"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)
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.