Justin Williams was great long before winning the Conn Smythe

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Winning the Conn Smythe Trophy simply confirms what we should already know about Justin Williams: He's just a damn good hockey player.

If there is a lesson to be learned from the Conn Smythe Trophy-winning performance of Justin Williams, it should be this: Teams shouldn't trade a two-time 30-goal scorer just because he's a little down on his luck with injuries and a career-low shooting percentage.

Or, perhaps more accurately, always be willing to take a chance on that guy if he's available.

And that is where Williams' story -- as well as his playoff legend -- with the Los Angeles Kings begins.

It was the middle of the 2008-09 season and Williams, just a couple of years removed from helping the Carolina Hurricanes win the 2006 Stanley Cup, was mired in his second straight injury-plagued season (hand and Achilles injuries had sidelined him) that had seen him score just 12 goals on 186 shots. His value was probably at his lowest point, and that still didn't stop the the Hurricanes from moving on. They ended up trading him to Los Angeles in a multi-team trade that also saw them reacquire Erik Cole, while the Edmonton Oilers got Patrick O'Sullivan.

Two Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe trophy later, and it's pretty easy to declare the Kings the big winners of that deal.

What's ended up making Williams a star and a Los Angeles hockey legend (and that's probably not overstating it at this point given what he and his teammates have done the past three years) is his ability to consistently score goals in big situations. His Game 7 exploits are well documented at this point (seven goals and six assists in seven games), and on Friday night he scored a goal in a Stanley Cup-clinching game for the second time in his career when he opened the scoring for Los Angeles in the first period against Henrik Lundqvist.

He has always been an outstanding player

All of that tends to overshadow the fact that he has always been an outstanding player.

We get so caught up in the playoff goals that we forget that he also does this type of stuff most nights throughout the regular season. If you were to ask most hockey fans about a guy that elevates his game in the playoffs, Williams might be the first player that gets mentioned right now. He's pretty much a present-day Chris Drury, who carried around the exact same reputation during Colorado's glory days in the late 1990s and early 2000s when he seemed to score a game-winning goal every single night in the playoffs.

But the thing about Williams is that his playoff production is virtually identical to his regular season production.

Season Goals Per Game Assists Per Game Points Per Game Shots Per Game
Career Regular Season .25 .40 .65 2.71
Career Playoffs .26 .41 .67 2.68

Even if you just want to look at his numbers with Los Angeles, it's pretty much the same story. He flat out gets the job done, whether it's December or June.

Season Goals Per Game Assists Per Game Points Per Game Shots Per Game
Kings Regular Season .25 .40 .65 2.90
Kings Playoffs .28 .43 .73 2.78

That jump in point-per-game average might seem significant, but it comes out to one extra point every 25 games (which is just a bit longer than the length of an average Stanley Cup run).

This isn't meant to diminish his playoff performance in this or any other season. He was -- and has been -- awesome in all of those years. It's actually meant to bring more attention to how good he also is between October and April ever year, when he seems to get lost in the shuffle and viewed as nothing more than a complimentary player on a team that also has Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick leading the way.

Every year in the playoffs you always hear announcers and analysts singing the praises of a guy that is "the type of player you need to win in the playoffs." It's usually in reference to an "energy line" player that blocks a lot of shots, throws his weight around and maybe starts the occasional fight. But forget all of that. The type of player teams need to win in the playoffs is Justin Williams.

It's just not about the Game 7 goals or the game-winning goals (those are still great, of course).

It's about the fact that he carries a reasonable $3.6 million cap hit for top-six production, a huge factor in a salary cap league where every dollar counts.

It's about his overall play with and without the puck. The way he is able to win one-on-one matchups along the wall and almost always come away with the puck.

It's about his defensive play and the way he helps shut teams down defensively and helps control play through the neutral zone. He may not score 40 goals or compete for scoring titles, but since the start of the 2007-08 season the only forward with a better Corsi Percentage (minimum 3,000 minutes played) than Williams' 58.4 percent is Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings at 58.9 percent. When it comes to the best two-way wingers, Williams' name should be somewhere in the discussion.

Winning the Conn Smythe Trophy and getting his name on the Stanley Cup for the third time in nine years shouldn't be what makes Williams a star or a household name in the NHL. It should simply confirm what we should have already known about him.

That he is a damn good hockey player.

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