Rick Nash was not on this writer’s list to make Team Canada, but ultimately, it had no effect on the final roster that was announced Tuesday morning after a lengthy Ted Cruz-like filibuster. Team Canada announced its 25-man roster for the Sochi Games on Tuesday, and to the surprise of many, Nash was chosen to represent his country.
He beat out worthy forwards such as Taylor Hall, James Neal, Claude Giroux and Logan Couture, all of whom are having better seasons than the Brampton, Ontario native. There was no explanation for the absence of these players, but one could assume that it doesn’t have anything to do with “sleepy skating.”
Ultimately, the choice won't be a popular one amongst NHL fans, but it appears that international experience and past performance played a role in his selection to Team Canada.
There is no sugarcoating from this keyboard when it comes to Nash. He was billed as a superstar when he was traded to the New York Rangers over the summer of 2012, but he hasn’t lived up to that billing on a consistent basis. The $7.8 million man has struggled mightily this season, and through 27 games, Nash has nine goals and nine assists for 18 points.
Nash battled through a concussion for the better part of the first half of the season, but there is no excuse for his streaks in which he has gone pointless. On the flip side, he is coming off a two-goal outing against his former team in the Columbus Blue Jackets, so things could be turning around for the 6’4”, 219-pound winger.
Despite his struggles, he has been a monster in international competition, and he has experience, which is something very important to Hockey Canada.
Whether it's been the World Championships or the Olympics, Nash has been in control and at the top of his game.
At the 2010 Olympics, Nash tallied five points in seven games as one of the team’s top scorers. He has also had success at the World Championships, including a Silver finish in 2005 and 2008 and a Gold finish in 2007.
In total, Nash has 53 points in 54 career games during international competition, 26 of which are goals. This resonates with the leaders of Hockey Canada, and chances are that they valued his international credentials more than his current struggles.
There is also the Sidney Crosby factor, because Nash happens to be a close buddy of Team Canada's poster child. There is a chance the two could play together in Sochi, but that remains to be seen.
Nash has also been one of the NHL’s top goal scorers. He is struggling this season, but statistically, he is one of the NHL’s top active leaders in goals per game. With 319 career goals in 745 games, Nash averages 0.428 goals per game, per Quant Hockey.
Canada is going to need some players that can put the puck in the net during the Sochi Games, and Nash has shown that he can do that with some consistency.
Another plus in favor of Nash is his size and skating ability. Here is how Nash stacks up with some of the forwards left off the roster.
|Size of Players Left off Team Canada|
|Martin St. Louis||5'8"||180 lbs|
|Claude Giroux||5'11"||172 lbs|
|Logan Couture||6'1"||196 lbs|
|Taylor Hall||6'1"||201 lbs|
|James Neal||6'2"||208 lbs|
He simply has the size advantage, and that may have factored into Hockey Canada’s decision, according to Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus and ESPN.
Nash making the roster is a controversial decision no matter how you slice it. There were a number of legitimate options that were snubbed from the roster. You could make strong cases for Neal, Martin St. Louis, Couture, Hall or countless others, but it is blatantly obvious that Nash made the team because of his name.
It isn't the right decision according to this writer, but as stated before, Team Canada didn't solicit my opinion.
Nash's reputation and past performances matter to Canada’s brain trust. It isn't likely Nash will be given a spot in the top-six to make an impact, but there is still a good chance he'll have an opportunity to prove his doubters wrong in Sochi.
Unless noted, all stats are via NHL.com.