The St. Louis Blues don’t exactly have a ton of cap space heading into the 2017-18 season. However, they do have needs and one of them is bringing in another veteran to help bridge the gap.
Some St. Louis Blues fans do not want to hear it. They want to play the kids and let them earn their lumps and learn from their mistakes. They don’t want to add any more veterans for the sake of it.
That argument cannot be discarded completely. The Blues do have some talented, young players coming up through the ranks.
We don’t necessarily need more players holding them back or taking up spots. However, if a veteran can come in and contribute, then it is more than worth it.
Before we jump into the case for Justin Williams, let us discuss the case against simply handing the reigns over to the kids again. The Blues tried that with their young core back around 2008ish.
They had several players with plenty of talent, but winning habits were never formed. Some of the mistakes of those teams continue to haunt today’s players that have been with the team for quite awhile.
Take David Perron for instance. Overall, he is not a completely changed player from his days in St. Louis the first time around.
However, the shock of being dealt away and not having the safety net of a playoff team around him changed him enough. He is a more complete player now. The same is true of T.J. Oshie. Much had to do with the team around him, but he was more of a player to be counted on in Washington than with the Blues.
Justin Williams is that guy and could be that guy for the Blues, should they wish to give him a look.
Several factors go into his potential signing, as with any player. First and foremost is age.
Williams is not getting any younger at 35. As sports medicine and therapy continue to improve, it is not impossible to play into your late 30’s.
The NHL, like many leagues, is trending younger though. That much cannot be denied.
From a mentor standpoint and someone who can tell guys how it is done, veterans still have plenty of value. While it was not simply because of Brouwer, the Blues took a gigantic step with him on the team compared to the year prior or after.
The situations are not quite equal. Williams is 35 now and Brouwer was 30 when his season with the Blues ended.
Williams is still getting the job done and not just as a locker room guy. If you remove the lockout year, he has had six straight seasons with 40 or more points. He is coming off consecutive 20-plus goal seasons as well, albeit with the high octane Washington offense.
His defensive game is solid. He has not been a minus-player since 2008-09.
He regularly manages to make his lines and team better too. Since they began keeping the stat, his Corsi rating has been in the high 50’s or above seven out of 12 seasons. He never had one below 50% except one year in Los Angeles.
Williams is a clutch performer in the playoffs two. Winning three Stanley Cups (two with Los Angeles and one with Carolina), he score 15 or more points in each of those playoff runs. Williams was also named playoff MVP (Conn Smythe Trophy) in 2013-14
He has scored three or more goals, regardless of how many rounds played, in six straight seasons. Age doesn’t seem to be hampering him yet.
Of course, it could catch up to him this year. That would be the Blues luck. It seems any time you pick up a player with a history, that history changes when they don the note.
It might be worth a risk though. The Blues desperately needed a strong voice with experience in the locker room this past season.
While Ryan Reaves did his best, you could tell the team lacked that guy that was going to tell the malcontents to shut their mouth and do their job. Say what you will about the players that left in the 2016 offseason, but they provided that.
Steve Ott and Brouwer would not let the kind of lazy stuff that happened in the winter of 2017 happen. They would have shut the locker room doors and called some people out.
Williams certainly doesn’t have the mouth that Ott has, but he knows what it takes. He has three titles to his name and was more than just a role player on them. That’s the kind of experience you need on a team.
Undoubtedly, the Blues don’t need more wingers. There is no doubt they need help up the middle.
You have to improve your team where you can though. If Williams fills the veteran need, continues his productivity and, perhaps most importantly, is cost effective, then he could help this team now.
There are a lot of ifs by bringing in a player in his mid-30’s. The pros might outweigh the cons though and for a team struggling to be a true contender, he can bridge the gap and help these younger guys (and the vets that don’t have their own stuff figured out yet) take those next steps.