This week the Eastern Edge looks at what to expect from New York Rangers forward Rick Nash the rest of the way.
While the title may be a little harsh, super sniper Rick Nash is having trouble translating prior success from a less-celebrated outpost into numbers on the big stage on Broadway this season. The first overall selection in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft spent the first nine seasons of his NHL career with a less than memorable cast on the Columbus Blue Jackets.
When I look at where Nash sits in relation to the leaders in goals this year on Yahoo Sports!, I can just see him sitting at the very bottom of my computer screen, but only because my screen is a decently large 25 inches. Steven Stamkos has the same number of goals, 14, in half as many of Nash's 34 games. You know you're not having a great season when not one, but TWO Danish players can boast they have as many or more goals than you do!
Not counting his rookie campaign or last year's lockout shortened season, Nash has averaged 34 goals and 63.5 points over each of those eight seasons. This is a guy who has hit the 40 goal plateau twice, struck for 30 goals another five times and that doesn't include last year's lockout shortened 39 goal, 78 point pace (21 goals in 44 games). It seemed pretty obvious heading into this season that Nash would be a lock for 35, maybe even 40 goals and 75-80 points if things broke his way. To be fair, he is scoring at a 34 goal, 55 point pace so far this year, but obviously missing 17 games will cut into the bottom line. This is a guy who should be scoring at a tremendous clip, especially when you consider his pedigree and the fact that he is eating up $7.8 million worth of cap space per season through 2017-18.
When we look at his line-mates last season, his even-strength ice time was split pretty evenly amongst two of either Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin or Ryan Callahan. In his final season in Columbus, Nash played 25.8 per cent of his even-strength shifts with Derick Brassard and R.J. Umberger, and 19.24 per cent with Jeff Carter (another shoot first type of player) and a 63-year-old Vaclav Prospal. Over his last 10 games this season, Nash has played almost 75 per cent of his even-strength shifts beside Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan. He should be performing better than his overall numbers show.
Only once during his nine season tenure with the Blue Jackets, 2008-09, did the team finish with a winning record and made their one and only franchise playoff appearance. Interestingly enough, while a Nash-less Blue Jacket squad finished last season out of the playoffs, they did have a winning record and are above 0.500 this year without him.
Part of the problem might be mental, with Nash pushing hard to prove that he can play for a winner and be an integral part of the solution after spending so many years in a losing environment. It could also be that after starting the season with three points in his first three games, he suffered a concussion and missed the next 17 contests. Nash had one point in his first four matches upon his return, then had a little run of five points in three games to finish November. Unfortunately, December was unkind to Nash, where he only recorded three goals and seven points in 14 games. In his most recent eight games, he has seven goals, no assists, but I repeat, seven goals.
The 29-year-old looks to be rounding in shape just in time for the Olympics and maybe enough to help push you over the top in your fantasy pool. Just don't expect this proven high-end goal scorer to contribute with boat-loads of assists. While his best season ever was 39 helpers in 2008-09 (he still had more goals, 40), he is on pace for only 17 assists in 65 games this year. Nash has recorded more goals than assists six of his 10 NHL seasons to date.
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