Some would argue that Rick Nash is overrated, has no impact and does not deserve to be the highest paid skater for the New York Rangers. There have been two Rick Nashs this season for sure, yet no matter how you look at it, Nash is still one of the most skilled players to wear Ranger blue in the last number of years. He’s up there with Jaromir Jagr and Marian Gaborik, no doubt, and no other current or Ranger alumni may displace him from that top three.
So why does Nash deserve a pass on this so called mediocre season? Because goals are at a premium in the NHL. While being tied for 42nd in the entire league with 22 goals scored isn’t anything to be impressed with, he has only played in 53 games the entire year due to injury. The only player in that spectrum is James Neal who has only played in 46 games. Outside of Nash and Neal, no player with 22 goals has played less than 67 games this year. If Nash had stayed healthy the entire year and continued this pace, he’d end the year with 34 goals.
What the Rangers need is for Nash to stay healthy and stay consistent. His 22 goals have not been evenly spread throughout the year and instead have come in bunches. Nash did score an impressive shorthanded goal against the Ottawa Senators and added an empty netter to close out the 8-4 victory and add to his goal total this season. Nash needs an effort similar to that down the stretch. He can be the premium goal scorer that the Rangers have yearned for and have not had since Jagr and Gaborik. This is Nash’s team now, and he needs to take responsibility and lead on the attack.
When Glen Sather traded for Nash and sent Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, prospect Tim Erixon and draft picks to the Columbus Blue Jackets, hockey insiders and fans alike expected Nash to play a prominent role in the team. While he did have a good first season, albeit a shortened one, he needs to bring that effort level and production back for an entire year. Alain Vigneault needs to get the maximum effort level out of Nash for the Rangers to have any chance of success in the small window of opportunity that New York has for a championship.