Rangers’ Nash’s Legacy in Danger


By: Michael Abitabilo

Everyone is familiar with the numbers by now: 23, 1, 11, 0, 3-1, 7.8 million.

Fair or unfair, these are the numbers that are beginning to define Rick Nash. In 23 playoff games as a New York Ranger, Nash has scored a grand total of 1 goal. In 11 playoff games this year, he has scored 0 goals. And with the Rangers trailing their second round series 3-1, their $7.8 million man is in danger of becoming known as a very good player who failed to elevate his game when it mattered most.

To put Nash’s struggles into perspective, here is a list of players who have scored more goals than Rick Nash this postseason

(for the sake of reference, former Rangers’ names appear in red, while current Rangers are listed in blue):

Rk

Player

Tm

1

Marian Gaborik

LAK

6

2

Jussi Jokinen

PIT

6

3

Bryan Bickell

CHI

5

4

Patrick Kane

CHI

5

5

Evgeni Malkin

PIT

5

6

Paul Stastny

COL

5

7

Jamie Benn

DAL

4

8

Rene Bourque

MTL

4

9

Mikael Granlund

MIN

4

10

Anze Kopitar

LAK

4

11

Milan Lucic

BOS

4

12

Zach Parise

MIN

4

13

Wayne Simmonds

PHI

4

14

Brandon Sutter

PIT

4

15

Vladimir Tarasenko

STL

4

16

Jonathan Toews

CHI

4

17

Justin Williams

LAK

4

18

Patrice Bergeron

BOS

3

19

Nick Bonino

ANA

3

20

Kyle Brodziak

MIN

3

21

Jeff Carter

LAK

3

22

Charlie Coyle

MIN

3

23

Pavel Datsyuk

DET

3

24

Lars Eller

MTL

3

25

Brendan Gallagher

MTL

3

26

Ryan Garbutt

DAL

3

27

Ryan Getzlaf

ANA

3

28

Carl Hagelin

NYR

3

29

Nick Holden

COL

3

30

Jarome Iginla

BOS

3

31

Boone Jenner

CBJ

3

32

Jack Johnson

CBJ

3

33

Chris Kunitz

PIT

3

34

Gabriel Landeskog

COL

3

35

Patrick Marleau

SJS

3

36

Corey Perry

ANA

3

37

Tomas Plekanec

MTL

3

38

Benoit Pouliot

NYR

3

39

Brad Richards

NYR

3

40

Reilly Smith

BOS

3

41

P.K. Subban

MTL

3

42

Tyler Toffoli

LAK

3

43

Thomas Vanek

MTL

3

44

Mats Zuccarello

NYR

3

45

Jason Akeson

PHI

2

46

Matt Beleskey

ANA

2

47

Dustin Brown

LAK

2

48

Brent Burns

SJS

2

49

Matt Calvert

CBJ

2

50

Daniel Carcillo

NYR

2

51

Zdeno Chara

BOS

2

52

Trevor Daley

DAL

2

53

Cody Eakin

DAL

2

54

Nick Foligno

CBJ

2

55

Brian Gibbons

PIT

2

56

Claude Giroux

PHI

2

57

Dougie Hamilton

BOS

2

58

Erik Haula

MIN

2

59

Tomas Hertl

SJS

2

60

Marian Hossa

CHI

2

61

Ryan Johansen

CBJ

2

62

Duncan Keith

CHI

2

63

Torey Krug

BOS

2

64

Kris Letang

PIT

2

65

Trevor Lewis

LAK

2

66

Ben Lovejoy

ANA

2

67

Nathan MacKinnon

COL

2

68

Patrick Maroon

ANA

2

69

Alec Martinez

LAK

2

70

Jamie McGinn

COL

2

71

Dominic Moore

NYR

2

72

Jake Muzzin

LAK

2

73

James Neal

PIT

2

74

Nino Niederreiter

MIN

2

75

Matthew Nieto

SJS

2

76

Matt Niskanen

PIT

2

77

Ryan O’Reilly

COL

2

78

T.J. Oshie

STL

2

79

Ondrej Palat

TBL

2

80

Joe Pavelski

SJS

2

81

Mathieu Perreault

ANA

2

82

Brandon Saad

CHI

2

83

Marco Scandella

MIN

2

84

Brent Seabrook

CHI

2

85

Teemu Selanne

ANA

2

86

Andrew Shaw

CHI

2

87

James Sheppard

SJS

2

88

Devante Smith-Pelly

ANA

2

89

Jared Spurgeon

MIN

2

90

Martin St. Louis

NYR

2

91

Steven Stamkos

TBL

2

92

Lee Stempniak

PIT

2

93

Derek Stepan

NYR

2

94

Joe Thornton

SJS

2

95

Raffi Torres

SJS

2

96

Jakub Voracek

PHI

2

97

Dale Weise

MTL

2

98

Craig Adams

PIT

1

99

Bryan Allen

ANA

1

100

Artem Anisimov

CBJ

1

101

Cam Atkinson

CBJ

1

102

Beau Bennett

PIT

1

103

Francis Bouillon

MTL

1

104

Johnny Boychuk

BOS

1

105

Brian Boyle

NYR

1

106

Derick Brassard

NYR

1

107

Justin Braun

SJS

1

108

Daniel Briere

MTL

1

109

Mike Brown

SJS

1

110

Matt Carle

TBL

1

111

Jordan Caron

BOS

1

112

Alex Chiasson

DAL

1

113

Andrew Cogliano

ANA

1

114

Logan Couture

SJS

1

115

Adam Cracknell

STL

1

116

Sidney Crosby

PIT

1

117

David Desharnais

MTL

1

118

Drew Doughty

LAK

1

119

Brandon Dubinsky

CBJ

1

120

Loui Eriksson

BOS

1

121

Vernon Fiddler

DAL

1

122

Justin Florek

BOS

1

123

Matt Fraser

BOS

1

124

Brian Gionta

MTL

1

125

Dan Girardi

NYR

1

126

Luke Glendening

DET

1

127

Alex Goligoski

DAL

1

128

Erik Gustafsson

PHI

1

129

Dany Heatley

MIN

1

130

Victor Hedman

TBL

1

131

Shawn Horcoff

DAL

1

132

Matt Irwin

SJS

1

133

Barret Jackman

STL

1

134

Erik Johnson

COL

1

135

Tyler Johnson

TBL

1

136

Alex Killorn

TBL

1

137

Dwight King

LAK

1

138

Mikko Koivu

MIN

1

139

Niklas Kronwall

DET

1

140

Marcus Kruger

CHI

1

141

Nikita Kucherov

TBL

1

142

Maxim Lapierre

STL

1

143

Vincent Lecavalier

PHI

1

144

Mark Letestu

CBJ

1

145

Andrew MacDonald

PHI

1

146

Derek MacKenzie

CBJ

1

147

Cody McCormick

MIN

1

148

Cody McLeod

COL

1

149

Matt Moulson

MIN

1

150

Valeri Nichushkin

DAL

1

151

Johnny Oduya

CHI

1

152

Brooks Orpik

PIT

1

153

Max Pacioretty

MTL

1

154

Daniel Paille

BOS

1

155

Kyle Palmieri

ANA

1

156

P.A. Parenteau

COL

1

157

Tanner Pearson

LAK

1

158

Alex Pietrangelo

STL

1

159

Jason Pominville

MIN

1

160

Chris Porter

STL

1

161

Teddy Purcell

TBL

1

162

Rickard Rakell

ANA

1

163

Matt Read

PHI

1

164

Mike Richards

LAK

1

165

Michal Rozsival

CHI

1

166

Colton Sceviour

DAL

1

167

Luke Schenn

PHI

1

168

Jaden Schwartz

STL

1

169

Tyler Seguin

DAL

1

170

Patrick Sharp

CHI

1

171

Kevin Shattenkirk

STL

1

172

Jakob Silfverberg

ANA

1

173

Ben Smith

CHI

1

174

Marc Staal

NYR

1

175

Alex Steen

STL

1

176

Jarret Stoll

LAK

1

177

Clayton Stoner

MIN

1

178

Mark Streit

PHI

1

179

Ryan Suter

MIN

1

180

Fedor Tyutin

CBJ

1

181

Marc-Edouard Vlasic

SJS

1

182

Slava Voynov

LAK

1

183

Mike Weaver

MTL

1

184

Henrik Zetterberg

DET

1

The truth is, plenty of Rangers have underperformed this postseason. In fact, it would be easier to list the Rangers players who have played well (Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal (most of the time), and Dominic Moore) than those who haven’t (pretty much everyone else). The difference? Expectations.

Let’s go back a few years to when Nash was acquired. The perception was that the Rangers were one explosive offensive star from being a true Stanley Cup contender. Having lost the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals in six games to the New Jersey Devils, the Rangers thought Nash was the dynamic goal scorer who would push them to the next level. And so the Rangers sent fan favorites Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, along with defense prospect Tim Erixon and a two draft picks to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Nash. Nash’s acquisition seemingly created a redundancy at right wing, and so a few months later, the Rangers sent Marian Gaborik to the Blue Jackets in exchange for Derick Brassard, John Moore, and Derek Dorsett.

Along with the perception of being an elite goal scorer, Nash brought with him the final six years and $47.4 million of his contract. Nash’s $7.8 million salary cap figure is the 8th highest in the league this season. Among forwards, only Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Corey Perry, Eric Staal, and Ryan Getzlaf have a higher average annual value.

Maybe it wasn’t fair for the Rangers and their fans to expect Nash to perform at the level of those six players. But Nash’s postseason production has been abysmal, and the Rangers seem further from a Stanley Cup today than they did two years ago. That Gaborik now sits right there at the top of that playoff scoring list only serves to pour salt in a wound that is worsening by the game.

Nash was serenaded with boos during the Rangers game four loss to the Penguins at Madison Square Garden, despite the fact that he was one of the few players who created any offensive chances.  Nash’s coaches and teammates have consistently lauded Nash’s work ethic and desire to score and win. But when it comes to superstar players, New York fans aren’t interested in things like effort or chances; they want results.

The Rangers aren’t one game away from the end of their season because of Nash’s production (or lack thereof). The truth is, they aren’t a good enough team. But for Nash, there is more on the line tonight than delaying what seems to be the inevitable end to the Rangers’ season. In a strange way, tonight could be a legacy-defining game for Nash. If Nash were to score a few goals and help force a game 6, at least some of the pressure would be alleviated. But if Nash and the Rangers go quietly into the night versus Pittsburgh, number 61 will be surrounded by questions regarding his ability to perform in the postseason for the next 11 months, regardless of how he performs during the 2014-2015 regular season.

The Rangers need a big game tonight. Rick Nash needs one worse.

*           *           *

Mike Abitabilo is the co-founder of the Read Zone, and is mentally preparing for the Rangers’ season to end.