ONE MORE FOR THE ROAD
Kimmo Timonen talks retirement, his health, and looks back on last season
VOORHEES, N.J. - Kimmo Timonen has been doing a lot of thinking. Heck, his internal conversations with himself have gone back to last summer.
And the result of all of those quiet talks in his head is one ever-growing notion that next season, very likely, will be his last in the NHL.
“To be honest, I’m going into the summer thinking this might be my last year,” Timonen said Thursday after a workout at Flyers Skate Zone. “The mindset I have right now is that I just want to enjoy every moment next year because that could be it. It makes me excited. It’s one of those things when you feel like this could be it. You want to enjoy your time.
|Kimmo Timonen hopes he gets one more chance to grow this kind of playoff beard with the Flyers next season.|
“I’m not saying this is 100 percent my last year, but it could be. It’s definitely pretty close to the end. I’ve tried to enjoy every moment and I want to come to camp in really good shape so I can play a lot of games and a lot of minutes and really try to enjoy next season.”
And Timonen, for the first time in a long while, is happy and healthy headed into an offseason.
Normally banged up and bruised or facing some sort of offseason surgery or rehabilitation program, Timonen has nothing on the docket for the summer beside going home to Finland with his family and getting into the best shape possible for his 38-year-old body and prepare for the 2013-14 season.
Yes, he missed the last few games of the season with a broken bone in his foot, but that was six weeks ago. He has healed now and he feels great.
“It was a broken bone [in my foot] from a blocked shot,” Timonen said. “Two weeks earlier we noticed it. I tried to play through it but it was getting to the point where it was really sore after the games, but sometimes that happens when you block shots.
“I’m actually 100 percent. A good example is I played tennis yesterday. If you have a broken leg you can’t play tennis. So it’s good. My back feels great [too] and I’m really excited to go into the summer healthy and get ready for next year.”
Timonen had hinted at the end of the 2011-12 season that this past season might be his last, and he was leaning that way too, until the lockout happened and games started to be wiped off the schedule.
“During the lockout… I had back surgery the summer before… and I was starting to think about what was going to happen with me because I was in the last year of my deal,” Timonen said. “I felt good on the ice during the lockout and I said to myself, I don’t want to finish my career [in a shortened season]. I want to play a full year and go from there. “
During the season, Timonen agreed to a one-year contract extension worth $6 million.
“The reason I signed here is because I like it here. It’s a great organization and I really believe that we can do better than we did last season – much better. That’s the reason I signed here. I’m 100 percent healthy now and I’m looking forward to the summer. “
Reflecting back on the shortened 2012-13 season, Timonen admitted that it was probably the most frustrating season of his 15-year NHL career.
“It was a tough year,” he said. “At first there was the lockout and we were here [at Flyers Skate Zone practicing] for three or four months and sometimes it was just me and Jody Shelley. So, it was a long year.
“[As a team] our game was up and down all year. We really couldn’t get anything going. We’d play one good game and then a couple bad ones. That’s not the way you are going to make the playoffs. It should be a really great learning experience for us and we should not play that way next year.”
Timonen added that he felt there was a real intangible missing from the Flyers this past season that was definitely a part of the fabric of the team in previous years.
“Hopefully everybody goes to their summer [homes] and thinks about getting in better shape for next year and be ready to play good hockey,” he said. “I feel like we were missing the mental toughness last year. When things aren’t going well, you have to be mentally tough to get over that hump and I feel like we never [did].”
Many people chalked it up to a failure by the young players on the team or a bad defense. Timonen refuted both of those notions.
“I don’t want to just blame young guys,” he said. “We did have a lot of young guys - we had a lot of second-year players - but we also had some older players and we lose and win as a team. I don’t want to blame only the young guys. Everybody was there and we all played [poorly].
“I remember my second year and that was the toughest year of my life. Maybe the expectations were a little higher than they should be and I think that happened to us. Hopefully we get more motivated and we come back next year and we’ll what happens when we play bad. I’m sure we’ll do well next year.”
As for the much-maligned defensive corps?
|Timonen believes the Flyers defense was better than they were credited. Especially frequent partener Luke Schenn, who Timonen believes "will be a god player for a long time in this league."|
“You read these stories after the season and there’s a lot of blame going toward the defensemen. If you look at our season, how many times did we play as a group where we had everybody in the lineup? Guys were going down [left and right]. I’d like to see us play as a group for more than 10 games and see how we match up because I truly believe we have really good defensive corps.
“We took a lot of heat, but my personal opinion is we are not the reason we did not make the playoffs.”
Timonen did praise the younger defenseman who elevated their game in the wake of all the injuries. He had good things to say about both Erik Gustafsson and Oliver Lauridsen but was really impressed with the growth of Luke Schenn, who he said “is going to be a good player for a long time in this league.”
He also predicted that he feels the core group of forwards, playing their third year together, will blossom next season into a more formidable offensive unit.
“This team is going to be really good down the road because we have a lot of young guys at forward and they are going to get better and better every year,” Timonen said. “I can talk from experience because that’s what usually happens. The first year is great, the second year is kind of so-so but then the third year guys take off and they get better.
“I would be excited next year as a fan to come see us – and the years [afterward] because these guys are going to get better and we’re going to be a good team next year and I’m looking forward to it.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37