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Under pressure: Rick Nash

Aug 19, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

Rick Nash Getty Images

When Rick Nash arrived in New York in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the pressure was on him to resuscitate an offense that had gone dormant under then head coach John Tortorella.

After a year under Alain Vigneault and an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final that saw Nash not exactly carry the load offensively throughout the playoffs, there’s a lot of pressure on Nash to prove his worth now more than ever.

Such is the price to pay when you’re under the bright lights in New York City.

Nash’s first season with the Rangers was a strong one as he scored 21 goals with 42 points in 44 games of the lockout-shortened 2013 season. Last season, his first under Vigneault, things didn’t go quite as well as he scored 26 goals with 39 points in 65 games.

Things didn’t get better in the playoffs. Nash scored three goals with 10 points in 25 postseason games and the Rangers ultimately fell to the Los Angeles Kings in five games.

Nash’s regular season point total was his worst in a full season since his rookie year. His playoff performance had Rangers fans howling for him to do more while a host of other forwards including Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, and Chris Kreider all put up more points.

Vigneault and Nash both stressed that the chances were there and that he was doing other things to help them win, but it’s goals and points that people remember and not opportunities.

After seeing the Rangers come as close to the Stanley Cup as they’ve been since winning it in 1994 and coming up short, Nash is the guy who faced the most criticism. He’s also the guy that will head into the new season with a target on his back if he doesn’t return to the form that made him the 40-goal scorer the Rangers thought they were getting.

With the number of free agent departures New York had this summer, some think the team could slip and wind up in a fight to make the playoffs. It’ll be up to Nash to try and make sure that doesn’t happen while also feeding his critics a bowl of crow.

  1. ruthlessandtoothless - Aug 19, 2014 at 6:35 PM

    I still don’t understand how so many reporters/fans still consider him to be an “elite power forward”

  2. 950003cups - Aug 19, 2014 at 7:35 PM

    Nash is elite. He’s just melting out there. No explanations have made sense. This is two years now and he’s been a disappointment for ranger fans. Devil fans love him.

  3. atwatercrushesokoye - Aug 19, 2014 at 11:03 PM

    I said this when he was with Columbus then when the Rangers first traded for him (Rangers fans killed me for it) but I’ll stay consistent with my opinion: Rick Nash is not and never has been a true superstar player, he’s a really good goal scorer who’s at his best when he’s surrounded by other really good players, he’s not and never will be a guy who raises the level of the players around him.

    • 19to77 - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:23 AM

      I feel like he’s one of those examples of a kid who was overhyped in his junior years because he was a big, physical player who also showed good skill. GMs lose their minds over the promise of a skilled power forward. Problem is, a big guy with some decent-but-not-spectacular skill can like dominant against junior players only to prove more average against men as big and strong and faster than he is – and no-one has ever mistaken Nash for a fast skater. He’s good, but he was never a star. Guess it’s easier to sustain the illusion when you’re drafted first overall and get to be the best-by-default in Columbus for the first nine years of your career.

    • habs9 - Aug 21, 2014 at 8:15 AM

      that doesnt really add up, i mean dont get me wrong i’ve always also been of the opinion that he is a good scorer but never an elite player as has been claimed for years, but stating that he is at his best when surrounded by other good players makes no sense either since the main issue in Columbus WAS that he was NOT surrounded by other good players :s

      realistically he spent the prime years of his career with no real help, it kind of makes it unfair to judge whether he could have been actually ELITE had he had more help in his first 8 years…Even Gaborik had at least Koivu…..

  4. paulerhythm - Aug 20, 2014 at 12:17 AM

    Something to be said about concussion that Nash endured in his career. It makes you tentative in the hard areas where most goals are scored. Before his concussion, he was driving hard to the net, like a true power forward. After his concussion, I notice he doesn’t do that anymore. Could explain why his scoring has diminished…

    • 19to77 - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:10 AM

      Joe Thornton, maligned as he is, had something similar happen. In his early Bruin years he was a more aggressive, drive-the-net kind of player – still the talented playmaker, but also a guy who finished plays a lot as well. Had 36- and 37-goal seasons. Then Eric Lindros cross-checked him in the skull so hard it required surgery. Since that season he’s never cracked 30 goals, and it was at that point when he started to change into more of a perimeter playmaker than a crash-the-net power forward.

    • shaundre93 - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:42 AM

      That makes a lot of sense. I don’t agree with the people who think he wasn’t elite at one point. He had absolutely no help in Columbus and he tore it up for years there. Watching him play he still looks like he oozes skill and occasionally makes a highlight play, but like you said seems a bit tentative to get to the dirty areas. I hope he turns it around, he’s one of my favorite players. When he’s on he’s fun to watch

  5. rainyday56 - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:05 AM

    Bah, big stars in the big apple earn their money simply by signing on the dotted line. Then they play like they have already done the heavy lifting. Nash is no different from any other rag marquee acquisition.

  6. mizzike20 - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    The concussions are what has changed Nash from a 35-45 goal 75-90 point a season guy to what he will ultimately be for this team – 25-35 goals, 25-35 assists max. Good numbers for a 2nd line guy making $5-6 mil a year, awful numbers for a guy making $8 per for the next few seasons. The potential will be there for the rest of his career, but unfortunately we’ll end up seeing more of that then concrete success.
    To me, it makes Sather’s comments earlier this off-season even more laughable. When your GM takes on St Louis’ salary, signs Dan Boyle, and gives Lundqvist that massive extension then says that his 2nd and 3rd liners should ‘decide whether they want a paycheck or a chance to win the Cup’, I shake my head. Winning comes from the top down, and LA shows it. When Gaborik takes at least $1.5 less a year to stay, it shows that top tier talent realizes that the extra few million they forfeit can go to the 2nd and 3rd line players and increase the chance of winning. In NY, with the endorsement opportunities alone, no player should be gunning for more than $6.5 a year if they want to win.

  7. nashernation - Aug 23, 2014 at 1:16 AM

    Bounce back season for Nasher.. I’m feeling a big year as long as he can stay injury free.

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