Was Breakup Day Goodbye for Rick Nash?

If the world learned anything about the Rangers in this playoff season, it’s that they are mercurial. Some nights they tick like a Swiss clock, while others they seem to have met for the first time moments before puck drop.

We saw that inconsistency in the players, as well. Chris Kreider was at the top of his game maybe 75 percent of the time (and that feels generous). I maintain that, due to Alain Vigneault’s tinkering with both their lines and their minds, we no longer know exactly who J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes are; I hope they figure that out before next season. And Nick Holden demonstrated the dubious ability to morph from a sniper at one end of the ice into a lamppost at the other.

But Rick Nash is always Rick Nash. He’s a force in both zones. He is the only forward other than Michael Grabner who consistently goes to the net, and his size and power assures he’ll get there. On a team haunted by consistency issues, Nash is relentlessly reliable. He knows his game and he plays it, either in concert with or in spite of whatever else is going on around him.

We all know the old story: Rick Nash doesn’t score in the playoffs — only 15 playoff goals in 77 postseason games, in fact. However, he scored 20 percent of those this season. He was an absolute beast against Montreal ...

... and a few good bounces in his many attempts against Ottawa could have changed the outcome. (I maintain that NYR didn’t get a single good bounce that entire series.)  Still, we got this:

I mean, damn. At 32, except for the expected non-surgical wear and tear, Nash shows little sign yet of slowing down or tapering off.

From his interview on breakup day, however, you would have thought he was Jagr-aged. He knows his game; he’s probably hit his ceiling; at that point, he explained, there’s only one thing left to want for yourself and your team: “As you get older, the only thing is the Cup ... when you’re younger, you can say it was a good year, you gained some experience, but for older guys ... we didn’t get that job done.”

John Giannone asked how different the team might look in September, and Nash’s  response indicated pretty clearly where his concerns lie. “I hope I’m here to see it. You leave that up to management ... if you worried about that all summer, you’d drive yourself crazy.” He made a point of adding that “I love being a Ranger. New York is home for me now.”

It doesn’t take a degree in psychology to discern that there’s a good chance Nash will be driving himself crazy all summer. And it is heartbreaking that the organization will likely lose a two-way player who contributes constantly and who keeps his head when the rest of the Rangers seem to have lost their minds, to balance the checkbook.

To me, Nash feels like the wrong piece to lose right now, even if it’s for the right reasons. He’ll be one of many players to fall into the crack between the ice and the office, his commitment and his contract. (NYR to Nash: “It’s not you. It’s us.”)

Giannone’s response was somewhat baffling: “Do you say that in jest? Do have legitimate concern that you won’t be here?” (With all due respect, John, do you usually see a lot of “jesting” on breakup day?) Nash backtracked, clarifying that he “had no idea ... I plan to be here.” By then, though, it sounded less than convincing. He knows that, at this point, the “plan” is out of his control.

Backtrack aside, Nash used his breakup day interview to say exactly what he meant. And it sounded a lot like goodbye.

Special thanks to Shayna for the .gifs!