Rick Nash was the New York Rangers’ leading scorer this past season. Moving him would be a mistake. The 6’4 winger is a force in all three zones and is one of just three players to surpass 40 goals this past season.
Through 79 games in the 2014-2015 regular season, Nash posted a whopping 42 goals and 27 assists. Consider that he was a +29 and you can appreciate just how diverse his game is. He was a threat to score in any situation, posting 32 goals at even strength, six on the power play, and four while short-handed. His size, speed, and puck control all jump off the page, but what holds it all together is how well he thinks the game. In the video below, the Rangers are shorthanded, watch how he reads the play, creates separation, and then picks a great spot while flying.
Nash had 14 points in 19 post-season contests, what’s deceptive about the numbers is that all those points came in eight games. Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault spoke on the Michael Kay show, about his star wingers playoff performance, saying, “I do know that Nasher feels the pressure to be a difference maker and to be a guy who can be counted on in pressure situations. I believe the last two runs he has gotten better and he will get better, because he cares, and puts in the time, and has the talent.” Nash certainly took a step forward from his 2014 playoffs. The Rangers made it to the finals to take on the Los Angeles Kings, but Nash only had 3 goals and 7 assists. That year he was still a three zone player, but was really struggling to score. This past post-season he was much more effective in the offensive zone. Even when he wasn’t scoring he was creating. So fans should be encouraged by his step forward.
Ken Hitchcock, who used to coach number 61 in Columbus, spoke well of the winger to the New York Post, after referencing his incredible work on the walls, Hitchcock said “Rick gets beaten up for not scoring, but that’s only part of the game,”
Often times, critics of Nash explain that the big winger wasn’t brought here to play defense, but his dedication to playing a 200-foot game speaks to his character and his determination to win. Nash spoke to Dan Rosen during the 2014 Stanley Cup Final about playing a well-rounded game even when he wasn’t scoring. “Am I supposed to score goals?…Yeah,” Nash Explained “but we need everyone to score goals to win games, myself included. When you’re not scoring you’ve got to help out other ways: penalty kill, defensively. It’s just the way it works when you’re on championship teams.” The winger uses his size, and legs to back check, and push the other teams top guys into the Rangers defense. He is always sticking his nose in battles on the wall, and hounding puck carriers. The 2002 first overall pick is one of the few great goal scorers, that works relentlessly in all three zones. I appreciate him, because he knows when to start leaving the zone to create offense, and when to tighten it up and play defense.
What Would Be the Return?
Big names pass through the rumor mill, it’s just the way the NHL works. But for all of the fans who have jumped on the “trade Nash” bandwagon, I beg you to come up with a trade that even makes sense for the New York Rangers as an organization; considering their trying to win a Stanley Cup in the next few years. Almost any package for the big winger would have to include multiple pieces, which the Rangers don’t necessarily need right now. If you look around the blue shirts line up, you’ll notice that, they are fine on defense, and they have the goal-tending. The only thing you could argue that they need is a boost on offense.
The proposal is ludicrous, because it suggests that the organization should trade their most productive player during their regular season, and 2nd most productive player during the post-season, for offense. So would the Rangers be better off trading Nash for two 20 goal guys, and a draft pick? Sure the Rangers would be “deeper” in theory, but they would be back in the position where they lack the big game breaking skill forward. You look at this team up front and they have good depth, so adding a couple of more forwards, would kind of be like having too many cooks in the kitchen. If the Rangers are lacking anything, it’s another big scorer. So moving the one you already have wouldn’t remedy the issue.
Say what you want about number 61 for the Rangers, but the fact is, he saved his best for the conference finals, and put up big numbers in two separate games to get the Rangers wins in that series. I pulled up the video below, because Nash shows a little bit of everything, and the goal he scores is an important one.
I understand when fans get frustrated at a player who appears to be giving it less than his all, but that player isn’t Nash. Yes his scoring hasn’t been what it should be in the post-season, but it isn’t as though he’s sagging around the ice feeling sorry for himself. He’s throwing his body, getting in shooting lanes, and taking hits to make plays in all areas of the ice. Fans need to realize that the big winger is the primary target of the opposition. I feel like people think he is the only forward who struggles to find offense at times.
Look at Evgeni Malkin this past post-season, through five games against the Rangers he had zero points, and was really a non-factor all over the ice. But the year before he had 14 points in 13 games. Corey Perry is another example, this year he had an impressive 18 points in 16 games, but have a look back at the 2012-2013 campaign, and Perry only had 2 assists in a 7 game series. The point is, big stars get shut down sometimes, what you need to look at is their scoring chances and overall game.
I understand that the Rangers are strapped for cap space, but the fact is, guys who score goals, get paid on the same level as Nash who has a cap hit of $7.8 million per year. Alex Ovechkin who led the league in goals with 53, has a cap hit of $9.5 million, and Steven Stamkos who finished the year second in scoring with 43, has a cap hit of 7.5 million. The reality is that your going to have to pay your stars, moving Nash would be a huge step backwards for this club; there is a reason that rumors have almost every team in the NHL interested in him.