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.

Jake Thompson tweaks delivery, offers ray of light on a dark night for Phillies

Jake Thompson tweaks delivery, offers ray of light on a dark night for Phillies

BOX SCORE

On the surface, this was not a very positive night at the ballpark for the Phillies. They had just four hits and lost, 4-0, to the Washington Nationals in front of the smallest crowd of the season – 16,056, announced – at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
 
But lest we forget, this is a rebuilding season and in a rebuilding season the final score isn’t always paramount. So on an otherwise dark Monday night there was a ray of light for the Phillies.
 
Jake Thompson had the kind of start those who traded for him a year ago and those who watched him pitch this season in Triple A said he was capable of having.
 
“It was great to see,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “That’s just what he needed. He needed a real positive outing. I think this will do wonders for him down the road.”
 
Thompson held the NL East-leading Nationals to two runs over seven innings, his longest of five outings in the majors.
 
“He looked like the pitcher that was advertised,” Mackanin said.
 
Thompson’s first four outings in the majors were poor. He was tagged for 22 hits and 21 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. He walked 13 and struck out 13. Those results were starkly different than his last 11 starts in Triple A. He went 8-0 in those 11 starts and recorded a 1.21 ERA while allowing just 10 earned runs in 74 1/3 innings. He gave up just 52 hits and 18 walks over that span while striking out 42.
 
After watching Thompson for four starts, pitching coach Bob McClure decided to suggest some delivery changes to the 22-year-old right-hander.
 
Players are often receptive to making adjustments when they are struggling. Thompson incorporated the changes McClure suggested and found success Monday night.
 
“We just tried to simplify his delivery so he could make better quality pitches,” McClure said.
 
In his old delivery, Thompson started off facing home plate. He pulled his arms over his head, turned and lifted his front leg before delivering the ball. McClure eliminated many of the moving parts. No more lifting the arms above the head. No more body turn. Thompson started his delivery with his body already turned, like a modified stretch. He simply lifted his leg, let his body go down the slope and fired. The new delivery slowed everything down for him. He looked poised, especially after the first couple of innings, and started attacking hitters with first-pitch strikes like a confident pitcher does.
 
Considering he only worked on the new delivery in two short bullpen sessions Saturday and Sunday in New York, Thompson was a pretty quick study.
 
“It was huge,” he said of the new delivery. “Just on the physical side of things, I’m in a better position to make pitches. I took away some moving parts to make it easier on myself.”
 
Thompson allowed seven hits, walked one and struck out three. All three strikeouts came in his final inning of work. He struck out leadoff man Trea Turner with two men on base with a slider to end the inning.
 
That’s another adjustment McClure made. He had Thompson stop throwing his curveball and focus on his fastball, slider, cutter and changeup.
 
Both of the runs that Thompson allowed came in the first inning on a solo homer by Jayson Werth and an RBI single by Anthony Rondon. After that, Thompson recorded six straight shutout innings. His teammates didn’t support him offensively. Washington right-hander Tanner Roark pitched seven shutout innings. He is 3-0 and has allowed just two runs in 28 innings in four starts against the Phils this season.
 
Thompson needed a start like this for a couple of reasons. First, if he had been pounded again, Phillies officials might have had to consider taking him out of the rotation just so his confidence didn’t get ruined.
 
And second, with Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin out with injuries, the team needed to know something was going right for one of the young pitchers being groomed for the future. Vince Velasquez, another young arm, had three poor outings before pitching well in New York on Sunday.
 
“This will help his confidence a lot,” McClure said.
 
McClure then offered a little glimpse into Thompson’s competitive character.
 
“He seemed pissed that he wasn't pitching well,” McClure said. “But he wasn't deflated. We felt like we should keep starting him because he didn't seem beaten. He seems like a tough kid mentally. We felt like once he started making better quality pitches, he'd get better results.”
 
It happened Monday, a ray of light on an otherwise dark night.

Instant Replay: Nationals 4, Phillies 0

Instant Replay: Nationals 4, Phillies 0

BOX SCORE

The Phillies were beaten, 4-0, by the Washington Nationals on Monday night, but wins and losses don’t matter as much as development in a rebuilding season, so there was a bright spot: Rookie right-hander Jake Thompson finally broke through with a good start in holding the Nats to two runs over seven innings.
 
The Phillies’ offense was not good. It produced just four hits on the night.
 
Washington got all the offense it needed when Jayson Werth, the second batter of the game, homered off Thompson in the first inning.

The Nats lead the NL East at 76-55. The Phils are 60-71.
 
The crowd of 16,056 was the smallest of the season at Citizens Bank Park.
 
Starting pitching report
Thompson had struggled in four starts — 9.78 ERA — since arriving from Triple A and there were questions whether he’d even make this start. But he put together a nice outing. After giving up two runs in the first inning, he pitched six straight scoreless innings, finishing his outing with three strikeouts, the last of which came on his 111th pitch when he froze Trea Turner with a breaking ball with two men on base. Thompson allowed seven hits — four in the first three innings — and walked one.
 
Washington right-hander Tanner Roark pitched seven shutout innings to improve to 14-7. He held the Phils to four hits and a walk and struck out five.

Roark is 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA (two earned runs in 28 innings) in four starts against the Phillies this season. The Nats are 15-4 in his last 19 starts.

Bullpen report
Frank Herrmann gave up two runs in the ninth.
 
At the plate
Odubel Herrera had two of the Phillies’ four hits.
 
Werth’s homer in the top of the first was his 19th. Anthony Rendon drove in a run with a two-out single in that inning. Clint Robinson and Turner had RBI singles in the ninth to push the Nats’ lead to 4-0.
 
ICYMI
Herrera is staying in center field for the remainder of the season, Pete Mackanin said (see story).
 
Up next
The series continues on Tuesday night. Jerad Eickhoff (9-12, 3.87) pitches against Washington right-hander Max Scherzer (14-7, 2.92).

Eagles sign Soul DT Jake Metz following workout

Eagles sign Soul DT Jake Metz following workout

Jake Metz has gone from the Soul to the Eagles.

Soul majority owner Ron Jaworski on Monday night tweeted a congratulatory message about the defensive tackle signing with the Eagles.

Metz and Soul wide receiver Darius Reynolds, fresh off an ArenaBowl title last Friday, worked out for the Eagles this afternoon before practice. Metz is the 74th player on the roster, which means the team is still below the next cut line — which is Tuesday at 4 p.m. — of 75. The Eagles' roster has to be at 53 by 4 p.m. on Sept. 3.

Metz, 25, graduated from Souderton Area High School and played his college ball at Shippensburg University. For the Arena Football League champions, Metz posted Soul highs in sacks (eight) and tackles for loss (10).