The New York Rangers overachieved with an amazing run to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, but star winger Rick Nash did anything but meet expectations. Nash tied a career low in points with 39; his production wasn’t that low since his rookie season 11 years ago.
Everybody including Nash expects better production than that, but can he return to form and regain his status as an elite scorer? With New York losing key players like Brad Richards and Benoit Pouliot this offseason, it makes that question even more important.
Despite his subpar season, Nash managed to lead the Rangers in goals with 26, which speaks to his talent as a scoring threat. Still, his consistency over his first 10 seasons almost makes the 2013-14 campaign look like a failure. Everyone also remembers how awful Nash was during New York’s improbable playoff run. Nash scored just three goals in 25 playoff games last season and was scrutinized heavily throughout the postseason.
Pouliot and Richards combined for 87 points and 12 power play goals last season. The Rangers replaced those guys with depth players like Lee Stempniak and Matthew Lombardi. Lombardi played in the Swiss-A league last season, making his level of production hard to predict this season. As for Stempniak, he doesn’t seem like a player who’s going to top Richards’ or Pouliot’s production from last season, making Nash a key player who must step up.
Nash’s production must improve to make up for the offseason departures. He will most likely remain on the top line alongside Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider, and they need to produce as a unit. The Rangers got huge goals from their third and fourth lines last year, but they’re going to need their first line to lead their offensive attack this season.
There’s probably no Ranger under more pressure to perform than Nash on a nightly basis, and he has to answer with a rebound 2014-15 season.