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PHT’s Pressing Questions: Can Nash put the Rangers over the top?

Jan 10, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT

Rick Nash

Every day until the season starts we’ll explore an intriguing storyline for the upcoming year.

Last season, the New York Rangers fell just two wins short of playing in the Stanley Cup finals. They beat Ottawa and Washington in seven games, and lost to New Jersey in six. All in all, it was a good run.

But for all the good they did, they only scored more than three goals once in 20 games, and that was in the first game of the first round when they got four.

Thus, the blockbuster acquisition of Rick Nash from Columbus in July that sent Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon and a 2013 first round draft pick to the Blue Jackets.

Nash, 28, was the NHL’s first overall pick in 2002. Since then, the big winger has scored 289 times in 674 games. Of all the players with fewer than 700 games played, only Alex Ovechkin has more career goals.

True, Nash comes with a big contract – six seasons remaining with a cap hit of $7.8 million. But guys with seven 30-goal seasons that are still in their 20s are somewhat hard to come by.

Following the conference final defeat to New Jersey, Rangers general manager Glen Sather was determined to improve his club’s offense.

“This changes the complexion of our team,” said Sather. “It’s not going to change the way we play, but his ability is – he’s a world-class player, and was very excited to come to New York. We were one of his chosen few right from the beginning.”

But will Nash buy in to the Rangers’ do-whatever-it-takes philosophy that saw them block the third most shots in the NHL last season?

“I have no worry in the world about that,” said Sather. “If you remember, if you look at the record that this guy’s had over his career, he’s got a tremendous record of being an excellent hockey player. He played in the Olympics, he was one of the better players on that team.

“[Rangers head coach John] Tortorella’s coached against him not only in the NHL but also at the Olympics, and knew very well what his style was, knew that he’d fit in well with us. Everyone in our organization was after this guy.”

Besides, blocking a lot of shots isn’t always a good sign. When you’re blocking shots, you don’t have the puck. The Minnesota Wild led the league in block shots last season; the Islanders were second. Puck possession, or lack thereof, was a major concern for Tortorella in the New Jersey series.

In Nash, the Rangers get a big body that can control the puck in the offensive zone.

Thursday morning, Nash was skating with center Brad Richards and winger Marian Gaborik. Safe to say, not many teams can put together a trio like that.

Also safe to say, Nash never had linemates like that in Columbus.

“I think the main thing was looking at the team,” Nash said in July, “looking at what they’ve done over the years. It’s something I’d love to be part of.

“I’d love to help them out.”

  1. tbbolts91 - Jan 10, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    while he may not be too keen on blocking shots, i’m pretty sure he can more than make up for that with his offensive talent

  2. biffnasty - Jan 10, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    sounds like a line that makes a team cup bound

  3. thecheeman - Jan 10, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    In America Rick Nash is very much an unknown entity in the Eastern Conference. The black hole of Columbus gets no recognition. I’m very much looking forward to see him diving in front of pucks to block though. Should go over well.

  4. DED - Jan 10, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    Oh yeah. Nash. I’d forgotten about him what with the Lockout and all.

  5. nach0mancandysandwich - Jan 10, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    The Welcome to the Jungle line (G.(Gabby)N.(Nash)R.(Richards)) is gonna be really fun to watch this year! LGR!!!

    • timsabourin - Jan 10, 2013 at 12:49 PM

      that is a scary line..

    • steelpenbucs87 - Jan 10, 2013 at 12:54 PM

      That will be one of if not the best offensive lines in hockey – however I wonder if that is the best use of the talent. Having these three on a line together makes them pretty top heavy so they would likely draw #1 D pairings all game (not saying that these guys wouldn’t have success, even against #1 pairings, you get my drift though).

      • nach0mancandysandwich - Jan 10, 2013 at 1:34 PM

        Torts never has the same guys together all game. I guarantee they will be split up more often then not.

      • jtrain1966 - Jan 10, 2013 at 8:37 PM

        I would like to see, Nash play on the right side, with Stepan @ center, & whoever you want on the left . That way you can leave Gaborik, & Richards together & have 2 potent scoring lines .

      • barkar942 - Jan 10, 2013 at 9:28 PM

        Can you imagine these three plus Stephan and potentially DelZotto on the power play?

  6. ironmike778 - Jan 10, 2013 at 1:00 PM

    Overrated

  7. rockthered1286 - Jan 10, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    Breaking News:

    Best team on paper does not win you a cup!

  8. voltron217 - Jan 10, 2013 at 1:20 PM

    Rangers suck! Always have always will. Just buy top prospects because you can’t develop your own players.

    • nach0mancandysandwich - Jan 10, 2013 at 1:39 PM

      I don’t know how I got hooked by this but ok…lets get into it. Callahan, Girardi, Staal, Del Zotto, Haglin, Kreider, LUNDQVIST…I’m not looking at a roster sheet but I’m sure I’m missing some. Come on guy, are you really questioning the Rangers drafting in the last 5 to 6 years? The team is full of home grown guys. Look at a roster before you shoot your mouth off about a team buying their talent.

      • nach0mancandysandwich - Jan 10, 2013 at 1:48 PM

        And Stepan. How’d I forget him? Also they have a log jam of young drafted defensemen.

  9. voltron217 - Jan 10, 2013 at 1:22 PM

    And how the NHL allowed that trade is a joke! other teams were offering better players for Nash. Collusion

  10. anthonykornheiser - Jan 10, 2013 at 1:44 PM

    @voltron217, just buy guys and cant develop their own?
    You clearly know nothing about hockey. Most of their team is homegrown, including dubinsky and anisimov who they dealt for nash.
    callahan, hagelin, stepan, kreider, jt miller, del zotto, girardi, mcdonagh(who they fleeced from mtl before he even played in the nhl) sauer, staal, that goalie they have henrik lundqvist and some top prospects..but yeah, don’t let facts get into the way of your argument.

    • nach0mancandysandwich - Jan 10, 2013 at 1:52 PM

      Great minds think alike my friend.

      • jtrain1966 - Jan 10, 2013 at 8:45 PM

        It’s probably because his team don’t have that kind of talent is the reason for saying that ! I’m a Blues fan, & even i would like to have those type of guys either, developed here, or on the Blues . That’s a pretty solid core of players !

    • barkar942 - Jan 10, 2013 at 9:30 PM

      Perhaps his team ended up with Duby, Anisimov and Erixon on his team?

  11. cruuuzcontrol - Jan 10, 2013 at 2:02 PM

    Rangers need a secondary scoring punch on the second line. Nash gives them the flexibility to do it. Whether its Nash or Gabby that goes there doesn’t matter. Torts will get them minutes. Besides, as noted in comments above, Torts will just keep playing with lines all year. Nash absolutely can put the Rangers over the top. Last year was certainly no fluke… This is a team with a nice balance of youth and veterans and an even better balance of finesse/skill and grit.

  12. voltron217 - Jan 10, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    I’ll give you Callahan and lundquist other than that all there star power is bought so you get the facts straight. Your obviously a homer and I’m not just talking about this roster. I’m taking about the rangers history bure, Gretzky, messier, lafontaine, drury, jagr, Nash, gaborik, shanahan, lindros, straka, naslund, etc etc etc yes you have your own drafted players but you buy your stars.

    • nach0mancandysandwich - Jan 10, 2013 at 2:28 PM

      Don’t back peddle. You wanna talk about the 90′s and early 2000′s, you wouldn’t have taken Messier, Gretzky, Jagr? I love the Rangers but I’m far from a homer, I follow the entire league, and I’m geeked as hell to see the Oilers grow and develop. Your logic was flawed and you said a couple dumb things. It doesn’t make you an idiot, just think about things before you say them and make sure your facts are straight. And by the way Giradi and Staal are all stars.

  13. voltron217 - Jan 10, 2013 at 2:44 PM

    I’m not back peddling the rangers outside of NYC are looked At like the Yankees of the NHL. And my statement was at the organization not just this roster. The only player I would want on the rangers is Callahan. The rangers always buy the leagues top stars when there contracts are up ie. also Esposito, Dionne, fleury, Richards the list goes on. Very few stars came from the rangers compared to other teams. My teams a small market team and can’t buy players so there forced to develop and have drafted and developed far more stars than the rangers so stop saying I don’t know hockey or the facts.

    • nach0mancandysandwich - Jan 10, 2013 at 2:59 PM

      It’s a new era in Rangers hockey. Forget what you knew. They have one line of using your terms “bought players” the rest of the team is home grown or good free agent fits. You can hate the Rangers for what they did in the 90′s and early 2000′s I’m pretty sure they hated themselves for some of those moves. But don’t let the past influence your thinking now. This is a good team, I’m not saying they’ll win the cup but they are a good team and will e for years to come. They’re doing it the right way.

    • magicrat13 - Jan 10, 2013 at 4:01 PM

      “The only player I would want on the rangers is Callahan”

      stop…seriously…you are embarrassing yourself…

      • barkar942 - Jan 10, 2013 at 9:34 PM

        Embarrassing isn’t the word!
        Can anyone say Hank? McDonagh, Stahl, Girardi?
        Cally is a great leader, but these few others might get the nod of being wanted by others!

  14. cincycbjfan - Jan 10, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    “PHT’s Pressing Questions: Can Nash put the Rangers over the top?”

    – One word… NO.

  15. tfaltin - Jan 10, 2013 at 2:59 PM

    Stepan and Gaborik have always had chemistry, much moreso than Richards with Gabby. My thinking is that Richards will work with Nash on the top line, with a RW TBD. Hagelin saw some time up there last year, but it’ll most likely be Callahan. The second line would be really potent with Stepan, Gaborik and Kreider/Hagelin, scary fast either way.

  16. anthonykornheiser - Jan 10, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    @voltron, half of those guys you mentioned they acquired in trades, not free agent signings. You are excluding who you root for. I’m sure your team has signed players or traded for players. You left off guys like leetch, richter etc when saying they never produce stars. Actually more than half those guys you mentioned were via trades.
    If you want to go that route look at the stars the rangers have produced since they never produce home grown people
    amonte, doug weight, thomas sandstrom, sergei zubov, alex kovalev, darren turcotte, tony granato, mike ridley, kelly miller, etc etc etc
    so give us a break already.

    • barkar942 - Jan 10, 2013 at 9:41 PM

      Unfortunately, anthonykornheiser, the names you mention above went on to have stellar careers after the Rangers traded them for fading superstars that were at the twilight of their careers. Now, they have finally learned to hang on to them and stick to the plan from within the organization.

  17. voltron217 - Jan 10, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    just because you acquired them via trades doesn’t mean many other teams could AFFORD the incoming contracts. and half those players you mentioned aren’t stars weight amonte? Come on amonte never lived up to his potential. And weight seriously he was a second liner at best. And Callahan is the only player that is homegrown on the rangers that I would want. He has heart and skill a rare combo with spoiled athletes. The sabres produced mogilny, housley, barrasso, turgeon, Myers, miller, ramsey, perroult, Campbell, andreychuck etc and even briere even though he was acquired via phx but grew in buffalo. however in a smaller market we can’t compete with the rangers payroll. I laugh though because all those stars think they’ll win in ny and most of there careers go in the toilet there.

    • notoriouswarsaw - Jan 10, 2013 at 5:01 PM

      the sabres can’t compete with the rangers payroll? look at the cap numbers and actual salary paid this year, rangers cap number is 64.89 while the sabres is 64.35, actually money being paid out to players is 67.8 for the rangers while the sabres are paying 75.3 so dont tell me buffalo is so poor they cant pay players. but what do i know, maybe you just dont like little factoids.

      • magicrat13 - Jan 10, 2013 at 8:11 PM

        notorious……stop confusing him with facts….

  18. spavs412 - Jan 10, 2013 at 4:56 PM

    Nash is soft… Ask geno, he beat him up in a preseason game lol… Should help this Atlantic rival

  19. h0ckeycoach - Jan 10, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    This 48 game season is perfect for Torts and the Rangers. These guys should be favorites to win the Cup this year.

  20. voltron217 - Jan 10, 2013 at 5:16 PM

    The first year of a new owner who made bad decisions. That’s one year versus the rangers last twenty. I be the first too admit they paid too much. The vanek deal wasn’t there fault. Drury and briere left then oilers signed vanek to a ridiculous offer sheet and if the sabres didn’t match and lost all three of there stars there would have been riots. Myers deserves his money. Miller doesn’t and the deal for leino and ehrhoff was ludicrous.

  21. voltron217 - Jan 10, 2013 at 5:24 PM

    Actually the rangers cap number is 55 mil and sabres is 61 with payout of 71 mil because of the stupid million year deals with errhoff and Myers that ate front loaded your payout is 59 mill but I bet you’ll add players and the sabres are def heavy and ate looking to unload a couple prob Leopold.

    • nach0mancandysandwich - Jan 10, 2013 at 6:05 PM

      Ok I don’t want to tell you what to do but let’s stop. Haha you are just saying things now.

  22. bigbadbruins77 - Jan 10, 2013 at 5:28 PM

    Rangers going down on opening night :D

    • richter35lundqvist30 - Jan 10, 2013 at 6:26 PM

      Love Rangers Bruins games. Always an exciting tilt between two tough teams that play the game the right way. It’s gonna be disappointing with Thomas in Colorado on his couch eating cheetos instead of giving up softies and throwing temper tantrums.

      • bigbadbruins77 - Jan 10, 2013 at 8:18 PM

        who cares about Thomas, it’s Tuukka Time! he’s a better goalie anyway.

  23. andyb02 - Jan 10, 2013 at 8:26 PM

    Rangers will be in cap hell in a couple years.

  24. flyersphan28 - Jan 10, 2013 at 9:35 PM

    @bigbadbruins77 are you serious with tuuka rask being better the tim thomas? if so i need whatever your smoking….cuz thomas won you the stanley cup and rask was a MAJOR contributor to that collapse in 2010 against the flyers

  25. dave56dj - Jan 11, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    McDonough and Girardi are two of the best young defenseman in the game but he only wants cally? Oh and how bout the best goalie in the league? Nah he’s no good- the rangers actually have more homegrown talent in this team then most teams in the league and therefore could afford to pay for some snipers. This just isn’t your daddy’s rangers.

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