It’s hard to think of a Kings-related story that has generated as much debate in recent years as this O’Sullivan-Williams trade. I’ve read a lot of the comments — although it’s tough, because there were more than 700 yesterday…wow — and there have been a lot of great points made on both sides. That’s what makes for a good debate.
To be honest, when I first heard about the trade, I ridiculed it. There are still parts of it that don’t make a lot of sense to me. None of them have anything to do with Justin Williams as a player. He’s a two-time 30-goal scorer and a Stanley Cup winner, a guy who theoretically could be entering his prime. He’s a bigger winger who plays the type of game Lombardi and Murray want. Patrick O’Sullivan, for all of his undeniable talents, never really fit here. For that, you can blame Lombardi, Murray or O’Sullivan, or all three of them. It doesn’t change the fact that he never really fit here.
So then, why is there debate about this trade? Because it’s an enormous risk, and the timing of it seems odd. For all of Williams’ talent, he can’t stay on the ice. In the past 12 months, he has had hand, back, knee and Achilles tendon injuries. All in one year. It’s accurate to say that they were largely “fluke” injuries. It’s also accurate to say that Williams had two consecutive seasons in which he played 82 games. But it’s hard to escape the feeling that some guys are just injury-prone, through no fault of their own.
Beyond that, it’s hard to shake the feeling that by trading O’Sullivan and a second-round pick now, the Kings might have left something on the table. Williams might be a strong pick-up, but the Kings need more, and by trading O’Sullivan, they just cashed in on one of their most valuable assets. Might they have been better served by packaging O’Sullivan with a top prospect and a top pick, in order to land a really big fish? Maybe, or maybe I’m really underestimating what Williams will bring to the team when healthy. And perhaps the Kings will be able to fill that bigger void via free agency, or by trading with a team that is desparate to dump salary this summer.
Also, in defense of Williams, he’s also in his first year back after ACL surgery. That’s exactly where Michal Handzus was last year, and it’s well known that an athlete doesn’t resemble his former self until his second season back.
So, there’s no easy answer. With a day to reflect, what do you think?