Rick Nash was all heart with the Rangers
Former Rangers forward, Rick Nash, has just announced his retirement from the NHL. Nash, who last played for the Boston Bruins in the second round of the 2018 playoffs, had been sidelined due to the continuous effects of taking one too many blows to the head.
He, apparently, was sitting out this current season because he was waiting to see if the constant headaches and dizziness would subside and it would be safe to resume his hockey playing career. After careful deliberation with his doctors and his family, the man known as ‘Nasher” with the Twitter handle of “Nashty” has decided to error on the side of caution and hang up his stick and skates and end his professional NHL career.
Rick Nash was the first overall selection in the 2002 NHL draft. When the Columbus Blue Jackets made their pick, they thought they were getting a post Y2K version of Eric Lindros. They thought they were getting a rare player whose unique skill set of size, speed, hands and skating ability would help turn the team that played in Ohio’s state capital into a Stanley Cup contender. Unfortunately, for the Blue Jackets, things simply did not work out with Nash and the team that drafted him. Nash wanted out of the Buckeye State and demanded to be traded to a contending organization.
In July of 2012, Glen Sather, who was then the Ranger general manager, made the Blue Jackets an offer they couldn’t refuse and the two franchises consummated a blockbuster trade that sent Nash to Broadway. At that time, the Rangers were coming off a 2012 season that saw them finish first overall in the Eastern Conference and go all the way to game six of conference finals before losing to Adam Henrique and the New Jersey Devils.
When Nash was acquired in the summer of 2012, he was thought to be the quintessential final piece of the puzzle. He was thought to be the game breaking offensive force that would turn one goal losses into one goal wins. Ranger fans finally felt that they had a legitimate premier player, the likes of which they hadn’t seen since Jaromir Jagr re-wrote the team’s record books six years prior. With the hulking Nash on board and with a roster loaded with quality veterans, and of course, Henrik Lundqvist in goal, the Rangers were in full go-for-it mode with realistic Stanley Cup aspirations.
Nash certainly did not disappoint (in the regular season that is). In 375 regular season games, Nash lit the lamp 145 times for the Blueshirts including a 42 goal effort in the 2014-15 Rangers President’s Trophy winning season. Nash was a presence on the ice. When he had the puck in the offensive zone, you always found yourself moving to the edge of your seat in anticipation of greatness. Nash’s skill sets, which made him the number one overall selection in 2002, were on full display more often than not. And, when he wasn’t scoring goals, Nash was routinely the team’s best defensive forward and gave dogged, consistent effort that would have made Adam Graves proud.
The rub on Nash, the reason why many of you were probably shaking your heads while I was waxing poetic about #61, is his lack of playoff goal scoring. Nash averaged 39 goals per 82 game regular season during his six year tenure with the Rangers. However, in the playoffs, Nash’s production slipped significantly. He scored just 14 goals in 73 playoff games while wearing the Broadway Blue. And, he didn’t have single tally in the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals. A series in which the Rangers lost three heartbreaking, gut-wrenching games in overtime. If Nash had just found a way to score a goal in one of the extra sessions, maybe, the result of that excruciatingly painful series would have been a bit different.
The ever-lasting memory of Nash, the epitome of his failures in the 2014 Finals was in game five, in double overtime, when, with just under eleven minutes left in the second extra stanza, Nash had the puck on his stick to the left of King’s goalie Jonathan Quick. Quick had taken himself well out of position leaving, literally, the entire 6 foot by 4 foot net wide open. Nash one-times a Derek Stepan pass towards the yawning cage. The puck ends up missing the net entirely, going well wide and play continued. Ranger fans were dumbfounded as to how that puck didn’t go in. When we saw the replay, we found out the answer. Kings defenseman Slava Voynov turned to his left just as Nash tried to net the overtime winner. Some how, the puck glanced off of Voynov’s stick and caromed wide. It was a fluke, my friends. But, that was the puck luck that Nash had in the playoffs.
Many Ranger fans will use his rather pedestrian offensive playoff stat line when they debate his merits as a member of the Blueshirts. I find that to be extremely unfortunate. You see, Nash is just one of three Rangers to have a 40 goal season since 1996. Nash brought an omnipresent presence each and every time he suited up for the red, white and blue. Nash gave effort. Nash gave resiliency. Nash gave leadership. Nash made the players around him better. And, for a franchise that has had way too many big ticket players stop caring once they signed on the dotted, Nash came to play as consistently as any player I’ve seen in my 40+ years of watching hockey.
In my view, Nash was a good Ranger. Not a great one, but a good one. We will never know how successful his run on Broadway could have been if not for the plethora of concussion he sustained. One thing I do know is, and I can say this with certainty, if some of the other big ticket Rangers that preceded Nash had played with the heart and determination that he constantly displayed, the franchise would have won more than just one Stanley Cup in going on 79 years.