Hurricanes Hall of Fame: Justin Williams is the Obvious Choice This Season

Justin Williams, Carolina Hurricanes. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Justin Williams, Carolina Hurricanes. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Last season, the Carolina Hurricanes organization established a new annual tradition by introducing the Hurricanes Hall of Fame. The honor of being the inaugural member was given to Cam Ward, and he was honored with a ceremony in the lead-up to the Stadium Series game in February. This season’s inductee should be straightforward. Justin Williams has to be at the top of the list to join the Hurricanes Hall of Fame on December 15.

As laid out by the organization, no more than one player and one contributor will join the Hurricanes Hall of Fame each year after being voted on by a committee of 13 people affiliated with the Hurricanes. For a player to be considered, they must have played 250 games as a forward or defenseman, 100 games as a goalie, won a Stanley Cup, or won an individual award with the Hurricanes. It takes nine votes to join the ranks of the organization’s immortal. Ron Francis, Glen Wesley, and Rod Brind’Amour were all duly grandfathered in since their jerseys were already retired.

If there needed a case being made, here is why Williams should be a shoe in.

After being taken in the 1st Round of the 2000 NHL Draft by the Flyers, Justin Williams was acquired by the Hurricanes in January 2004 for Danny Markov. History will remember this trade as a massive win for the Canes.

While Markov only played 34 games for the Flyers, Williams would be around for a little longer. He instantly fit into the Canes’ system, finishing the 2003-04 season strong with 18 points in 32 games. He came out of the NHL lockout even stronger, recording a career-high 31 goals and 76 points in 2005-06 and adding 18 points during the run to the Stanley Cup, including his iconic empty-netter to secure Game 7.

He set a new career-high in goals the following season with 33 as he earned the only All-Star bid of his career. A torn ACL would keep him out for most of the 2007-08 season, limiting him to 37 games, though he did score 30 points.

At the 2009 trade deadline, the Hurricanes dealt Justin Williams to the Los Angeles Kings as part of a three-team deal that brought Erik Cole back to Raleigh. During his first stint with the team, Williams recorded 81 goals and 201 points in 265 games, further cementing how great the initial trade with Philadelphia was.

Williams would spend the next decade adding to his resume, winning two more Stanley Cups with the Kings, including the Conn Smythe during their 2014 run. He also spent two seasons in Washington, recording 100 points in 162 games with the Capitals.

Hitting the open market at 36, Justin Williams would return to Raleigh for the 2017-18 season on a two-year deal. He put up 51 points in his return, and after the change of leadership behind the bench, Williams was named the team’s next captain before the 2018-19 season.

This change in captaincy and many other changes during the 2018 offseason would help end the decade-long postseason drought. He assisted on the game-winning goal in Game 7 against Washington, the final of his NHL-record 15 points in nine career Game 7s.

After the Canes were swept in the Eastern Conference Finals by Boston, and with his contract ending, Williams’ future was up in the air. Before the 2019-20 season kicked off, Williams announced he was stepping away from hockey without formally retiring from the NHL. The Canes would start the season without him, but he wouldn’t be done yet.

In early January 2020, the team announced that Justin Williams would be signing for the remainder of the season. He would officially return on January 19, scoring the game-winner in the 8th round of the shootout against the Islanders. In his return, Williams would score eight goals and three shootout winners in 20 games. He would end his regular season career on a five-game goal streak before the world shut down for the COVID pandemic.

He joined the team in the postseason bubble in Toronto once the pause ended, recording his final goal and point in Game 4 of the 1st Round against Boston before the team was eliminated in five games. This would officially mark the end of his career as he announced his retirement from the NHL on October 8, 2020. He piled up 316 points in 449 games with the team and 797 overall in 1,264 games in his career.

Since finishing his playing career, Justin Williams has joined the front office as a special advisor to General Manager Don Waddell, participating in many major events for the organization and acting as the team’s ambassador.

Few players have represented this team better than Justin Williams, both during his playing career and after. His two stints with the team brought two different things. His initial run helped bring the team to the pinnacle of the sport with their Stanley Cup win in 2006. His return in 2017 helped revitalize hockey culture in a fanbase that had stopped showing up to games, creating a resurgence that continued after his retirement. He brought a much-needed veteran voice in the locker room. Above all else, he showed that hockey can be both serious and fun. Along with Rod Brind’Amour, he helped create the Storm Surge, which eventually gave way to the “Bunch of Jerks” mantra the team carried throughout their 2019 postseason run.

Given what he’s meant to the Carolina Hurricanes, it’s time for Justin Williams to be immortalized as one of the franchise’s most important figures. He has meant a lot to the fans, creating many lasting memories. This decision should be a no-brainer for the voting committee.