Or, the more painful alternative for Flyers Fans is that Kimmo waives is NMC at the deadline and gets moved to a real contender (read: The Kings) and takes one last shot at the Cup.

If at the end of this season he is wearing a Flyers jersey and shaking hands with an Eastern Conference foe after a tough playoff loss, and the future truly looks sunny, Kimmo will be back in 2014 to reap the fruits of 7 years’ labor.

We’re going to save questions we got this week for next week’s mailbag and instead offer you a little insight into just how similar we are to Kimmo Timonen. From a Flyers feature in 2008.

What kind of car do you drive?
KT: Range Rover Sport | FGSB: Toyota Corolla, 2010 bitches
What is your favorite food?
KT: Steak and a baked potato | FGSB: crab fries
Who is your favorite athlete?
KT: Tiger Woods | FGSB: Kimmo Timonen
What question would you ask your favorite athlete?
KT: How can make my golf swing better? | FGSB: Did you hear about all the sex Tiger Woods had?
What was your best Halloween costume?
KT: Headless guy | FGSB: Lloyd Dobbler
If you weren’t a hockey player, what would you be?
KT: Teacher | FGSB: Lieutenant Angel Batista
What was your best vacation ever?
KT: Rome | FGSB: Drove to Philadelphia, sat in my car and listened to Purple Rain (Prince) under the Ben Franklin Bridge while eating crab fries
What is your favorite magazine/newspaper?
KT: USA Today | FGSB: Bite Me Magazine
What do you do to relax?
KT: I play with my kids | FGSB: Whack Dandy
List five songs that are in your Ipod.
KT: Runaway (Bon Jovi), Summer of 69’ (Bryan Adams), Wake Me Up When September Ends (Green Day), Days Go By (Keith Urban), Long Day (Matchbox 20)
FGSB: Just one song, Purple Rain (Prince)
Who are your favorite actor and actress?
KT: Al Pacino and Halle Berry | FGSB: Coach Eric Taylor and Tammy Taylor
What is your favorite movie?
KT: The Departed | FGSB: Jack and Jill, an Adam Sandler jawn
What food is your weakness?
KT: Finnish candy | FGSB: AMERICAN candy (aka crab fries)
If you could have a super power what would it be?
KT: I would like to fly | FGSB: Terrorist Hunting Toenails
What actor would play you in a movie?
KT: Aaron Eckhart | FGSB: The Philly Phantic
What is the last thing you bought yourself, just for fun?
KT: A cappuccino maker | FGSB: giant glass pipe for tobacco
What reality TV show is your favorite?
KT: Survivor | FGSB: Real Housewives Newark
What is the last book you read?
KT: Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt | FGSB: truthfully, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise
Which teammate of yours is most likely to become a coach after his playing days?
KT: Sami Kapanen | FGSB: Fran
If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
KT: Bono | FGSB: Basically anyone but Bono
What is your favorite road city to play in?
KT: Colorado | FGSB: don't believe in the road, my body is a temple and I am therefore a spiritual RV, of sorts
What was your "welcome to the NHL" moment?
KT: When Kris Draper hit me behind and knocked out my front teeth | FGSB: In the first EA Sports where you could make players I had 14 goals in my first pro game. That’s why my license plate is SPEEDd99, baby.
Who was your idol growing up?
KT: Jari Kurri | FGSB: Bill Clinton
What is your favorite sport to watch other than hockey?
KT: Football | FGSB: luge
What is your favorite sport to play other than hockey?
KT: Tennis | FGSB: bobsled
What is your favorite holiday?
KT: Christmas | FGSB: Cinqo de Quatro
What is the worst holiday gift you ever received?
KT: A pair of socks, which I seem to get every year | FGSB: stabbed in the abdomen
What is the one item you cannot live without?
KT: Earplugs | FGSB: Purple Rain (Prince)

Yinztweet Breakdown of the Week

What my man @Masi_Plays is saying is that when he’s online gaming, the residents of Philadelphia, a city that is made of trash, after they cry to him for a while, always back down. He doesn’t like that. He wants you to stand your ground and argue with him about who sucks more. And don’t back down. Don’t ever give up. Frankly, I agree with him. You should be better than that, Philadelphia. If you get into an online disagreement with someone you NEVER GIVE UP. I don’t care if it takes 60 years. You stand your ground and then one day far into the future that guy has a giant pair of head phones around his casket and you call him the F word one last time and that’s it. That’s how gentlemen game.

Last night's Union game against Orlando was pretty crazy

052516_union_orlando_hl_webrefframe_1.jpg

Last night's Union game against Orlando was pretty crazy

When the Union played in Orlando last year, the game was a relatively dull scoreless draw.

And for most of Wednesday’s game between the two teams in the same venue, it looked like history was going to repeat itself.

That’s when the Kaká hit the fan.

Here’s a quick recap of all the craziness that happened in the second half of the if-you-turned-away-you-probably-missed-something2-2 draw:

  • Tranquillo Barnetta, inspired by a story I wrote about him a day earlier, scored his second goal this season -- both of which have come against Orlando

  • Warren Creavalle was taken down from behind in the box but no penalty kick was given and no red card was shown, leading head coach Jim Curtin to call the sequence “embarrassing”

  • Orlando City responded with two rapid-fire semi-controversial goals, scoring the first after Philly goalie Andre Blake was wiped out and the second on a shot Blake appeared to make the save on but the ref ruled was in (where’s goal-line technology when you need it??)

  • Ken Tribbett, the pride of Drexel, scored his first MLS goal after early collecting his first MLS assist -- after only being called into the game because of an injury to Josh Yaro

  • Orlando’s David Mateos was shown a straight red card in the final minute but Barnetta couldn’t convert a close-range free kick to win it

  • Fabinho killed a guy with a trident

To think all but one of those things happened in one half is pretty wild -- and that doesn’t even factor in several other cards, calls, no-calls and a pretty cool set piece the Union ran.


Oh, and almost lost in all the commotion, was the fact that Andre Blake gave us another memorable moment in a season full of them when he saved a first-half penalty kick from freaking Kaká.


In the end, Curtin couldn’t get over some of the refereeing decisions, particularly the no-call on Creavalle -- which, as you can see, was in fact quite bad.


Still, the fact that the Union escaped a tough place like Orlando despite the ref and while playing without three of their top playmakers (Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueria and Ilsinho) is quite a nice achievement that you would never have seen with past Philly teams.

It also moved their unbeaten streak to six heading into Saturday’s showdown between the first-place team in the East (your Philadelphia Union) and the first-place team in the West (the Colorado Rapids) -- who you might recall were two of the worst teams in MLS last season.

See ya in the rockies.

Opportunity with Eagles, talk with Le'Veon Bell has Kenjon Barner hungry

052516-reich-comments-webbestvideo3_1920x1080_692990531733.jpg

Opportunity with Eagles, talk with Le'Veon Bell has Kenjon Barner hungry

Kenjon Barner is hungry, literally and figuratively.

After spending 2014 on the Eagles' practice squad and getting just 37 offensive touches in a crowded backfield last season, the running back is looking to carve out a bigger role with the Birds in 2016. DeMarco Murray is gone, and with Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles away from the team earlier this week at practice, it was Barner getting the first-team reps. 

Mathews missed Tuesday's practice with an illness, and Sproles hasn't reported to the Eagles' voluntary workouts, which become mandatory from June 7-9.

So Barner, the 27-year-old RB Chip Kelly coached in college and traded for prior to the 2014 season, has had some opportunities to impress new head coach Doug Pederson. And Barner wants to make clear that despite his Oregon ties — he's one of three remaining players from Oregon that Kelly brought to the Eagles, along with Josh Huff and Taylor Hart — he's not only here because of the coach he outlasted.

"It's a great opportunity," Barner said, "just a fresh start. Go out there and continue to show what you can do, continue to make plays and constantly have your name in the coaches' minds.

"For anybody who says, 'Oh, that's Chip Kelly's guy,' no, I'm a football player. I wouldn't be here if I wasn't a football player. I wouldn't have gotten drafted if I wasn't a football player.

"It's not a chip on my shoulder. Yes I went to Oregon, yes I played under Chip, I love Chip to death, but I'm a football player. I create my own lane. I'm not gonna let anybody place me in a box and tell me what I am."

At 5-9/195, Barner doesn't fit perfectly into the box of a classic bell cow back. He's more of a Sproles-lite, a shifty back who can catch passes out of the backfield. He showed that last preseason, when he rushed 13 times for 91 yards and a touchdown and also caught four passes for 72 yards, including a 50-yarder.

That kind of backfield versatility is necessary in the offense Pederson brings over from the Chiefs, the offense Andy Reid ran for many years here. In Kansas City, Pederson and Reid utilized their running backs often in the passing game, just as they did with the Eagles. Even when Jamaal Charles went down for the year after five games last season, that trend continued with Charcandrick West catching 20 passes and DeAnthony Thomas getting some grabs out of the backfield.

"I fit whatever role they want me to fit," Barner said. "Whether it's catching balls out of the backfield or whatever it is. Jamaal Charles is a great back and if I can do half of what he's done throughout his career I'd be lucky."

Barner has patiently waited three years for this kind of opportunity. Mathews and Sproles are expected to be the Eagles' top-two ball-carriers, but both are getting older and neither is an every-down back, Mathews because of all the injuries and Sproles because he's more of a situational matchup nightmare. So even with the addition of fifth-round pick Wendell Smallwood, there should be some opportunities for Barner, who has done all he can to further his own development.

"Just older, more mature, more professional than I've been in the past," Barner said. "Understanding the offense, really going home and studying, really knowing what my responsibility is.

"For me, man, it's just about being mature, growing. I feel like if you're not growing, what are you doing? You constantly have to grow, have to evolve, not only physically but mentally. That's kind of where I'm at.

"I did take it seriously last year, but having the opportunity to go through what I've been through, go home and be with my family, have guys like (Chris) Maragos, I talk to him on a daily basis about football, about life. Sproles constantly being in my ear still — he may not be here but he's still in my ear. It's a lot of things coming together."

One change Barner made this offseason was to his diet. It came from a conversation with the NFL's best all-around running back, Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell.

"I had a talk with Le'Veon Bell back in January," Barner said. "I spoke with him and we were just talking about eating. I'm the type of guy that if I see somebody and I see a change in them and I see it's positive, I have no problem telling you, 'I like what you're doing, tell me how you did it.' I reached out to him because I've been seeing pictures of him and I've seen his body change. We came in the draft together and he's always been a big guy, but he hasn't been that cut, that ripped. So I reached out to him like, 'Yo, what did you do, what's your diet, what have you been taking, what are you doing and what are you not doing?' Just really trying to pick his brain. 

"I'm trying to be great. And if I see you doing something that's pushing you to the next level I'm gonna ask you how you did it. 

"I'm not gonna say I've been perfect. I'm just really big on sweets, I have a sweet tooth like no other and I can thank my dad for that — growing up he always had candy and snacks by his bed so I would always sneak in his room and eat them. That's the hardest thing, that's like my kryptonite."

Sweets weren't a part of the Chip Kelly regimen, that's for sure. But with the coach who brought Barner to the Eagles now in San Francisco, it's more on the players to keep themselves on track, both in the kitchen and with their sleep schedule.

"It's different, a lot slower, obviously," Barner said of practices under Pederson. "Is that good? I mean, you don't get as tired. But you're not in as good of shape as you were in Chip's offense. Chip's offense, you have to be in tip-top shape. So we're still getting there, still certain times when we're tired, times when you shouldn't be tired. So you have to do a lot of the conditioning on your own outside of here.

"Today, [Pederson] asked us who's getting eight hours of sleep. Everybody cares about it because you want your players to be at their best and you can't be at your best if you're not getting enough sleep, (but they're) two completely different people."

Let the bidding begin for Mike Trout, whom Angels must move at some point

052516-phillies-resilience-webrefframe_1.jpg

Let the bidding begin for Mike Trout, whom Angels must move at some point

Yes, the Angels are going to trade Mike Trout.

It may not happen this year or even next year, but eventually Angels GM Billy Eppler will accept the reality of the bleak future ahead for his franchise. Albert Pujols, who has five years and $140 million remaining on his contract after this season, has taken the baton from Ryan Howard for the worst contract in baseball. Good luck getting out of that deal. Other than the increasingly rare Pujols hot streak, they have nobody equipped to protect Trout in the lineup. 

The starting rotation has been patched together, with both Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney going down with elbow injuries early this season. Unless one of those guys comes back healthy, there isn’t a No. 1 or No. 2 starter on the roster. Theoretically, the Angels will have money to spend on the free-agent market with both C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver coming off the books after the season. But with Andrew Cashner and Jeremy Hellickson the likely headliners on the pitching market, a quick fix for the rotation seems unlikely. 

The 2017 free-agent market for hitters isn’t much better. Should Yoenis Cespedes opt out of his contract with the Mets, he could provide a potent presence behind Trout, but there will be stiff competition for his services and he’ll be in line for a massive payday. 

Toronto’s once-dynamic duo of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista should be available, but both appear to be trending downward. Giving either player a long-term deal is a risky investment at best. 

Building around the young players in the organization isn’t a viable option. By all accounts, the Angels have the worst farm system in baseball. You can check out those rankings here or here. This is a franchise in dire need of an infusion of young talent. 

We’ve seen the Phillies in a similar situation with Cole Hamels. Once there was no way forward to win with him, the only reasonable option was to trade him. Even the most ardent Hamels supporters have to admit now that moving him made sense.  

Yes, Trout is only 24 years old and is the best all-around player in baseball. The Angels should certainly explore every possible option to build a winner around the South Jersey native, who is in the second season of a six-year deal that will pay him $119 million from 2017 through 2020. But the franchise is trending in the wrong direction. If they cannot honestly see a path to contending with him, they should look to move him and jump-start a rebuild. There will be no shortage of suitors. 

So ignore the notion that you never trade an “inner-circle Hall of Famer,” which Trout certainly is on track to become. He is signed through 2019 and the clock is ticking. 

Let the bidding begin.