Will Jeremy Williams Stick With the Leafs This Time?

Dave McCarthyCorrespondent IDecember 18, 2008

Heard On Episode 4.14 of AFITC

Jeremy Williams can put the puck in the net. Period. But as any hotshot young sniper will quickly learn, there is much more to becoming an everyday NHL player than merely a one-dimensional ability to score. Look at any of the top players in the game, be they Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, or Jarome Iginla: They all bring much more to the table than just offense.

For Williams, he has been a scorer at every level that he has competed at, whether it be Major Junior in the WHL with the Swift Current Broncos, the AHL with the Toronto Marlies, or so far in a brief NHL career with the Maple Leafs.

The knock against him has always been a lack of competitiveness in the defensive end, and as a result, he has never been presented with the opportunity to establish himself as a legitimate NHLer.

Hard work has also never been something that has come naturally to Williams. Often players blessed with natural ability are difficult to convince that at the NHL level, no matter how good you are, you won’t stay good for long if you aren’t putting in hard work, committed to continually improving your play.

Under previous Maple Leafs regimes, Williams was quite rightly identified as one of those types of players: a maddeningly tantalizing prospect who needs to learn how to be a consummate professional.

So far this season under Ron Wilson, Williams seems to have received the message and has thoroughly improved his play in the defensive end, holding a team-leading plus-four rating. Not surprisingly, he has been rewarded with greater ice time in offensive situations.

If Williams can keep his encouraging start going through a protracted period of time, the Maple Leafs may have lucked into the scoring winger they so desperately covet. If his play drops off, though, and a level of comfort seeps into his play, don’t be surprised to see Williams face another trip to the minors. But hey, all that was just rigmarole.