Source: AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Last week Rick Nash hung up his skates after suffering a concussion last March. Nash missed the remaining 12 games in the regular season but suited for the Bruins in all of the team’s playoff games. Rick Nash was a free agent entering the offseason after finishing his eight-year deal. Despite taking offers from teams Nash didn’t sign and his hockey future was in question. He played over 1000 games and notched over 800 points in his 15 seasons in the NHL. Nash was voted in the All-star game six times in his career.
His size and skill made him a lethal player. In his second season in the league, he would win the Rocket Richard trophy tying Flames forward Jarome Iginla and young Russian sniper Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers for goals at 41. Despite not having much talent around him in Columbus the Brampton Native thrived. In his 41 goal season during the 2003-04 Rick Nash was playing alongside David Vyborny and veteran centre men Todd Marchant. David Vyborny had two more solid seasons after but was out of the league by 2009. Also, he didn’t start producing till Rick Nash came to the club. Todd Marchant’s best years were behind him when he got to Columbus. Neither players were top liners. Rick Nash leads the team in both points and goals that season. In his six seasons in North East Ohio, Nash would lead the team in scoring six times.
The Jackets were a terrible team during the Rick Nash era. Every season the Jackets would try and get their franchise player some help by adding players like Vinny Prospel, Kristan Huselius, Antoine Vermette, and Hall of Famer Sergei Fedorov and drafting Nikolai Zherdev 4th overall in 2003. Some had a few flashes here and there, but Columbus failed to not only get a consistent number one centre but putting together a good team. If Rick Nash had Sidney Crosby, Nicklas Backstrom, Joe Thornton or a player of that magnitude he would have easily scored 50 goals and racked up 100 points on a regular basis. The Jackets just couldn’t get into the playoffs. It wasn’t until Nash's sixth season that the Jackets were playing playoff hockey. However, the Jackets couldn’t replicate that same success and regressed. Rick Nash only made the playoffs once in Columbus. Then was shipped to New York.
Rick Nash was the player that you couldn’t take your eyes off of. Former GM of the Blue Jackets Doug MacLean, who drafted Rick Nash, said on the Fan 590 that Nash was a dynamite big forward, and scored some of the most amazing 1 on 1 goals in his era. His highlights, some of them were jaw-dropping to watch. The one against the Phoenix Coyotes in 2008 was one of the best goals I’ve ever seen. Nash just had a knack for scoring beauties. If he was on a breakaway the goalie rarely stood a chance. His speed for his size was something you didn’t see every day.
Even when he represented Team Canada at the World Championships he'd put on a clinic. Nash led team Canada in goals with 9 in 2004 in his first World Championship tournament. In 2007 Nash would win Gold for Canada and be named MVP of the tournament. In 2008 Nash would continue his strong performance at the World Championships notching 13 points. Two more points than the previous year. He was named Tournament all-star for the second straight year. Nash won 2 Olympic Gold medals including a solid performance at the Winter Games in 2010. He’s scored 54 points in 60 international games for Team Canada. Nash also wore the C for the first time in his career on the International stage for Team Canada at the World Championship games in 2011. It is the last time Nash would participate at the World Championships.
After getting traded from Columbus, Nash was still contributing. In New York Nash would score a career-high 42 goals in 2014-15. He would win team MVP for the Rangers that same season. The last two seasons he would hit the 20 goal plateau. His production was down and he was dealing with injuries but Nash showed he could still score on the ice. Only two active players scored more goals than Rick Nash since being drafted in 2002 and that is Patrick Marleau and Alexander Ovechkin. Ken Hitchcock recently said in the Edmonton Journal that Nash was an unbelievable position player and smart, he also said he would put Nash in almost every situation. Nash was already racking up power-play goals before Hitchcock became the coach, but on the penalty kill he started to get more minutes and added a few shorthanded to his resume. All it took was Nash stealing the puck away from the opposing player or nice little stretch pass from his teammates and he was off to the races. Nash became the leader and did what was expected of him.
The Columbus Blue Jackets gave Nash a nice little puck drop ceremony this past Sunday against his other former team the New York Rangers. One day he will get his jersey raised at the rafters in the Nationwide Arena. It’s the least they can do after putting the team on his back for nearly a decade. Nash might be overlooked when it comes to being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame but you can’t deny just how talented Rick Nash was as a player.