After a decade of playing in relative obscurity, setting franchise records and electrifying the Ohio faithful with his skill, Rick Nash is finally headed to Broadway. Nash has made only one playoff appearance since his 1st overall selection back in 2002, and that isn’t a huge surprise given the mediocre personnel built around him. Here’s the proof:
Most common linemates the past few years, via FrozenPools Most Frequent Line Combination Report Generator
Columbus was a city that Nash was devoted to, as evidenced by his eight-year extension signed with the Jackets back in 2009. However, the much-documented fresh start in New York is now set to begin. Of course, Mr. Nash’s Rangers debut may be further delayed just a tad, given the injury sustained while playing for HC Davos this fall in Switzerland. The injury also cost him participation in a top European tourney, the Spengler Cup. However, his groin injury is not believed to be serious and he isn’t expected to miss much (if any) time.
Nash’s track record speaks for itself, despite playing with below average running mates in his Columbus years. He has still managed to be among the NHL’s elite twine-finders, netting nearly 300 goals in parts of nine seasons.
Now, entering Broadway, Rick will naturally have the opportunity to play alongside elite set-up pivot Brad Richards. Whether or not this potential top line includes Gaborik on the opposite wing to create a super line rivaled only by the Ducks (Perry-Getzlaf-Ryan), or even if the trio is simply relegated to the man advantage, it will create opportunities Rick has never seen before (outside of the 2010 Canadian Olympic team, of course). Expect a return to the 40+ goal level for the newest blueshirt.
Take a peak at the Line production breakdown tool for incumbent top dollar goal scorer in New York, Marian Gaborik. Only half of Gaborik’s points attained came outside the help of Richards, as they had been split apart in even strength situations, despite the team planning on playing the two together. This shows the level of depth the Rangers already possessed before acquiring Nash, as they could afford to spread the offensive wealth throughout the lineup, with Richards propping up the likes of Carl Hagelin and Ryan Callahan much of the time.
The top six in Manhattan has become undeniably more dynamic with Nash’s addition, as there will now be two superstars lined up 100% of the time when either of the top two lines are on the ice. Naturally, this will allow for more production for Nash, regardless of whether or not Richards is on the ice with him (don't discount Derek Stepan). This should be a case where the sum of the parts are so great that intense synergy will almost occur by accident.
Of course chemistry is certainly key, and how Nash will adapt to the drastic change of scenery, media scrutiny and heightened expectations from the New York audience remains to be seen. Also, how Nash manages to integrate himself into the tough-as-nails system John Tortorella employs will still have to play itself out, but I certainly like the chances of the move to New York working out quite nicely for Nash (and the rest of the team).
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