"You just call on me brother, when you need a hand. We all need somebody to lean on."
This legendary line from the classic 1972 song "Lean on Me" by Bill Withers wasn't written with New York Rangers power winger Rick Nash in mind. However, it certainly applies to Broadway's newest player, and what he should be able to do for his teammates.
The July 23rd deal that brought the 6'4" sniper to Gotham will undoubtedly change the complexion of the team, from being a group of grinders to that of a more offensive-minded, skating outfit. The extra octane Nash will provide is desperately needed.
And even though heart-and-soul players such as Brandon Prust and Brandon Dubinsky are gone, this team has forged an unshakable and undeniable identity built upon the foundation of hard work, teamwork and dedication. It's an environment where Nash, a five-time NHL All-Star, should thrive.
His new teammates are counting on it.
Center Brian Boyle commented at blueshirtsunited.com, "Obviously (Nash) is an elite player, and he's going to help us, for sure." The big pivot also added, "I'm excited he's going to be a part of our team."
Here's the bottom line: Everyone in the Rangers lineup will be counting on the former Columbus Blue Jacket captain to pull his weight, all 219 pounds of it, and then some. But there are five players in particular who'll lean on him the most.
Read on to find out who they are.
Brad Richards, the Rangers' No. 1 center, had 25 goals and 41 assists last season. Those numbers should go up if Nash, a player who has averaged 30 goals per season during his NHL career, is skating by his side.
This is a player whom Richards is familiar with, as both skated for Team Canada at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
And Broadway Brad is looking forward to having Nash on his team yet again. “It’s what we need,” Richards told Jason Malloy of The Guardian, a Prince Edward Island newspaper. “He’s one of the best scorers and power forwards in the league."
As of next season, the pressure will be off right winger Marian Gaborik to be the lone Ranger who can light the lamp with regularity. When he returns to the Blueshirts lineup after recovering from offseason surgery to repair his right shoulder, he'll have big Mr. Nash as the opposition's focal point up front.
Ultimately, that should result in more golden opportunities for the Slovakian sniper.
Even though Rangers captain Ryan Callahan and alternate captains Brad Richards and Marc Staal provide a powerful presence on and off the ice, it never hurts to have other leaders to lean on. Nash wore the "C" for the Blue Jackets from 2008 through last season, so he knows a thing or two about keeping his group galvanized.
Callahan will in turn help Nash adjust to the pressures of playing for an Original Six franchise, as well as the crowd at Madison Square Garden, which chanted "We don't want you!" at a game last February before the trade deadline.
In the spirit of the Summer Olympic Games, the torch will be passed. This time, from one power forward to another.
Rick Nash will give the rookie Chris Kreider some much-needed advice throughout the coming season and beyond. Along with learning how to play in all three zones thanks to the tutelage of head coach John Tortorella, sage advice from No. 61 could enhance the amazing Kreider-man's development exponentially.
Rick Nash can put the biscuit in the basket, folks.
And that should be the difference in breaking open many close contests, ultimately taking the pressure off Henrik Lundqvist to be air-tight every night. The King's margin for error was microscopic last season, as the Rangers scored two goals or fewer in 33 out of 82 regular-season contests.
With newcomer Mr. Nash in the lineup, that should no longer be the case.