Justin Williams came to DC to fill out the Capitals top six and provide the postseason scoring that the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner has been known for. Unfortunately, ‘Mr. Game Seven’ didn’t even play in a Game Seven, but that doesn’t mean Williams’ first season in DC was any sort of failure.
|16.6||time on ice per game|
|54.1||5v5 shot-attempt percentage|
|55.9||5v5 goal percentage|
About this visualization: This series of charts made by Micah McCurdy of hockeyviz.com shows various metrics for the player over the course of the 2015-16 season. A short description of each chart:
Looking at Justin Williams’ season from a purely base counts standpoint, you’d have to say that his acquisition has definitely been a rousing success. At the age of 34, Williams put up his best offensive regular season since 2011-12 and finished 4th overall on the team in points at all strengths with 52. What makes that number even more impressive is that the majority of those points, 42 to be exact, came at even strength and if you look at just 5-on-5 scoring he leapfrogs Nicklas Backstrom for 3rd overall on the team.
Williams showed that he is a very versatile player as he spent time on all three of the lines in the top-nine, the second unit of the power play, and a good chunk of the penalty kill. Barry Trotz seemed to like moving Williams around the lineup to help whichever line wasn’t producing. I don’t think you’re going to find a single person who is upset with Justin Williams’ 2015-2016 regular season from a point production standpoint or really any other standpoint that matters.
Looking at things when it comes to Williams’ age in relation to his point production shows that the numbers he put up this season are very impressive. I went back and looked at all players drafted in 2000 and prior to 2000 to insure that I had a sample size of old people big enough to make a point. In that group of 57 players, Williams came in only behind Joe Thornton, Jaromir Jagr, and the Sedin brothers when it comes to points. This is a very good sign, considering one of the initial concerns with signing Williams was that he may have been on the decline as his point per game totals dropped in consecutive years prior to joining the Caps.
Williams played in all 82 games this season. He has only missed one game total since 2011-12. He’s going to be a key piece on the team again next year at 35, so it’s good to know that age doesn’t look like it’s really affecting his play at all.
If you’ve noticed in the past season reviews that I have done, I really like giving context to our players numbers by comparing them to the league and throwing out some names that had comparative seasons. Williams’ 2.29 points per 60 at all strengths ranked him 85th in the league (adjusted for 200 minutes played) around names like Pavel Datsyuk, Nathan MacKinnon, Alex Steen, James Neal, etc. That ranking gets even more impressive if you just sort by points per 60 at 5v5, which leaves Williams’ 1.99, 59th in the league around names like Phil Kessel, Jeff Carter, Nicklas Backstrom, Paul Stastny, etc. For a player who spent most of his time on the Caps 2nd line at even strength and how low scoring the NHL is these days, I think that those totals again back up the fact that Justin Williams was very good this year, if anyone would actually argue against that.
Williams has always been an absolute possession nightmare for the opposition, and that reputation was reinforced this season. Williams’ 53.64 percent score- and venue-adjusted possession (according to Corsica) left him only behind Dmitry Orlov and Alex Ovechkin when it comes to team totals. What I’ve really noticed from Williams’ play this year is that he is one of those special players in the NHL who not only look good on paper, but also check all of the boxes on the eye test as well. He wins board battles, cycles efficiently, and makes protecting the puck look easy all to go along with his stellar offensive awareness.
The only real negative to Justin Williams’ 2015-16 is that it took awhile for him to get going in the postseason. His 7 points in 12 games left him 5th overall on the Capitals, which would normally be acceptable coming from a 2nd line forward, but his reputation and past playoff success left a sour taste in some fans mouths. Overall, I think that the Capitals are really lucky that Justin Williams chose them last summer and if he is able to put up a carbon copy of this past season next year, his deal will have been more than worth it. Williams is a player that you can slot in all over the lineup and he will make the players around him better. I think that he is a perfect player for what the Caps want to do this summer in regards to building a scoring top-nine as he can skate with the Ovechkins of the world, but also adjust his play style to a more grind it out nature, but still put up points. Let’s hope that he can play in a Game Seven in June of next year.
Getting down to “Cotton-Eye Joe”
Did Justin Williams meet or exceed your expectations of him this year? Did anything about his game surprise you after getting the chance to watch all 82 games he played in? Where in the lineup do you think his optimal spot is?
Read more: Japers’ Rink
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