Kimmo Timonen: Defensive leader of most recent Flyers playoff era

For eight years, Flyers fans were treated to the consistent defensive talent of Kimmo Timonen. He was a mainstay on the blue line, a warrior. He never missed a game unless he absolutely had to.

Which is what made last August so scary. Timonen had played through everything you could throw at the human body. But blood clots threatened his career.

Timonen knew. This was his one final chance at a Stanley Cup run.

It took until February before Timonen was cleared to play, though he never suited up for the Orange and Black again. Just a day before he was expected to make his return, Timonen was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for a second-round pick.

The Flyers used that pick to move up to draft Travis Konecny. Timonen only got the dream finish to a storied career, hoisting the Stanley Cup as a champion. It proved to be a win-win for both sides.

Both sides will honor Timonen on his retirement in a ceremony prior to the start of Wednesday's game between the Flyers and Blackhawks.

When you look at Kimmo Timonen in Flyers lore, he ranks right up there with some of the best defensemen the franchise has ever had — Barry Ashbee, Mark Howe, Eric Desjardins…move over, boys, Kimmo Timonen is coming in.

One of the things that Howe and Desjardins have in common with Timonen is their leadership roles for an entire era of Flyers hockey that saw many successful playoff runs without the fruits of a Stanley Cup. Howe was the defenseman of the 80s. Desjardins was the steady hand on the blue line in the 90s. And for any Cup run from 2006 on, it was Kimmo Timonen that was the fixture.

Timonen's leadership was quiet, he was vocal when he had to be, determined, always willing to sacrifice everything for success, but very soft-spoken. It was rare to see Timonen's emotions on the angry side.

If they were, it was for good reason. Through every game, Timonen's passion always shined through. He bled Orange and Black the way the fans did, and that made him a fan favorite.

So when Timonen retired after winning the Stanley Cup, he was right back in the Philadelphia area, eager for some down time, but knowing that when the time was right, he would return to the game and probably do it with the Flyers.

While there is no official position for Timonen, he's been at Flyers camps and practices several times and was even at Monday's home opener.

When it's in your blood, you just can't stay away.

The thing about Timonen's retirement happening now is that the Flyers are essentially waiting for that next great defensive leader, whether it be Shayne Gostisbehere, Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim or Ivan Provorov, that will carry the Flyers back to consistent playoff runs through the currant decade and into the next one.

That time is coming soon.

But for now, this is a night to honor another great Flyers defenseman who played with such sacrifice and leadership and was such a fan favorite that he turned the whole city of Philadelphia into Chicago Blackhawks fans for one series, just so he could win hockey's ultimate prize.

There was nobody more deserving than the defensive leader that gave his all for the Orange and Black for eight years, before finally getting the chance and being put in the right situation.

From early retirement, to Stanley Cup champion, to riding off into the sunset. It's a story good enough for Hollywood.

Kevin Durso is managing editor for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.