There's reason to temper excitement over Capitals addition of Justin Williams
I'm not sold that the Washington Capitals free-agent signing of Justin Williams is quite the home run it's been made out to be.
First, the caveats: Williams has been a great possession player (little known fact: if you mention Williams and don't mention that, you're to self-flagellate 14 times in his honor), has had a successful NHL career, and is, by all accounts, a wonderful shining example of a man. And, those aren't details to slough off, of course.
But like most of my opinions these days, my hesitance about what Williams has left to offer was borne out of Twitter overreaction. Caps fans are jacked to land him, and at the dollars they got him for, they have every right to be pleased with the signing.
But when everyone kinda likes (or dislikes) a deal, particularly within a singular fanbase, there's this weird amplification effect that turns moves into GENIUS or AWFUL. I think this one was ... fine.
Could be good. Might not be. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Kay, I'll try to do better than that.
In Williams, the Caps are getting a smart veteran player while their Cup window looks as wide open as it's ever been. So, cool. He can probably help. We're also quite clearly seeing the statistical tail-off that comes as players age, whether you look at raw numbers, Corsi rel, whatever. He's in decline - time, as they say, is undefeated.
My concern with Williams is that the Caps seem to have him pegged to play in their top six, which means you're playing with Alex Ovechkin/Nicklas Backstrom, or something like Andre Burakovsky/Evgeny Kuznetsov, who, as you may know, are muhfuh'n burners. Few players have had more offensive success in their careers while skating at Williams's level, which I will delicately phrase as being in a class of "non-muhfuh'n-burners." It's one thing to have success at 27 as a not great skater, but when you start at that level, then chip away at the speed a quarter-step a year, it can start to become an issue. Can he keep up?
"Top six" also means top-six minutes for a guy who saw his ice time drop over a minute to 15:49 last season - bigger still, his ice time has declined every year since 2010-11, which may not say much, but it certainly doesn't say nothing - and for a guy who's exactly one 82-game season shy of hitting his 1000th(!) game.
I also think the Kings were the best-case scenario for Williams's career. I think those great teams he was on elevated his status (particularly the playoff runs) to an out-sized level compared with reality. I recently wrote about how Dion Phaneuf almost had no chance to look good on the Maple Leafs, who were awful. Well, the flip side of that exists too.
Further, I think a guy with Williams's not-quick-but-effective game can really thrive in the muck (and that's one thing Williams owns at - winning puck battles, getting it going the right way), so moving from the West to the East - where, oh man, the Metro is going to be a fast division - isn't going to do him any favors.
There's also this tiny, nagging part of my brain whispering, "Dean Lombardi is a savvy guy, and just let one of his offensive players walk from a team that finished 18th in goals scored ... soooo, something smells funny here."
I mean, the crux of it is just ... is his age going to limit him from doing the things he does well? (Remember: this is me defending why I'm a little more ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ than *party favors emoji* on what Williams will bring - I still think he does a lot of things well), because if it does, is he going to be above average? Even average?
What I see happening is that he gets a shot with some great linemates, his stats look OK - as would most players in that position - but he doesn't provide a whole lot above what another guy in that role would. I see him generating less high quality chances on his own, but ending up with a similar amount to what he usually gets based on said lineys. I see him playing like 60 games, and maybe finishing just north of .5 points per game.
Is there a chance he could exceed that? Absolutely. And is that a risk worth taking at the dollars they got him for? For sure.
But if you haven't picked up what I'm putting down yet, my feelings on the addition are this: Does Justin Williams make a big impact on the Capitals?