TUFFICULT’S TAKE – SCF GAME 1: #STICK TO IT
“Nobody’s ever out of it. Keep plugging away, and make a big play.” – Darryl Sutter after Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final
Is there a player that embodies the ideal of tenacity more than tonight’s OT hero, Justin Williams?
He’s generously listed at 189 pounds, the smallest King by weight (Mike Richards is shorter, but more muscular). The nickname “Stick” isn’t just because of his inspired puck-handling skills.
As I write this, I’m certain that Justin Williams would be very uncomfortable with receiving so much individual attention, because that’s the kind of guy he is. Well, too bad. It’s time to talk about the handsome, clutch, possession monster that adorns all of our lock screens.
Drew Doughty on Justin Williams: "He's the most underrated player on our team by a mile."
— Katie Strang (@KatieStrangESPN) June 5, 2014
How can you not root for this guy? Before he even got to the Kings, he’d suffered a broken hand, torn ACL, another torn ACL (and MCL), an unspecified back injury, a torn Achilles tendon, and another broken hand (from a teammate’s slapshot, no less). It’s remarkable how much abuse Stick’s body has taken – there’s no question he’s an athletic guy, but let’s face it, his build is closer to Starbucks barista than Muscle Beach.
I was moderately familiar with Justin when we traded Patrick O’Sullivan for him in 2009. I wasted way too much of my life that year arguing with people in the comments section of LA Kings Insider, defending Justin Williams and asserting that his injuries were largely bad luck.
Back then, haters liked to call him Mr. Glass.
Now he’s known as Mr. Game 7.
I don’t mean to be maudlin, but how inspiring is that? We’ve all faced the echo chamber of negativity at one point or another, falling victim to self-doubt and others’ criticism of our efforts. When things are at their lowest point, it’s easy to succumb to the belief that you’re Mr. Glass. But if you know that you have more inside you, if you know that you’re capable of being a champion, then do as Darryl Sutter says and keep plugging away. You are not defined by your lowest point.
We got Justin Williams for PATRICK O’SULLIVAN (and a pick)! Funny how people like to conveniently forget Willy’s origin story now that his on-ice performance is as sexy as his reflection.
Williams was one of the first major examples of Dean Lombardi’s dedication to reclamation projects. This philosophy of carefully scouting out someone who you believe to be valuable, but who currently looks undesirable on paper (aka the “Antiques Roadshow” approach), resonated strongly with me in 2009. I was at an all-time low after a bad breakup and a period of stagnation in my career and education, and looking back on it I probably was projecting a bit of myself onto Justin while vigorously defending him from commenter trolls, my indignant Cheeto-dusted fingers flying as fast as they could across my keyboard.
This is one of the reasons you will never find me joining in on beating the new trendy piñata, Mike Richards. Sports fans have short memories, and I refuse to discount what Mike Richards has achieved both personally and for the LA Kings organization in his career. He is a valuable player and teammate (albeit overpaid), and I refuse to toss him in the scrap heap simply because I’m not getting enough of an instant gratification fix from his recent point production. That type of asset management philosophy is disastrously shortsighted, and why some other franchises currently exist as a smoldering pile of punch lines.
If Richards undergoes a renaissance (and he’s had a strong playoffs so far, so maybe that’s already taking place), you will not believe how quickly Kings fans will develop amnesia about his struggles this year. In the words of Don Draper, “it will shock you how much this never happened.”
You are not defined by your lowest point.
Like a tide that sets a high water mark, our human nature is to have unrealistic expectations of players, ourselves, and others. But life doesn’t conform to such black and white realizations of human performance, does it? The core of Darryl Sutter’s philosophy revolves around what is essentially a poker player’s mindset. Focus on the input, not the output. If you are certain that you are doing good things, but just not seeing the results, don’t change your approach. That’s called being outcome dependent and second guessing the things that have made you successful in the past.
Instead, Stick to it.
One day, they might be calling you Mr. Game 7.
-King Tufficult (@KingTufficult)