What are you doing to me, Rick Nash? I come here to sing your praises and lift you up where you belong (or at least higher than the C you got last year), and what do I find? Going by basic stats alone, dude, in some ways, you look worse. How is this possible, when you were a monster all over the goddamn ice all goddamn season long (when the old groin wasn’t acting up, at least)?
There were nights when the rest of the New York Rangers’ offense looked less like they wanted to score goals and more like they were figuring out how to fold a fitted sheet. Nash, however, could always be counted on to crash the crease like a bear on bath salts.
Hell, there’s really no other word besides “beast” to describe the level of his two-way play and presence away from the puck. So then why ... ???
Statline: 14 goals (+6), 10 assists (-5), 24 points (same) in 67 (+7) games played, 46.58% CF (-.63) *
I was slightly stunned to see that Nash had only had 10 assists (at even strength in the regular season). Unlike Chris Kreider, who manages to be invisible then make magic, Nash is always present, always working. Still, his stats don’t seem to reflect that – not since 2013-14, anyway, which one can’t help but notice was also the last season he wasn’t sidelined by the sort of injury that, at his age, probably never fully heals.
As the only actual teacher writing these report cards, I’m going to run with this analogy. If Kreider is the surly Goth genius slumped in the back of the room, Nash is the Good Kid – he comes to class on time, does his homework, participates in discussion without taking over, and even smiles when he sees you on campus. His papers aren’t always exciting, but his hard work pays off in flashes of brilliance. Like a good class, a good team needs both types.
This isn’t to say that Nash doesn’t often excel. He creates space and is nearly impossible to push off the puck. He blows the rest of the Rangers away in SF60 (10.58), and comes in third for point production per 60 behind Michael Grabner and Kreider. (In a text exchange about this article, @DigDeepBSB referred to him as “Shooty McGoo,” and I’ll just leave that here.)
One could argue – and many will – that his output simply doesn’t equal his paycheck. I disagree. I think the team needs not only his relentlessness, but also his leadership, his consistency, and his gravitas (guys, this girl is a sucker for gravitas) to balance the dramatic ups and downs we saw so clearly in the playoffs. In spite of his age, if Nash can avoid injury and the defense improves significantly (which it’s going to, right? RIGHT??), I don’t think one more 30-goal season is out of the question. But I get the feeling I’m in the minority.
Final Grade: B
There’s more to the game than scoring goals, even for players who are paid to be goal scorers.
*All stats from regular season at even strength, courtesy of @hayyyshayyy and Corsica.hockey