At some point last week, I said I was done defending Rick Nash. I don't remember the context, or what spurred me to say this, but I really am getting tired of arguing to those too stubborn to accept any logic that Nash is an elite goal scorer, a huge key to the Rangers' future success, and that he's not getting traded.
And yet, they keep calling me back.
Last week, an article was published that I will not link to because I do not want to draw attention to it. Although it didn't argue Nash is a bad player (I don't see many people doing that), the conclusions it was making were downright ludicrous. Again, I don't want to get into the specifics too much, and I'm sure one of you enterprising commenters already knows or will easily find said piece and link it below. But needless to say, we've again got some explaining to do, again.
Since he became a New York Ranger, only four players in the league have a higher g/60 rate than Nash. That group? Just some bums named Evgeni Malkin, Jonathan Toews, Max Pacioretty, and Steven Stamkos.
Or take the opposite approach: Look at the players who Nash outpaces in terms of his 5v5 goal production. Guys like Corey Perry, Tyler Seguin, Phil Kessel, and, oh wait, everyone in the league except those four world class players.
Nash's lack of playoff production is another segment of this argument that pains me to address. No one, including myself, will ever make Nash's inability to score out to be a positive. But to be that singular in how you view his overall performance is ignoring many facts, and leaving out a good deal of context.
I'll try not to re-hash everything I wrote when Nash was getting crucified during the postseason, but I'll touch on some important points. A player doesn't accidentally take 83 shots in 25 playoffs games. The only way one can do that is by having the puck on his stick. Puck possession is good, in case anyone was trying to argue anything different. The other caveat to this of course is that by only scoring three times on those 83 attempts, Nash registered a criminally low sh%, especially for a player with a career sh% of 12.4. I could get into concepts like regression, and puck luck, but just understand the math, and the reality that Nash was undoubtedly snake-bitten in those later rounds and the tides would have soon turned in his favor.
Nash also played in all three phases of the game, until Alain Vigneault removed him from the power play in the Eastern Conference Final. Nash obviously wasn't the issue when the Rangers were skating with an extra man, as that special teams unit devolved into its Mike Sullivan days when the hockey mattered most. But Nash was out there killing penalties, and also very good below the center line in 5v5 situations. Those are elements of his postseason that are conveniently ignored.
And then there are those so inclined to wonder why Nash doesn't play hard enough. Why doesn't Rick Nash play hard enough? Why doesn't he get in a fight every night like he did in that game against the Blue Jackets? Is it Rick Nash's fault I woke up this morning with pain in my lower back?
The reason Nash hasn't scored more overall goals in his New York tenure is twofold: The Rangers power play has been really bad, and Nash has missed 21 games, or 16% of the Rangers schedule in that season-plus. Nash, who has been diagnosed with multiple concussions, was not brought into New York to fight, and for a player with that aforementioned history of head injuries, it would be downright dumb to invite opposing players to target his head.
The power play is something out of Nash's control. It's an area of the Rangers game plan that should improve this season—at least on paper—with the addition of Dan Boyle. But those other players listed before with Nash—Stamkos, Pacioretty, Toews, and Malkin—with the exception of Toews, have scored a lot more on the power play. Nash isn't even in the top 100 when it comes to power play goals scored by a single player since he joined the Rangers. Anyone want to argue he's not a top 100 scorer in this league?
If anything, this season is shaping up to be a coming out party (if you can even call it that) for Nash. Aside from what should be an improved power play, he's playing alongside to young, talented, and developing players in Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider. Stepan is in a contract year, and attempting to play his way into Ryan O'Reilly money. Kreider is entering the first year of a bridge deal, and showed major signs of growth last season. Heck, the Rangers top line could—dare I say—be better this season.
Nash is good at hockey, and I'm hoping this is the last time I have to make this argument. Unfortunately, we all know it won't be.