Timonen on demotion: 'I'm mad about it'
Kimmo Timonen has yet to register a point through eight games. (AP)
Kimmo Timonen was embarrassed and angry.
Embarrassed at himself. Angry at coach Craig Berube.
For the first time in his Flyers career, he’s been demoted from the top power-play unit to the leading D-man on the second unit as the Flyers prepare to face the Rangers on Thursday (see story).
Timonen is a player whose 29 points last season were seventh-best among NHL defensemen, and his 17 power-play points were third-best among a group of guys like P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov and Shea Weber.
This year? Timonen has yet to register a point while racking up 10 penalty minutes and a team-leading nine giveaways through eight games.
“Obviously, I have played power play for 15 years now, so it is a big deal,” Timonen said. “But I am an old-school type of guy and I always feel you have to earn your spot on a power play or penalty killing.
“And when you get taken out of a power play, I take that as, 'You have to be better.'”
The second unit gets 30 to 40 seconds at best in power play time, and under Berube lately, it hasn’t gotten much -- if any -- ice time.
“Everybody wants to play power play,” Timonen said. “That's the way to get into the game and that's where you get your confidence back. There are a lot of things to do, but obviously we haven't been scoring and we are trying to find a way to add some scoring.
“And I am fine with it. But when it comes to me going to the second unit, that is just a message to me that I have to be better.”
Berube, who tried to soft-peddle Timonen’s demotion on Tuesday by saying he wanted to cut his minutes down (he averages 20:37), was more blunt on Wednesday.
“I think just from a competitive level, he knows he can play better,” Berube said. “There’s a lot of guys that know they can play better. It’s not just him.
“Everybody can play better. As a team, I’m not here to single anybody out. As a team standpoint, we all can play better.”
Timonen has not played well this season, and it shows in his skating. He is coming off an unspecified lower-body injury after playing just 13 minutes during the loss to the Penguins last week.
Although he is not 100 percent healthy, he said he’s “good enough to play better.”
“I am one of the leaders on the team," Timonen said. "So you have to take that as, 'Be better. Bring better stuff on the ice,' and that kind of stuff.
“You can be mad about it, and you should be mad about it. But you have to do your stuff on the ice and show that you can still do stuff, what you used to do. But life goes on and you have to be better. That's all.”
If there is one Flyer who understands these demotions, it’s Scott Hartnell. He frequently had his minutes cut or was outright benched during games by former coach Peter Laviolette.
“I’ve been demoted many times in my tenure here and in Nashville,” Hartnell said. “In Nashville, I remember it was Game 80 or 81 and I had played all the games up to then.
“And [Barry] Trotz healthy-scratched me, and I was pissed because how many times do you get to play a full 82-game season, with all the travel and games? Especially the way I play -- I take pride in trying not to miss many games.
“I came back the next game with fire in my belly. I definitely came out with an attitude the next game, and I think that’s one thing we have to play with a little more -- an attitude and a little bit more fire.”
Hartnell and other players suggested this will generate a fire under Timonen’s skates.
Asked whether he felt this could be Berube’s way of sending a message to every player in the room because of the Flyers’ 1-7 start, Timonen hinted it should.
“I can’t speak to everybody else,” Timonen said. “Everybody takes different things differently. I take it this way: That I've got to be better. It’s a message to me that we’ve got to try something else. We haven’t won a game for a while.”
The Flyers on Wednesday afternoon loaned forward Kris Newbury to the Phantoms to make room to activate Vinny Lecavalier for Thursday's game. Newbury had an assist and seven penalty minutes in three games.