Good Bye Sully Brick Road
Half Season Ticket Holder Buddy and I already had plans to meet for lunch and share our thoughts on the NHL Trade Deadline. As I was walking into our favorite sushi restaurant… I checked my phone and saw that the Los Angeles Kings had just traded Patrick O’Sullivan to the Carolina Hurricanes for Justin Williams. I was caught completely off guard. In all the Kings trade scenarios I had ran in my head the last few days… none involved the trading of O’Sullivan. I told Half Season Ticket Holder Buddy the news. We ordered some sushi… we thought about it… ordered some more sushi… looked at Justin Williams’ stats on my phone… had one more roll… and then made the decision that maybe this isn’t such a bad trade.
A few summers ago, not long after Patrick O’Sullivan was traded to the Kings by Minnesota, I was in Vermont visiting a friend. A good buddy of his, who happened to be playing in the Washington Capitals minor league system, went on and on about what a steal the Kings had just made… how O’Sullivan dominated the AHL that year and was going to be a stud soon enough. Within a few seasons, I was a huge fan of Patrick O’Sullivan. He went from being a flashy player who made horrible blind behind-the-back passes his first season in the NHL to a genuine offensive threat last year. Plus, how could you not root for a guy that had such a horrible back story. But then Coach Murray came to town… and with him, defensive responsibility. And all year long, O’Sullivan had just never seemed to fit in Coach Murray’s system. Only a week ago, I was questioning O’Sullivan’s desire to go to the net and score. Before last night’s game against the Blue Jackets, when it was reported that Oscar Moller was going to skate on Jarret Stoll’s line, I said to myself… Stoll, Moller and O’Sullivan… that could totally work. (I mean, doesn’t anybody remember Pat & Oscar’s?) But when I saw the lineup, and realized that it was Calder, Stoll and Moller… while O’Sullivan was on the 3rd line… I thought “well this is it. Coach Murray is done with O’Sullivan.” But did I think the Kings would trade him? No way. I think if any Kings fan say that they saw this coming… even Patrick O’Sullivan would have to smile at the absurdity of that statement.
When Half Season Ticket Holder Buddy and I started buying our Half Season Ticket Package 6 non-playoff seasons ago, HSTHB was quite a big Flyers fan. So Justin Williams has always been on our radar. I even had him on a fantasy team one season (the first season he blew out his ACL). And while quite a few hockey experts seem to be a fan of a healthy Justin Williams… Dean Lombardi must have really seen something in Williams to trade for him after 2 ACL tears, an Achilles heel tear and a recently broken finger. As a Kings fan who has lived through watching Jason Allison, Ziggy Palffy and Adam Deadmarsh all be traded to this team and then fall apart physically within a few years… trading for a guy who has already taken the beating that Williams has makes me nervous.
Then, as we tore into our final sushi roll, HSTHB and I talked about why we liked this trade. Justin Williams has won a Cup. And he is only 27. In the last 3 years, he had 2 solid seasons, both with 30 goals and 82 games played… and last year he had 30 points in 37 games before he blew out his ACL. This year… only 10 points in 32 games after coming back from that Achilles tendon injury. And he’s not even going to play for the Kings right away since he has a broken hand. But Dean Lombardi wanted him. And he even had to throw in a 2nd round draft pick to get him. If Dean wants him that bad… it’s gotta count for something right?
And he has won the Cup. And that’s what hockey experts like to call an intangible. For a young team, having a top 6 forward who has won a Stanley Cup is a great thing. Coach Murray is going to be coaching this team for at least another 3 years… and if O’Sullivan wasn’t going to fit into his plan, then there was every reason to trade him. Michal Handzus has taught me that you have to be patient with a player after a ACL/MCL injury… as it can take a full year to rehab. I’m willing to see what Justin Williams can bring to this team… he could be the finisher that Anze Kopitar’s been looking for all season. But he’s also going to have to change his number.
In the meantime, I know what NHL team I’m following in the playoffs this year. It’s simple… it’s the NHL team that now has my 2 favorite former Kings on it… the Edmonton Oilers. I can’t even imagine how strange it will be to see Patrick O’Sullivan and Lubomir Visnovsky in Oilers Blue.
But at least the Oilers Fans are well aware of the incredible talent they just traded for. Patrick O’Sullivan is going to be a star in the NHL one day. He is going to click with Ales Hemsky and they are going to be a great force for the Oilers. Thanks for a couple great years in LA, Sully. Okay, Justin Williams… now show us what you got.