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Even before signing with the Caps on July 1, 2015, forward Justin Williams was a proven winner. Three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy, and over 10 seasons of experience were just a “few” of the reasons the Caps brought him on board. And after 1,044 games played and nearly 700 points, the question that has to be asked is, “Is Justin Williams Worthy of a spot in the Hall of Fame?”.
At first glance, one may say 659 points isn’t good enough of the Hall of Fame. And while gaudy stat lines are one of the factors that jump out to voters, the intangibles he has carried with him and awards he has compiled are simply too impressive to brush aside.
The Hockey Hall of Fame is filled with legendary and historic names such as Howe, Gretzky, Messier, and Lemieux, and some could argue that it is arguably, the toughest to get into in professional sports. But many players that have entered hockey’s hallowed halls have had similar careers in terms of numbers to Williams, and it is there where his case becomes legitimate. According to Hockey Reference’s Similarity Scores, which compares players to others based on career quality and shape, Williams’ career compares to those of Bernie Federko a 2002 HOF inductee, Bobby Smith (over 1,000 points in just over 1,000 games played), and Butch Goring (four Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe), among others. While Williams may not reach the lofty point totals that these players did, he certainly deserves to have his name in the conversation for the Hall of Fame.
Williams currently has 659 career points in 1,044 games played and is currently in his 16th season in the NHL. He has scored 15 goals and has 25 points in 44 games played this season, putting him on pace for 13 more goals, nine more assists, and 22 more points, which means he would conclude the season with 28 goals, 19 assists, and 47 points in 82 games. Add that to his current career totals and he would finish this season at 277 goals, 404 assists, and 681 points in 1,082 games played. At 35-years old, he’s not in the prime of his career any longer, and could start to decline as a result. If he continues playing and being productive, however, Williams could play well into his late thirties. If he can do that, he has the potential to reach 700+ points.
But it’s Williams’ playoff numbers and resume that really stand out. Known as “Mr. Game 7”, he has been one of the most productive playoff performers in recent memory. He has a career record of 7-0 in seven career Game 7s, and has scored seven goals and 14 points in those seven games. His career playoff numbers are impressive as well. He has scored 33 goals, recorded 52 assists and 85 points in 127 games played in the postseason. His leadership and knowledge of the game are what set him apart from other players.
While the Caps haven’t yet needed him to become Mr. Game 7, they still have not accomplished what they wanted when they signed him to a two-year contract, and that is win the Stanley Cup. While he already has three rings AND a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, Williams’ desire and hunger to bring a Cup to Washington is stronger than ever. And while his career is not yet over, Williams has earned himself a chance to be considered for the Hockey Hall of Fame.
By Michael Fleetwood