When the Rangers acquired Rick Nash last month, they did so knowing they were solidifying their primary offensive line, and compensating for the Marian Gaborik injury. However, many have been setting the bar for Nash very high, to the point where fans may be setting themselves up for disappointment.
First things first, let’s get Nash’s career averages out of the way. Sticking with post-lockout hockey (which omits a 17 goal season and a 41 goal season), Nash has averaged 33 goals and 64 points in the seven seasons since the work stoppage. He has done this while spending the majority of his time with second line talent at best. The natural inclination is that Nash, playing on a line with Brad Richards, will be able to produce much more than that.
However, how much more can Nash produce? He’s already in the top-ten in post-lockout scorers, and at 28 years old is already at his peak. Plus, there’s no guarantee he plays with Richards, as they have very similar styles and may not mesh the way people are hoping. If he and Richards don’t mesh, then Nash will likely be playing with Derek Stepan. Stepan is no slouch, but he’s no Richards yet.
With Gaborik out for an extended period of time though, it’s safe to assume that Nash will at least get the first month or two (if the season starts on time) with Richards. That may inflate his numbers a bit, but it may not. What we do know –no matter who he plays with– is that while Gaborik is out, Nash is the primary scorer for the Rangers, and will be getting every opportunity to be that guy.
One factor that might work against Nash is that it’s his first season outside of Columbus and with a new system. Columbus –especially under Ken Hitckcock– was a defense first system, which is not what the Rangers play. While the Jackets were more of a trapping team, the Rangers are a very aggressive forechecking team. While that may play into Nash’s favor in the long run, there is a big adjustment period there. These are two completely different styles of hockey. Suit put it best when he said that there is a huge difference between puck pursuit teams (Rangers) and passive defensive teams (Blue Jackets).
In one of my previous posts about tempering expectations, I mentioned that we should expect 30 goals 65 points in his first season. I still stand by that expectation, with the caveat that this is the minimum that Nash should be producing for the Rangers. In a full season with both Richards and Gaborik in the lineup, Nash should be able to eclipse that to the 35 goals/75 point total. As for now, it might be best to expect his career averages as he gets used to a new system.