You know what they say: age is just a number.
Yet, in the realm of sports, you can seem old even if you’re not yet 30. Take a look at Patrice Bergeron, a 24-year-old player who seemingly experienced a career’s worth of highs and lows already.
Los Angeles Kings forward Justin Williams is only 28 years old, yet he’s had a very bumpy nine-season NHL career.
He began his career as a young forward in the Philadelphia Flyers system but never really met his potential until he became a member of the eventual Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes. In a peak 2005-06 season, Williams scored an impressive 31 goals and 76 points in the regular season while adding 18 points in 25 playoff games. His mixture of grit, great skating and scoring panache were a fantastic fit in Carolina, but injuries curtailed that success. He’s shown flashes of that 05-06 brilliance in L.A. – after all, for a very brief period of time he joined Ryan Smyth and Anze Kopitar as one of the most underrated lines in the NHL – but hasn’t been able to fight off the injury bug.
Justin Williams is hoping that bad things really do come in threes.
Cobourg’s NHL star has had a rough go since he won the Stanley Cup as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. In three of the ensuing seasons, he has suffered debilitating injuries that kept him out of action for long stretches of time. He missed 43 games during the 2007-08 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and returned just in time for the playoffs, only to be sidelined again with a back injury. The next season he missed games thanks to injuries to his Achilles tendon as well as a broken hand and last season he missed 28 more games with a broken leg.
“I’ve had a tough three years,” said Williams during his trip home to Cobourg last week. “It was tougher mentally than it was physically. You need to have faith in yourself, and know that this isn’t going to break you.”
He’s been one of the NHL’s most fragile players, but if he could actually manage to avoid breaking/straining/tearing something, Williams could be a real asset.
In fact, if the team bows out of the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes, a healthy Williams could soothe some of what ails them. Not all by any means – he’s only hit the 30 goal mark twice in his career and hasn’t even hit 30 goals total the last three seasons – but he’s they type of player who slips under the radar.
He’s played 49, 44 and 37 games the last three seasons. This is the last year of his five-year contract, so if there ever were a season for him to get his health together, 2010-11 would be that campaign. He hasn’t had much, if any luck, with his body the last few years but a good bill of health would be a plus for the Kings and Williams alike.
(H/T to Kukla’s Korner.)