Rick Nash Traded to the New York Rangers: 5 Things We've Learned from This Mess
Rick Nash is no longer a Columbus Blue Jacket.
The New York Rangers finally pulled the sword out of the stone after months of negotiations—including stalled talks at the trade deadline that lead to some sour feelings between general managers. All it took was Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first-round draft pick in the end, and the Blue Shirts got their man.
It will take some time to determine a winner and a loser in this trade, if it ends up that clear cut at all. When first round picks are involved, things can get a bit tricky. If you're a "the team that gets the best players wins a trade" advocate, then the Rangers win this hands down.
Yet, there is more to this deal than meets the eye.
After all of the hooting and hollering, there are a few things that everyone could learn from the entire process. Here are five things that we can all take away from a Rick Nash saga that, at times, matched Battlestar Galactica or the Walking Dead in melodrama and he-said-she-said hoopla.
Rick Nash Was Never Meant to Be the Cornerstone of a Franchise
This is going to be disappointing news to New York Rangers fans.
They may argue, and some may even make good points in their disputes. But the simple truth, however, is this: When Rick Nash isn't scoring goals, he is a ghost. He's see-through. A complete and total non-factor in hockey games that he was payed to alter.
He doesn't backcheck. He doesn't block shots or play the game below the hash marks like a guy his size could (or should). He doesn't lead by example with any kind of determination in his eyes, and has always seemed much more comfortable when the spotlight is on others.
And that's fine. The conclusion is the same though.
Rick Nash just isn't the kind of player you can build a franchise around. He lacks the intangibles that are required to lead and to win at the highest level. Think of what Steve Yzerman did for the Detroit Red Wings or what Mark Messier did for the Rangers in '94 and understand that in Nash, you get none of those forged-in-fire traits that separate the physically talented players from the truly great ones.
I can hear the boo-birds already. "He was a Columbus Blue Jacket!" people will say. "Who would play hard for them?"
Someone who is wired to win—someone who is brimming with competitive spirit—will skate, and skate hard regardless of standings or scores. Brandon Dubinsky will skate hard for the Columbus Blue Jackets. That's the kind of player he is.
So will Jack Johnson, Vinny Prospal, James Wisniewski and the rest of the squad that Nash just couldn't be bothered to bring himself up to 100 percent for.
No Trade Clauses Can Destroy the Assets of a Team
This photo was taken in 2007.
During that season, neither the Columbus Blue Jackets nor the Vancouver Canucks would have imagined moving forward without Rick Nash or Roberto Luongo in their colors, respectively.
That would explain why both teams had both All-Star caliber players locked up to lengthy, lucrative contracts. Five years later, both teams and both players are doing their best to move on.
Both Luongo and Nash went public with their desires to be moved. Both have been, at different junctures, massive distractions to the teams that are paying them millions (and millions) of dollars to play a game. Both have failed to live up to their contracts. Both have let legions of fans and teammates down by seemingly just not caring enough.
Just like in any other avenue of life or business, these contracts between player and team represent a relationship. These long-term deals boil down to marriages. And let's be honest—most often, over the course of a decade, feelings and circumstances around a relationship change.
So if the forgone conclusion is that, in the long run, this deal probably won't work out for the next 14 years (and when has it?), why do teams continue to shell out no-trade clauses to their top assets?
Granted I have never been in a negotiation room while a top-tier player agent and general manager try to come to terms that make sense for both sides. Perhaps giving a NTC knocks a million off of a cap hit. Or whatever.
Long term, I just don't ever see these clauses working out for the teams that give them. Maybe after the debacles of Luongo and Nash (compared to the ease the deals of Mike Richards or Jeff Carter went through) will show that maybe it isn't wise to lock up human beings to a 12 year deal guaranteeing them $7.5 million dollars regardless of performance. And on top of that, giving them a choice of where they'd like to go in the event that the business relationship doesn't work out. For the next decade.
That's an awful lot of power and faith. Too much in my eyes.
Glen Sather Is One of the Slickest General Managers in Hockey
Don't confuse being slick for being the best. I'm just giving credit where credit is due. I've never had a conversation with Glen Sather, but I'm sure if he wanted to, he could convince lesser mortals to eat their own noses just to spite their faces.
Or to trade their franchise player for a top-six forward, third liner, prospect and first-round draft pick.
This may or may not be a heist. Scott Howson managed to do something very important with this deal—something I will touch on in the next slide. Yet it's hard to ignore the fact that Sather didn't give up any huge, game changing NHL-caliber players or a top-tier prospect to acquire Rick Nash.
Almost as impressive as dealing Scott Gomez for something more than a 30 pack of Rolling Rock.
This isn't an all-in move. This isn't a trade that empties the pipeline of prospects heading to New York, and it doesn't remove a mainstay from their top six forwards or top four defensemen. And it doesn't remove any kind of goaltending from the system.
A lot of guts went the other way, sure. Yet Sather managed to make his team better without giving up short or long term assets. He walked a fine line here and could very well end up with a Stanley Cup because of it.
Maybe Scott Howson Finally Gets It
I make my living as a barista, believe it or not. If I were as ineffective and terrible at that job as Scott Howson is at his I would have been unceremoniously fired months ago. We both have our jobs though—perhaps some kind of miracle from the hockey gods—and in this deal, maybe we start to see that Howson gets it.
Or at least that he understands the game hockey a little bit. That wins come from the collective of the guys wearing the same colors and not from a few talented individuals.
A team that buys into an identity doesn't need a roster full of gamebreakers like the Rangers have assembled. And in moving the, at best, lackadaisical Rick Nash, Howson perhaps has shown his first flash of understanding.
Or at least that he's watched a hockey game or two in his day.
Let's not get started on Columbus and the team's outright inability to draft an NHL-quality player, much less a super star. Or that he thought that the party-hardy Jeff Carter was going to be the angel to solve his problems.
This deal means all those mismanaged deals are in the past now.
That doesn't mean that Howson should and will retain his job. He shouldn't. He's been hands down the worst GM in hockey for a few years running. Yet the contingent of attitude and island of misfit toys mentality that could blossom in Columbus could make years of futility worth it.
The Columbus Blue Jackets Have Changed Their DNA for the Better
Rick Nash was a cancer.
Not necessarily because he wasn't a good player, but because he represented everything that the Blue Jackets needed to leave behind. Unfulfilled promise. Lack of anything resembling clutch performances. No toughness. No determination. No will.
In ditching Nash for Brandon Dubinsky, Columbus has a chance to acquire a new identity in full.
Everyone knows what Dubinsky brings to the table. Anyone expecting him to come in and pick up the offensive slack that Nash leaves is going to be sadly disappointed. Anyone expecting to see way more attitude, shot blocking, diving plays, sticking up for teammates and last ditch efforts will not be.
Dubinsky is the perfect piece to the puzzle that Howson has been assembling over the last 14 months or so. He has the attitude that is needed to turn things around in Columbus.
When the team signed James Wisniewski last summer, they were adding an offensive blueliner with a serious chip on his shoulder. Expect him to rebound after an awful first season in Columbus. They also added bluechip defender Jack Johnson in a deal with the LA Kings. While the pair may leave a little to desire in their own end, they both understand and embrace their roles as leaders for the Jackets.
Something Nash never did.
Sergei Bobrovsky could be the number one netminder come October. That'd be terrifying to some teams, but he's a serious upgrade from the enigmatic, moody and awful Steve Mason. Plus he has a lot to prove. He has a chip on his shoulder.
Do you see a theme developing here?
Nick Foligno seems ready to be a part of the solution in Columbus. He's saying the right things in the media, and he isn't rejecting his trade to a Midwest hockey team like some other rich crybaby was at this same time last season.
Adrian Aucoin isn't the top-two pairing that he used to be, but he (also) brings a few pink slips of rejection to the table. More fuel to the fire that could be building up for this consistently disrespected, laughing stock of a franchise.
Ryan Murray will make the team out of training camp, and guys like Aucoin and Vinny Prospal will install the right attitudes about winning in him. As opposed to what would have happened last summer, where Murray would have come to camp and witnessed his Captain and All-Star winger moping and hoping for a trade.
Some teams may have room for an overpaid drama queen. The Blue Jackets aren't among them.