Only five players have scored more goals than Rick Nash since 2003-2004. His 272 goals is indeed an impressive total. To date, Nash has scored 83 powerplay goals in his NHL career, a number that would surely have been larger had he had a better supporting cast during his time in Columbus.
While Nash only scored six powerplay goals in each of the last two seasons that number should grow when considering the presence of Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik and players such as Ryan Callahan and Mike Del Zotto on the power play.
Nash is a legitimate threat who is not afraid to shoot the puck, something that the Rangers powerplay hasn’t nearly done enough. With over 300 shots per season over the last two years Nash comes to a Rangers team with players to feed him the puck unlike in Columbus. The premise is that with more opportunity should come more production.
Perhaps the biggest Achilles heel of the Rangers last year was their ineffective powerplay. The presence of Nash adds elite skill, makes the team bigger, more trigger happy but also from a personnel point of view, deeper on the powerplay. The big winger will bump several players down onto a second unit, and will round out a first powerplay unit that should be explosive.
The Canadian Olympian should mean more space for Gaborik – another clinical shooter – his presence will take attention away from Brad Richards and this should allow Richards better opportunity to distribute the puck helping forge a lethal one-two from the wing in Nash-Gaborik.
So just how will the first unit look next season? There’s a distinct chance that the Rangers roll four forwards on the first powerplay unit. With Brad Richards expected to run the powerplay, Michael Del Zotto the most offensive defenseman at the club and with Nash, Gaborik and Ryan Callahan all effective, key components of their respective powerplay units in seasons past the Rangers should ice a dangerous first unit. At the very least the powerplay should be more effective than last year.
Looking at this collection of players however and it’s clear that while Nash is a huge upgrade for the Rangers the powerplay unit still lacks a gunner from the point. Del Zotto’s shot will never be confused for Zdeno Chara’s or Shea Weber’s. Richards is clearly a puck handler, pass first player and Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan are hardly point options for the powerplay.
It is this reason that while the former Blue Jacket surely improves the powerplay the final make-up of the unit may not be set in stone just yet. Factor in the Rangers need to add to the blueline with Tim Erixon departed in the Nash deal and the Rangers may still look to add a bomb from the point.
The key to powerplay success for the Rangers however remains movement. Whether the Rangers add a big shot or not, it will be crucial that Richards et al move the puck and players rotate more; above all to get Nash and Gaborik in better shooting positions. It’s one thing to possess elite shooters it’s another thing to put them in position to succeed.
While the newly acquired power forward makes the Rangers more dangerous and less predictable perhaps the biggest aspect of all is how the Rangers may make Nash better, potentially more effective. That goes for the power play as well as at even strength. Last season Nash had linemates such as underachieving centers RJ Umberger and/or Derek Brassard; neither of whom has fulfilled their promise at the NHL level.
Then there is Rick Nash’s opposite wing in Columbus. While Cam Atkinson showed late season promise, the most productive right wing last year was Derek Dorsett with twenty (!) points. The point is this; Nash’s supporting cast was at best, politely put, underwhelming. Give Nash legitimate line mates such as Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, Marian Gaborik or even Chris Kreider and Nash will have much more chance to thrive.
The Rangers are in a much better position to take advantage of Nash’s talents and physical ability than Columbus ever were.