Rick Nash: The Perfect Fix for the Rangers Offensive Ills

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistJune 1, 2012

Will Rick Nash be lighting the lamp on Broadway next season?
Will Rick Nash be lighting the lamp on Broadway next season?Jeff Gross/Getty Images

As a Rangers fan one of the things you're unfortunately skilled at is quickly transitioning from playoff disappointment to building next year's club. While this exit certainly stung more than most, it is sadly something that has become ingrained in the collective culture of the franchise over the last several decades.

In the immediate aftermath of the Rangers defeat at the hands of the loathed—hated is not strong enough a word—New Jersey Devils, many fans were content to heal with platitudes. "It was a great season anyway," "who thought we'd be the one seed?," and "the future is bright, we are very young," were all familiar refrains. 

While that is all well and good, and might even help you feel better, none of it matters. Opportunities in the NHL are very few and far between. I'll bet you that Washington Capitals fans would've thought with Ovechkin and company they would have a Cup by now. Pittsburgh, despite having not one but two of the league's elite players, has only hoisted the Cup once in the post-lockout era.

How many Rangers fans thought coming out of a Cup win in 1994, with the roster largely intact, that more weren't on the way? 

The point is when you have a chance to cash-in, and the Rangers most certainly had that this year, you'd better do it cause that chance may never come back again.

The New York Rangers have a limited window of opportunity for success. Yes, much of their defensive core is young and yes they have up-and-coming young forwards. But perhaps the most crucial part of this team's success, goalie Henrik Lundqvist, isn't getting any younger.

Now 30 is certainly not old, not in the NHL anymore. But for a goalie with as many miles on him as Lundqvist, you need to give pause and wonder how many year's he will be able to perform at an elite level.

As much as we hate to admit it, not every goalie is Martin Brodeur and able to play injury-free at an elite level into his 40's. 

The Rangers brass owes it to their goalie and their fanbase to put a product on the ice capable of not only scoring goals but winning a Stanley Cup.  They owe them a genuine power forward who can light the lamp on a consistent basis. They owe them Rick Nash.

Now let's get all the criticism of Nash out of the way first. 

Yes, he has a massive cap hit and a long contract. That certainly is enough to give Rangers fans pause given the team's lack of success in this area in the past. Some have even dropped the death-knell of arguments in comparing this deal to those inked by Chris Drury and Scott Gomez.  

On that front relax. Were those awful contracts? Certainly. But if you had looked at the career numbers of both players you'd have seen that from the get go.

Drury had scored 30 goals twice in his career (his two previous years in Buffalo) and other than that was more of a 20-goal guy.

Gomez was more of a mid-to-high teens goal-scorer with a flare for assists. Neither of them ever had a shot to live up to the money, and expectations, piled upon them.

With an amnesty clause, similar to the NBA, currently under discussion in the new CBA this might be irrelevant anyway.

Another anti-Nash argument says the price will be too high. Sure the price will be high, but that's because there aren't a ton of Rick Nash's in the league to go around.  Most Rangers fans appear to be reluctant to give up a package built around Brandon Dubinsky, Michael Del Zotto and prospects.

If this is the only argument then there's no reason not to pursue this deal. We all love Brandon Dubinsky for his heart and effort. But let's not pull punches here. He has not lived up to what many in the Rangers organization expected him to be.

Over his career he has averaged 16 goals and 26 assists a season. All this for a $4.2 million dollar cap hit. There are a lot of players in the NHL that will give you that production for less money. 

As for Del Zotto, he has shown offensive brilliance at times. But his problem lies on the defensive end. He is small and gets pushed around, particularly behind the net. Worse yet he gets sulky and down on himself on the ice when things aren't going well.  Yes, that is youth and inexperience.

But the Rangers are currently stacked with young defensemen. With Tim Erixon and Dylan McIlrath in the system and expected to compete for roster spots next year that makes Del Zotto an expendable piece. Do we want to trade him? No, but to get quality you have to give something in return.

Over the course of his nine-year NHL career, all of it with the dreadful Columbus Blue Jackets, Nash has established himself as one of the league's most consistent scorers. 

In those nine seasons he has scored 40 goals twice and 30 or more five times. In his other two seasons, the first his rookie year, he netted 17 and 27 goals respectively. All of this has been accomplished with what could only be nicely put as a lack of stellar offensive talent around him.

He has been remarkably consistent in his tenure with Columbus. This past season, playing virtually alone, Nash pushed 30 goals past the goaltender and assisted on 29 more. This was for a Blue Jackets club that as a team only totaled 65 points, en route to the worst record in the league.

Things were so bad in Columbus that they finished 9 points behind Edmonton for worst record in the league. It wasn't even close. They were almost comically bad.

The landscape was devoid of any other offensive talent. Need proof? The second leading scorer on that team? Vinny Prospal. Yep, that Vinny Prospal.  

Rick Nash is the kind of player who has put up tremendous numbers without ever really having good talent around him to play with. With the New York Rangers, he will not have that problem. While many worry about him declining the minute he dons a Blueshirt, expect the opposite.

This is a player that may not solve all the Rangers problems. But he'll certainly make a big dent in them.


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