Rick Nash is set to return to the New York Rangers‘ lineup this week over a month after suffering a concussion in a game against the San Jose Sharks. It will be the first time this season the Rangers put their complete lineup on the ice. Nash is the most lethal and talented scorer on the roster. As long as he stays healthy he will give the Rangers the type of scoring threat they need in critical moments, especially later in the season. However, this does not solve the Rangers’ primary problem.
Sunday night’s 1-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings exposed a major flaw in the Ranger roster: secondary scoring. Mats Zuccarello is a nice complementary player, even a pest to opponents, but he is still a bottom-six scorer. He passed up a wide-open shot on a 3-on-1 during a pivotal second period penalty kill, thereby allowing a 4-on-1 the other way. Any elite scorer would have at least put the puck on goal or even challenged the goaltender. Zuccarello may not have scored at all on the play, but his unwillingness to shoot the puck is a disturbing sight.
The Rangers rely too heavily on these types of forwards in big spots. To win a Stanley Cup the two most important pieces to a team are goaltending and scoring depth. The Rangers have a Cup-caliber goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist but only one elite scorer in Nash. After that, the roster is comprised of only a couple of front-liners and a bunch of back-liners. Additional moves will be necessary in order to add more depth, thus better preparing themselves for a deep run.
Can this team grind its way to wins with Rick Nash in the lineup? Absolutely. Can they win a Stanley Cup with only one elite scorer? Not likely. Nash’s return is a huge boost to the Ranger lineup, for sure. However, if they have any Cup aspirations his return should only be considered a start and nothing more.