2013-14 Preview: Timely Goals, Plethora of Chances and Veteran Leadership All Give Justin Williams the Upper Hand
Do you remember the 2009 Trade Deadline when Dean Lombardi sent Patrick O’Sullivan to Carolina (then eventually Edmonton) for Justin Williams? I was initially upset at the news because I was really starting to like O’Sullivan in a Kings uniform. In fact, not only was I thinking of getting his name on my blank Los Angeles jersey but I was going to bring my Team USA hat to the nearest LIDS and have his name and number embroidered on. While it is against LIDS policy to embroider professional names onto merchandise, barely anyone in Ottawa (where I was living at the time), knew the Los Angeles Kings were still in existence much less the names of any of their players. Oh, the joys of the East Coast bias. But I digress.
While I wasn’t happy about the Kings shipped O’Sullivan out of town, I knew it wasn’t a total loss as I immediately saw who they picked up in return.
As much as I liked O’Sullivan, I liked Justin Williams even better. Following him during his time in Philadelphia and then Carolina, I quickly became aware of what the native of Cobourg, Ontario brought to the table. While he was never the star of his team, Williams proved to be the unsung type who came through in clutch situations, especially when the playoffs rolled around as he was a major part of the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup win in 2006.
Unfortunately for Patrick O’Sullivan, his career went downhill while Justin Williams, having finished his fourth full season in Los Angeles, continues to prove how important he is to a team he helped win hockey’s Holiest prize in 2012. With that said, most would be wise to expect the same results this coming season.
Playing in all 48 regular season games in 2013, Williams scored 11 goals, added 22 assists and led all Kings forwards with a +15 while being tied with Dustin Brown for the team lead in shots with 142.
As previously mentioned, however, Justin Williams has been notorious for elevating his game in the playoffs and 2013 was no exception. In 18 games, the 31-year-old tied for the team lead with nine goals (with two of them being game-winners) while, like in the regular season, leading the Kings in the shots department with 57.
His jersey may not sell as much as Kopitar’s or Brown’s or Quick’s but Justin Williams has shown time and time again that he doesn’t need the limelight to ascend to star status. Oh, and for the record, there are plenty of Williams jerseys at Staples Center which just goes to show how much the Los Angeles fans appreciate the unsung heroes.
In 2013-14, Justin Williams may have to make some mild adjustments. With Dustin Penner out and Matt Frattin, for one, in, he may have to get accustomed to a new linemate. Of course, that Is a given for any NHLer and given that Justin Williams is not only a wily veteran but a consummate professional, it’s fair to say that no one has to worry about No. 14 adapting to something new.
Staying healthy may also prove to be a challenge as since being with the Kings, Williams has suffered a broken leg and separated shoulder just to name a couple of afflictions. While he really hasn’t missed that much time, it is conspicuous when the veteran is out of the lineup most of the time. Personally, something just seems to be missing when No. 14 is not on the ice. The Kings are by no means a bad team without him but his absence just shows how important Justin Williams is to his team – and rightfully so.
The last two 82-game campaigns, Justin Williams had 57- and 59-points performances respectively. If his points total this season doesn’t quite reach that vicinity, simply look for Williams to generate a barrage of shots which will make the opposing goaltender’s life a stressful one in the crease.