Rick Nash is under contract to be a Ranger until the 2017-18 season at a cap hit of $7.8 million a year and he is now experiencing what most believe to be his second concussion since becoming a Ranger. Nash, 29 years old, cost the Rangers a lot two offseasons ago and by "a lot" I mean it cost the Rangers Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon, and their 2013 first round pick (Kerby Rychel).
When Rick Nash is healthy he's a game changer. His rare combination of size, speed, and skill often overwhelm opposing defenders. When he's on top of his game he is capable of being the best player on the ice, no matter who the opposition is. The problem is, since becoming a Ranger, Nash has spent far too much time wearing a suit instead of a Rangers jersey. Nash missed four games last season due to injury though he should have missed more due to a concussion. And now, just eight months after his first concussion, all signs point to Nash suffering another concussion while wearing a Rangers jersey after taking a Brad Stuart shoulder to the head in the Rangers demoralizing 9-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks on October 8th.
It is my feeling that Nash is going to miss significant time and, in my opinion, he should. The Rangers must play it as safe as possible with Nash and his concussion issues not only because of what it cost to make Nash a Ranger but because he's only a force to be reckoned with when he's healthy. We all remember how ineffective he was in the 2013 NHL Playoffs when he was playing hurt and out of sorts. There's also the whole, "protect yourself so you don't do irreversible damage to your brain" thing but that goes without saying... or at least I hope it does. When Nash returns he must be protected not only by the team but by himself.
I never want to see Rick Nash fight again.
I want someone in the organization to explain to him that his hands are worth more money in a hockey season than most people will ever see in their lifetimes. The last thing his hands should be doing is connecting with Martin Hanzal's face in a bare-knuckle boxing match. I appreciate that Nash plays with emotion and that he wants to make an impact on the game if he isn't scoring but it's time for Rick to protect himself and his career. And it's time for the Rangers coaching staff and management to pressure him into doing it if he isn't willing to do that himself.
After Henrik Lundqvist, there is no player that is as important to the success of the team as Nash is. When Nash returns, which I hope is only after he is 100% healthy (no matter how long that takes), I hope we see him play with more concern for his health, safety, and his life after hockey.
Just to be clear, I wouldn't call Nash a reckless player. He doesn't have a devil-may-care approach to the game but he is a very physical player and doesn't shy away from the dangerous areas of the ice with and without the puck. I don't want him to change how aggressive he is in the offensive zone but I do want to see him exercise more caution now that he has suffered two concussions in less than a calendar year (the first being suffered from a Lucic hit on February 12th). I'd like to see him protect himself better, I'd like to see him never drop the gloves again, and I'd like to see him have a long, fruitful career as a Ranger and a wonderful life after he is done playing hockey. Concussions must be taken seriously. Just so we're all clear, a "concussion" is a brain injury. No brain injury is insignificant. And though the Rangers neglect to call Nash's recent "head injury" a concussion the Rangers beat writers all agree that Nash has indeed suffered his second concussion in eight months.
Get well Rick, the Rangers need you. But before you step back on the ice wearing Broadway Blue please remember that what the team really needs is a healthy Rick Nash that protects himself and doesn't take needless risks. Let's hope that the organization does the right thing and lets Rick fully recover before pushing him back into the lineup. Growing up, Nash was always my favorite non-Ranger, I still have his hockey card on a tackboard near my computer. I always held my breath when he had the puck as a Blue Jacket. Now that he's a Ranger, I don't want to find myself holding my breath when he gets the puck for the wrong reasons.
Let's go Rangers.