New York Rangers: Will Rick Nash Be the City's New Whipping Boy?
If there’s one thing Rick Nash is going to learn rather quickly when he arrives in New York, it’s that patience is not an oft-found characteristic around these parts.
New Yorkers demand their newly acquired, high-priced players perform well early and often—and Nash wouldn’t be the first to let them down.
We've seen big-name, overpaid acquisitions crack under the pressure of the bright lights of Broadway far too often. It's such a frequent occurrence that a parody such as this must exist. What's to say Nash isn't next?
Between his ludicrous contract ($7.8 million cap hit over the next six seasons) and consistently declining numbers over the previous three seasons, it's impossible to not recall the heinous experiments that were Scott Gomez and Chris Drury. There was also the Wade Redden Project, Bobby Holik, Darius Kasperaitis, Theo Fleury—you get the point.
The parallels are inescapable.
All these players, as well as a host of others, received nonsensical wages from the Rangers. Unfortunately, instead of living up to their contracts, they flopped, were vilified by the Rangers' faithful and in many cases, saw their careers in New York cut short.
The only difference between them and Nash at the time of acquisition is that Nash was acquired in a trade, thus costing the Rangers assets.
Will Nash be able to justify the deal? Or is he destined to become another of New York’s high-priced failures?
What he has going for him is that this isn't a team struggling to find its identity, or a team that is expected to be in a dog fight to make the playoffs as it was when his predecessors were acquired.
Nash is a piece of a bigger puzzle; a puzzle John Tortorella has put together in which players are required to play systematically and be held accountable if they fail to do so. It’s an environment unlike anything we've seen at MSG since 1994, and it’s to thank for last year’s first-place finish and Eastern Conference Finals appearance.
Nash is also younger than nearly all of those previously named players when they were brought to New York. It’s true he’s had a disappointing run over the past three or four seasons, but people who believe he’s over the hill at 27 aren't taking everything into account.
Nash played for arguably the worst-run club in the league, and its inability to bring in top-end talent over the course of Nash’s tenure—the failed Jeff Carter experiment notwithstanding—has really put a dent in his numbers. Playing top-line minutes with Manny Malhotra and R.J. Umberger as your pivot will tend to have that kind of effect on one’s stats.
But with his new club, the talent is there. He doesn't have to be “the man” and the team’s only scoring option. He’ll finally have a proper playmaking center to play with (either Brad Richards or Derek Stepan) and the scoring load will be spread out between himself and the likes of Marian Gaborik, Ryan Callahan and rookie Chris Kreider.
So, Rick, it’s in your hands. You've been handed a golden opportunity to justify your elite-level contract on a team on the cusp of Stanley Cup glory. But here’s a tip for you: get going early, because if things get hairy right off the bat it’s going to take a whole lot to drown out the sound of those boos.
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