This certainly wasn't the first time I mentioned this but at the NHL's annual trade deadline in 2009, I was dismayed to see that the Los Angeles Kings traded away budding star Patrick O'Sullivan. But I wasn't too disappointed as I was pleased to see who the silver-and-black (or, at the time, purple-and-black) received in return. Justin Williams had already proven himself as a clutch player from his days in Philadelphia and Carolina - the latter destination where he won his first Stanley Cup - and that was just the type of player the up-and-coming Kings needed. But early in his tenure in Los Angeles, Justin Williams missed significant time periods with a broken leg and a separated shoulder. The Kings and their fans needed to be patient with J-Dub and in the end, it was well worth it.
2013-14 marked Justin William's fifth full season with the Los Angeles Kings and it ended with him hoisting the Conn Smythe Trophy as he helped win his team their second Stanley Cup - and his third overall. But if anyone thought that the 32-year-old coasted for much of the season, they would be mistaken as Williams proved why he is still such a valuable commodity to the Los Angeles Kings family.
This past regular season, Justin Williams played in all 82 games while scoring 19 goals (four of them on the power play) and adding 24 assists while registering a very impressive rating of +14.
Defensively and physically, Williams' game could stand to see some improvement. During the regular season, the Cobourg, Ontario, native blocked just 21 shots while his 6' 1, 189-pound frame wasn't prone to be thrown at the opposition, registering just 44 hits. While the latter stat does pale in comparison to the majority of his teammates, his average of just under 1.9 hits per game gives the veteran a decent stat in the hits department.
In addition, the Kings should not rely on Williams to win any faceoffs. While he only took 10 faceoffs all season, the former Plymouth Whaler won just two of them. But while the negative stats are there, they are safely superseded by the good ones. For one, Justin Williams finished second among Kings during the regular season, firing a grand total of 239 shots on net.
As I mentioned, however, Justin Williams has proven himself to be a clutch player since his rookie season of 2000-01 while a Flyer. Even in the categories where he could have done better in during the regular season, Justin Williams made better numbers in the playoffs.
In the 26 playoff games he appeared in, Williams dished out 31 hits (1.19 per game). Even of the five faceoffs he took, the veteran won three of them.
In the shots category, Williams finished third on his team with 67 and better, the postseason provided better end results than during the regular season. Offensively, Williams scored nine goals (two on the PP) and added 16 assists and, like during the regular season, made his ice time count with a +13 rating.
During the regular season, Justin Williams scored on approximately every 12th shot. In the playoffs, Williams found the twine approximately every seventh shot. Those who wanted a higher frequency from the veteran, got just that from mid-April on.
Also of his nine goals, two of them were game-winners for Williams while one was scored in overtime - and at a clutch moment at that as he won Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final versus the New York Rangers.
He may not have led the Kings in any department during the playoffs but there is - and always has been - much more to Justin Williams' game than the numbers he puts up, as impressive as they are anyway. The voters for the aforementioned Conn Smythe Trophy must have agreed as they awarded the veteran with the honour of Most Valuable Player for the 2014 playoffs.
2014-15 will mark the final year of Justin Williams' current contract with the Kings and while he will likely be asking for a raise from $3.65 million salary, keeping the veteran in SoCal may very well be an investment worth looking into. After all, at 32, Williams still has quite a few years left in his playing career.
When he was acquired from Carolina five years earlier, I knew from watching him with the Flyers and Hurricanes that Justin Williams would provide his new team with a fair deal of success. While I can't say that I'm terribly surprised by what the Kings have accomplished thus far, I must admit that I did not predict this. But as much as the Kopitars, Quicks, Browns and even Toffolis deserve credit for championship aspirations being met in La La Land, such a conversation would be utterly incomplete without mentioning the name of Justin Williams.
For Justin Williams, 2013-14 was like any of his previous years in Los Angeles: a success.
Overall grade for Justin Williams: A+