Bill Meltzer: Meltzer’s Musings: Timonen, Quick Hits

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FLYERS AWAIT MEDICAL NEWS ON TIMONEN

Veteran Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen was slated yesterday to meet with team doctors to obtain further information about the medical condition that led to his hospitalization in Finland with blood clots in both of his lungs and his right calf. Although the prognosis for his long-term health is good, the resumption of his hockey playing career remains in doubt.

Reportedly, Timonen was diagnosed in Finland with a condition called Antiphospholipid syndrome — a deficiency of Protein C — which can commonly contribute in milder cases to deep vein thrombosis and contribute in more serious cases to life-threatening pulmonary embolism.

The most common method of treatment for the condition is to put a patient on blood thinners. Timonen could not be medically cleared to play hockey while on blood thinners because of the danger of uncontrollable bleeding even from injuries that would otherwise be considered minor.

If the Flyers doctors confirm a diagnosis of Antiphospholipid syndrome, Timonen may need to take blood thinners for the rest of his life. In the bigger picture, his prognosis is strong to live a long and healthy life.

*********** QUICK HITS: AUGUST 26

* R.J. Umberger will sport uniform number 18 next season. He wore number 20 during his previous stint with the Flyers. Defenseman Michael Del Zotto will wear number 15. Fellow blueline addition Nick Schultz will wear number 55.

* Ron Hextall told Broad Street Hockey that every defenseman on the Flyers roster is going to have to absorb slightly more ice time per game to account for all-situation player Timonen’s absence. Although not specified by Hextall, Mark Streit is likely to move up to the top power play unit while the added five-on-five burdens will be dispersed fairly evenly. Likewise, the Flyers defensemen who kill penalties (primarily Braydon Coburn, Andrew MacDonald, Nicklas Grossmann and Luke Schenn) will also have to collectively account for the absence of the longtime blueline leader.

* Flyers Alumni birthdays: Ryan Bast turns 39 today. Bast caused a brief sensation in the spring of 1998 when the Flyers signed him to an NHL contract under the noses of the Calgary Flames while he was a member of their AHL affiliate who played against the Phantoms in the Calder Cup Finals. Prolific playmaker Adam Oates, an expensive rental at the 2002 trade deadline, turns 52. Mark Botell, a defenseman who did well in midseason fill-in duty during the 1981-82 season, turns 53.

* Today in Flyers history: On Aug. 27, 2001, the Flyers signed recently acquired defenseman Kim Johnsson to a three year contract. The deal proved to be a good one for the Flyers, as Johnsson went on to win the Barry Ashbee Trophy in two of the next three seasons. A skilled two-way defenseman, Johnsson averaged 0.51 points per game during his Flyers career and was a combined plus-44 at even strength during his 291-game Philadelphia career while averaging more than 23 minutes of ice time per game. Unfortunately, concussion issues derailed him in 2005-06 and continued to affect him the rest of his career after his departure via free agency in the summer of 2006.

* The Score’s Justin Bourne posted an analysis of the common traits of teams that excel in neutral zone play, which goes a long way toward being a superior puck possession team that is more likely to be a good club at even strength. The three basic traits should come as no surprise: 1) strong positional puck support, 2) an effective short-range (five-foot to 10-foot) passing game, and 3) players keeping their feet moving. These are age-old mantras.

More interestingly, Bourne pointed out that the effective use of analytics on breakouts and zone entries, combined with video teaching, can help a team to tailor its coaching to assist players to find ways to execute more effectively. This is exactly the sort of thing that Hextall discussed earlier this summer.

Hopefully, the combined work of longtime video coach Adam Patterson and newly hired hockey analytics manager Ian Anderson can assist Craig Berube and his staff in their continued efforts to reshape the Flyers into a better team at even strength. Another big piece of the puzzle is Berube and the organization’s strong emphasis on conditioning and skating-intensive practices.

When the Flyers keep their feet moving, they are not a bad five-on-five team. It’s when players start standing around and the gap control goes by the wayside that Philly gets into major trouble.

The final piece is increased discipline, with and and without the puck, as well as reducing the frequency of avoidable penalties. Cutting down on careless turnovers and needless icings while taking the shortest possible routes goes a long way toward improved five-on-five results.

Likewise, so does reducing penalties. Even though the Flyers have been a good penalty killing team in recent years, there is a wear-down effect that manifests itself at even strength when the penalties start to pile up too high.

For example, for all the talk about Scott Hartnell’s strong individual puck possession numbers and those of his line, the sheer number of bad penalties he took may have unwittingly lowered those of other players on the team. The frequent extra minors Hartnell took may have had a slight but cumulative negative effect at five-on-five on the players who had to expend extra energy killing his penalties and were subsequently deployed for frequent defensive zone starts at five-on-five.

* Earlier this year, the movie rights to “Pelle Lindbergh: Behind the White Mask” were sold to a film maker in California named Howard Rosen. I spoke recently with Howard and he told me work is underway to develop a screenplay of Pelle’s story based on elements of the biography that I co-authored with Thomas Tynander for the English edition of the book.

There is, of course, no guarantee that a movie based on Lindbergh’s life will ever come to fruition. Only a small fraction of film options ever get screenplays sold and budgeted to become films. Just a fraction of the ones that become movies ever go into wide distribution. Nevertheless, I am very excited by the possibilities. Howard. who is originally from the Delaware Valley, first approached me four years ago about his interest in developing a Lindbergh movie projec. He has remained enthusiastic about it ever since.

Incidentally, the publisher of Behind the White Mask (Middle Atlantic Press) recently went out of business. The rights to the book itself reverted to Thomas and myself. At some future point, we may like to put out an unabridged and updated digital edition of the book. In the meantime, I am juggling three other book projects.

Former Flyers equipment manager Kevin Cady, who went on to a long career in law enforcement and detective work after leaving the Flyers to return to Maine, has authored a book with Polyglot Press about a real-life cold case investigation he worked on for many years. The 1971 disappearance of a 16-year-old Portland girl named Cathy Moulton has never officially been solved, although there is a host of evidence pointing to the conclusion she was abducted in Portland and ultimately murdered on a First Nation reservation in Canada. I serve as Kevin’s editor on the book project, which is undergoing a final round of edits based on new information that recently came to light.

My HockeyBuzz colleague, Paul Stewart, is co-authoring an autobiography in conjunction with baseball and hockey writer Chris Smith. Paul asked me to collaborate on the rewrites and editing.

As a solo effort, I have been compiling research and have done a couple of interviews for my Fred Shero biography project. I haven’t been able to do nearly as much on that project this summer as I had hoped, but I still fully intend to see the project through no matter how long it takes.

This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.

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