2016 Report Card: Rick Nash
Rick Nash. When the Blueshirt Banter staff was laying claim to the players we would be writing report cards for something made me claim Nash. I'm still not sure why I reserved the right to write about #61, but I did. So here we are.
I see Rick Nash as an elite winger that generates offense like elite wingers are supposed to do. I also recognize that he plays very well away from the puck and that he gives the team a lot more than just goals and points.
I consider the 2015-16 season an off year for the 32 year old. After setting the world on fire two seasons ago, this "off year" looked a lot worse than it actually was. It has Rangers fans willing to part with Nash for all the wrong reasons, even if moving him and his contract might be the best thing for the club.
The 2014-15 season had almost all of the doubters and naysayers singing a very different tune about Nash. He scored 42 goals in 79 games and put up 15 points in 19 playoff games on an offensive rampage that helped bring the President's Trophy to New York. I made a point to say "almost all" of his doubters because I'm convinced that Nash could score a goal every other night and it still wouldn't enough for some Blueshirts fans.
The expectations and demands on Nash to produce and perform have been sky high since he came to New York. The weight of a "C" coming off of his chest probably helped some, but playing his home games in front of the fickle, zealous horde at Madison Square Garden has kept a large and bright spotlight on the former Blue Jacket.
Despite what you might have heard or might believe, Nash has been outstanding as a Ranger.
Clearly, Nash still created scoring chances and made things happen with the puck last season. He peppered the net with shots at even strength and drove possession. He created offense but simply didn't score goals at the rate we have come to expect. In 60 games Nash scored a modest 15 goals and 36 points.
A big part of the drop in his production and his low counting-stats totals can be attributed to the seven weeks he missed with a bone bruise in his leg.
"Legs feel good. You can work on cardio when you're hurt, but the game speed and the timing is tough. The only way [to get it back] is by playing more games. It's the hands. Picking up a pass, taking a shot. A few times already in the last few games I've had some great chances. Your instincts don't take over like they usually do. It just takes time to find your hands. Get your hands to do what your brain is thinking."
He had a shockingly low 5.47 shooting percentage at even strength which was made possible thanks to a few ghastly scoring slumps. The most prominent slump book-ended the time that Nash missed with his injury. From January 2nd to March 19th Nash went 14 games without scoring a goal. After scoring in back-to-back games and breaking that nightmare slump he scored three goals in his last 13 games of the season.
But Nash’s inconsistency wasn’t exclusive to the winter of 2016.
In his first 17 games last season Nash scored just two goals. He broke out of that slump with a hat trick (that included an overtime winner) on the road against the Panthers on November 21st. After that offensive eruption he scored in three straight games before hitting another six game scoring slump. To say that the 2015-16 season was a rollercoaster for Nash might be a bit of an understatement.
Great players are not immune from having bad seasons- just ask Jakub Voracek or Henrik Zetterberg. An "off year" for Nash doesn't make him a bad player, but it did have serious ramifications for the Rangers in both the regular season and in the playoffs.
Final Grade: C
His play away from the puck didn't do enough to take the sting away from his abysmal start and streaky production throughout the season. Nash's offensive numbers took a step in the wrong direction and his box score stats were gutted by a 5.47 even strength shooting percentage.
Despite still being a valuable forward even if and when he wasn't playing at 100% he just wasn't the Rick Nash that the Rangers needed in far too many games last season. Unfortunately, he might never get a chance to be that player again for New York.
So, how would you grade Nash’s 2015-16 season? Is a “C” too harsh? Too generous? Let me know what you think in the comments. Thanks for reading.