It has been a few days now since the Washington Capitals walked off the ice at Verizon for the end of the season. Friday was clean out their lockers and take a grilling from media, day.
Justin Williams was brutally honest about how disappointed he was in the final outcome. “The actual images are guys sitting in stalls wondering what happened. That’s what I didn’t want for this team.”
JWill is a winner after all. He has three Stanley Cup awards on his resume. 2006 with the Hurricanes and twice he helped clinch the final round for the LA Kings in 2012 and 2014. He came to D.C. specifically because he thought this was a winning team and he wanted to be part of making it happen for the Caps.
Since joining the Capitals in July 2015 and signing a two-year contract he has been the cheerleader behind the scenes. Stick, as we knew him when in LA, knows what it takes to come back from a loss to win. After all he wasn’t known as “Mr. Game Seven” without a good reason–he has two playoff OT goals for the win! He briefly became Mr. Game 5 for the Caps during the playoffs with Toronto Maple Leafs when he brought in the OT win. . The win set the Caps up with a 3-2 lead in the first-round series, which the Capitals eventually won.
During his time with the Caps, he has inspired younger players and challenged the more ‘senior’ players. For example, Coach Trotz had this to say about Williams and Evgeny Kuznetsov playing on the same line in December 2016: “I think they complement each other. Williams, he’s willing himself into those hard areas and pucks are going off of him, and he’s finding those tips and those screens and all those things. He’s the guy that’s really going to the net hard on that line, I think. With his veteran presence and leadership, I think he’s been able to drive that a little bit.” (Washington Post.) We have heard over and over about the positive influence he is on the team as a whole; filling a void left by Brooks Laich.
His seasons with the Caps have been respectable with 52 and 48 points in the regular season and in 23 playoff games he recorded six goals and ten assists. He probably has not had the numbers he hopes to have after playing with an elite team like the LA Kings. Remember, he came here to win.
No one knows what is ahead for Justin Williams in the 2017/18 season. Fans, for the most part, want him to stay. However, it seemed pretty clear from his post-playoff interviews that he is ready for a change; we don’t know if that means with or without this team. He, like most everyone, thought this would be the year for the Caps. And it is clear it is going to take more than a couple of days to process what just happened and what it means for his career. JJ Regan (CSN)’reported : “Justin Williams says this loss has been the hardest he’s had to take in his career.”
From a personal perspective, we loved him in LA. He was something to watch. When we met him that first day after reporting to training camp, we knew he was as excited as we were that he had joined the roster. Every time we talked to him since then he told us how much he and his family loved being here. But next year will look very different for the Capitals’ roster and he and the Capitals will need to decide what is the next best step for him. He told reporters on Friday when asked about staying: “Saying something doesn’t mean it’s just going to happen. There’s a lot of things that go into the off season here, which I’m sure is not going to be too quiet. So there’s a lot of factors that go into everything, and I’ll probably have a clearer picture in a couple of months.”
Does he want to stay–most likely. Does he want the Caps to be a winning team? Sure. Does he think they can be? That’s not clear. Will the Caps re-sign him? Doubtful. Not because he doesn’t contribute but because of the money involved and his age. Two factors that might send him somewhere else on the east coast. Sorry LA, we doubt he is heading back there although we know you would love to have him turn you around too.
No matter what, we wish Willy much success and joy in whatever and wherever he goes. For now, it is likely back to Cobourg to run his hockey camp in late July, after the kids are out of school.