Skating with a New York State of Mind

Once upon a time, Rick Nash was the coveted prospect drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets — he was poised to make a name for himself in Columbus, OH, and he ultimately did.

Over the course of time — 9 years in Columbus — Nash kept seeing superstars around him win Stanley Cup titles, while he was barely able to get the Blue Jackets out of the cellar of the Western Conference — currently , the Blue Jackets reside in the Eastern Conference after the realignment for the 2013-2014 season.

Rick Nash Blue Jackets
Nash was an All-Star and team captain for the Blue Jackets (Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)

Nash grew unhappy, and wanted out of Columbus. In the dead of summer of 2012, he got his wish, and was dealt to the New York Rangers. The man that wanted to be on a contender finally got his wish.

Flash forward to today, and Nash is part of the Eastern Conference champion Rangers — however, the Rangers currently trail the Los Angeles Kings 2-0 in the Stanley Cup final. For the Blue Jackets, Nash scored 289 goals, incurred 258 assists, and racked up 550 points.

Understandably, one could see the frustration from Nash’s point of view — you get onto five All-Star teams, yet you can only get to the first round of the playoffs, once. Nash needed to leave the Blue Jackets, and the Blue Jackets needed to rebuild the team.Which is why the Nash trade — that brought in Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov to Columbus — needed to be done.

Looking back at the trade, everyone won. The Blue Jackets were able to bring a new cast of characters in, and become a playoff contender — holding on to the Pittsburgh Penguins for six exciting playoff games last month. For Nash, he got a new change of scenery, and a new chance to prove to the people of ‘The Big Apple’ that he was indeed a superstar. Even though he came through on the stardom in a Rangers uniform, the people of Columbus  had mixed emotions for leaving Columbus for perceived greener pastures.

That was until the March 21, 2014 match that brought the Rangers to Columbus for a game — Nash’s first trip back to Columbus since being dealt. The whole situation began when Sergei Bobrovsky knocked over Nash earlier in the contest, then the situation escalated after a tremendous save by Bobrovsky on a breakaway shot attempt by Nash. After the save words between Nash and Bobrovsky were exchange, and then pushing,  shoving, and extracurricular actives began to ensue.

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Hold on, we haven’t even hit the boiling point of the Nash heel turn.

Not even, 10 seconds — yes, a whole whopping 10 seconds — into the third period, Nash and Matt Calvert — a former teammate of Nash — got into a fight. Now, I was up in press row and saw the entire event unfold. This whole Nash heel turn against the Blue Jackets seemed like something straight out of a WWE wrestling script — the once iconic hero, is now the most hated villain in a matter of minutes.

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At the time, I didn’t know what to think of Mr.Nash, but now I do. Nash has become more hungrier, grittier, and motivated since leaving for the Rangers. That’s part of the reason why he’s seen success in his new home – to the tune of 47 goals. Even though the Rangers trail the Los Angeles Kings 2-0 in the Stanley Cup final, one thing is for certain: Nash has finally gotten his wish to compete for a Stanley Cup title.

However, the Rangers gave up Dubinsky and Anisimov to the Blue Jackets, who have become a playoff team with the addition of Nathan Horton, and the sensational playing of Boone Jenner and Ryan Johansen. Yes, the Rangers got the guy they wanted in Nash, but they opened the door for the Blue Jackets to become a serious contender for an Eastern Conference crown.

Let’s take a moment to play the ‘what if’ game. Let’s say the Blue Jackets defeated the Penguins in seven games – which would have been pandemonium for the city of Columbus – and ended up facing the Rangers somewhere down the line in the playoffs. The Blue Jackets would want revenge for that faithful March 21st night, and would extract that revenge with a series playoff win.

That mentality is what will prevail the Blue Jackets to future success. No longer are the Blue Jackets anxious to see if they would make the playoffs  if they got some help from teams around them in the standings, but the Blue Jackets know they are a playoff team. The Blue Jackets made the postseason for the second time in franchise history this past season, and won two games from a heavily favored Penguins team. Give the Blue Jackets and offseason to regroup, and they become even more hungrier, and determined to not only make the playoffs, but to advance a round. If the Blue Jackets do make a successful campaign next season, the Nash trade will be considered the starting point to their winning ways.

In the end, everyone got what they wanted: Rangers got Nash; Blue Jackets got Dubinsky and Anisimov to build for a future. Both teams have huge dreams, like New York City big dreams. The Rangers are four games away from conquering that dream — granted they can come back from a 2-0 games deficit– and the Blue Jackets are preparing for a future that could attain the dream — and their first Stanley Cup. A little less than two years ago, the Nash trade to New York became reality. Now, the future is paved with bright futures –and lights– for both clubs.