When the Rangers traded for Rick Nash, it was with the intention of finding their offensive saviour. It hasn’t happened. The Rangers still struggle to score goals consistently, and while Nash has flashed his obvious and undoubted brilliance, he hasn’t (yet) been the player the Rangers were looking for. Nash’s first regular season as a Ranger was a solid one (42 points in 44 games), but the season ended in underwhelming style as the team (and Nash) left the playoff party without much fight.
This year Nash obviously suffered the concussion, but has also been caught in the same quicksand that the entire Rangers offense has found itself in. With 12 points in 17 games and just 6 goals, Nash needs to produce more. A lack of reliable line mates or an injury simply can’t count as excuses any longer. When a player is drawing a $7.8 million annual salary he needs to be doing more. No one will criticise Nash for missing time through an unfortunate injury, but when he’s healthy the most talented Rangers forward has to deliver more consistently and in fact more in almost every way.
The next few months could be a critical period for Nash as a Ranger. Does he step up and lead the offense as the star player he’s known as, or does he start to become considered as an expensive luxury? Bear in mind, Marian Gaborik was almost chased out of town by certain groups of fans and media because he tended to disappear and struggled to play to his elite talent on a consistent basis. He still had a pair of 40-goal seasons as a Ranger.
Nash could use Wednesday night’s visit of the Pittsburgh Penguins as a statement of intent. The Penguins come to town having won nine of ten, but with some injury concerns. They come as clear division leaders, and in all honesty, are the only truly elite team in the division. It’s exactly the kind of divisional game the Rangers acquired Nash for. On course for just 23 goals for the season and with just 2 points in his last 5 games, Nash hasn’t been in great form. Time to find that form.
Brandon Sutter, Kris Letang and Jussi Jokinen are just three of seven (!) Penguins that have either the same amount or more goals scored than Nash. The big Rangers power forward needs to take over a game against a conference heavyweight and show that he can dominate games against the better teams of the league. He’s no longer in small market Columbus where inconsistency will be tolerated.
Nash is a brilliant player and has been a fine addition for the Rangers especially given the relative modest cost needed to acquire the power forward, but eventually he’ll need to score more goals and lead the Rangers to greater heights. It’s how the best are measured. A truly elite player is a difference maker and Nash hasn’t been that game changing force he can be, often enough. What better time to get back on track than against the rival Penguins on Wednesday.