Let's get this out of the way at the top: Rick Nash is an elite hockey player.
If you're about to rush into the comments section to disagree with me, save it. I'm not in the mood for a debate about this because there really isn't a debate to be had.
Since 2008 Nash has a scored 0.43 goals per game. That's 10th best in the NHL over that span. At the top of the list are names like Alexander Ovechkin (0.60), Steven Stamkos (0.57) and Sidney Crosby (0.52). Other notable names are Evgeni Malkin (0.45), Phil Kessel (0.44) and Marian Gaborik (0.43).
The players all of you have been clamoring for? Guys like Patrick Sharp (0.39), Bobby Ryan (0.39), James Neal (0.39) and Eric Staal (0.37) are all below Nash's goal scoring ability over that span. Sure, some of the guys in the first paragraph might provide more total offense, but we're not talking about anything other than goals right now. The Rangers have playmakers in guys like Martin St. Louis, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard. What the Rangers need more of is goal scorers. Chris Kreider will hopefully fix that problem. St. Louis helps in that department, too. But Nash is the guy the Rangers can -- and should -- rely on for their main goal scoring needs.
Just to end this argument before it starts: What about before 2008? Well if you go back to when Nash entered the league in 2005-2006 he actually jumps up to ninth in the NHL with 0.44 goals per game over that span.
In his tenure with the Rangers, Nash has 47 goals and 34 assists for 81 points in 109 games. That includes an injury last year that kept him out for 16 games and had him playing not like himself for another 10. Even with the injury and subsequent "not himself games" Nash still scored at a 32-goal clip. In the lockout shortened season Nash scored at a 40-goal pace. He hasn't been anything but what the Rangers have needed him to be in the regular season.
But there, my friends, is the catch. The final four words of that sentence are what every single protester is currently screaming in their heads (or our loud). In the regular season. Yes, Nash's playoff resume has been a disappointment from a goal-scoring standpoint. No one is disagreeing there.
What annoys me on a level that's difficult to convey to you properly here is the notion that Nash was an anchor rather than a motor for the Rangers' playoff run to the Stanley Cup Final last year. Nash was worth 10 points through the Rangers' 23 games, with only three goals. Yes, he needs to score more goals than that to make an offensive difference, but can we drop this ridiculous ideology that he was totally invisible? Nash led the Rangers with 83 shots in those 23 games. The next closest player was Brad Richards with 74 then it trailed off to Carl Hagelin with 56.
In the playoffs Nash's shooting percentage was 3.6%. His career average is 12.4%. Read that again. Nash shot 8.8% worse in the playoffs this year than his career average. If he shot at his career shooting percentage in the playoffs he would have scored 10 goals. Are we really saying he's so bad in the playoff that his shooting percentage drops nearly 9%? Is that even an argument you can make in the realm of logic and reality? Short answer: No. Long answer: I always use the "is the player still generating chances" rule of thumb. Nash was doing that despite not scoring.
Nash's deployment in the playoffs was also more defensive no matter how you slice it. In the regular season he was deployed in the offensive zone 34.8% of the time, while watching that percentage drop to 29.5% in the playoffs. During the regular season he saw 2:29 worth of power play time a night. In the playoffs that total dropped to 2:10 a night. Not a dramatic drop off, but a drop off all the same.
These are the facts about Nash people love to forget:
- Since 2008, only seven players have scored more goals than Rick Nash.
- The Rangers have exactly two players on their roster right now -- or in the system who might be ready next year -- who comes anywhere close to having Nash's goal scoring ability. They are Chris Kreider and Martin St. Louis. That's it. End of list.
- Last year Nash had nine game winning goals. Next closest? Carl Hagelin, with five.
- Last year Nash was second on the team with 258 shots. Brad Richards led everyone with 259 shots. Derek Stepan (who people think is too much of a pass-first center) was third with 199. Ryan McDonagh comes next with 177 shots. (St. Louis' totals between the Lightning and Rangers was 204.)
This argument isn't meant to gloss over his playoff issues on offense. I agree with everyone yelling that his playoff totals are not where they need to be. I maintain he was injured his first postseason with the Rangers (not getting surgery doesn't mean he's fully healthy) and I think this past postseason had more to do with luck than it did with him "not being an impact player in big moments."
Let me put it to you this way: If Player X had a 10% career shooting percentage over nine seasons and then in the playoffs that total jumped up to 19% for one season would you automatically assume Player X is a 19% shooting percentage player in the playoffs because he did it once? No. You'd expect the number to regress to the mean.
In Nash's case, it works the opposite way. His number will jump from that 3.6% to around his career average.
Again, don't fly into the comments section and yell at me about how useless is here. There are people out there who believe Sather made the wrong decision by buying out Richards and keeping Nash. That's a serious comment. People really believe that.
So sit back and enjoy what you have in Nash. The Rangers need him. They need his goal-scoring and they need his talent. And if you like the team, you want them to be successful.
Well, they need Nash to be successful. So you need him too.