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What can we expect from Rick Nash under Alain Vigneault?

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Despite a solid first season on Broadway, Rick Nash surely did not reach the heights his talent demands, nor did he become the irresistible force many anticipated. Not over a full season anyway. Some critics will argue that John Tortorella’s system stifled players such as Rick Nash (though the powerplay certainly didn’t help his production) but no one will argue that Alain Vigneault puts his key offensive players in the right situations to produce to their potential.

As has been pointed out over the internet – almost to death – the Sedin twins and Alex Burrows were consistently among league leaders in offensive zone starts under Vigneault. It can be assumed Rick Nash and maybe Derek Stepan will be similar benefactors in New York. Can we therefore assume much better numbers from Rick Nash? Nash is expected to be the leader of this offense and that won’t change with a new coaching staff. However with an improved powerplay, with more offensive zone starts, and with more puck possession and creative license, Nash should produce more.

Looking at what Alain Vigneault was able to achieve with the Sedins, its hard not to think he can do positive things with a man of Rick Nash’s skill set at his disposal. Doubts around the Sedins were growing in part because of the twins’ muted playoff performances at the start of their careers. Daniel Sedin had just 16 points in his first 37 games post April; Henrik had 20 in the same time frame.

Coinciding with Vigneault’s arrival, the Sedin’s have developed into impressive playoff performers. Four of the past five seasons Henrik has averaged over a point per game in the postseason, as has Daniel. Can the Rangers expect Vigneault to coax the same level of production out of Rick Nash and company?

It goes without saying Nash encountered more intense defensive coverage in the postseason as a Ranger, and coupled with a potential, nagging injury his effectiveness was clearly limited. The Sedins have suffered the same type of focus from opposing defences but the Canucks coaching staff – the most recent postseason aside – have found ways to put their offensive stars in positions to be productive.

Rick Nash has never put up particularly gaudy numbers on the powerplay. In truth, he’s either been saddled on a poor team (Columbus) or on a good team with woeful special teams (New York). His second year in the league did see Nash churn out a 19 goal powerplay season but he was also -35 that season. Under Vigneault’s watch the Sedin twins eventually developed into powerplay monsters.

Henrik Sedin has had three seasons with 30+ points on the powerplay and six seasons of at least 20 powerplay assists. Daniel, the goal scorer of the pair, has had six seasons with double digit powerplay goals and five seasons with over 25 powerplay points, including a year of 42 points back in 2010-11. It’s this kind of special teams consistency and production that the Rangers would love to develop out of Nash, and Vigneault could be the coach to do it (of course the impact on who he brings as assistant coaches will have a significant impact on this issue).

Something that Nash could benefit from, much like Daniel Sedin, is the presence of an emerging playmaking center. While no one is comparing Derek Stepan to Henrik Sedin at this stage of his career, they do share the traits of high hockey IQ, quality puck distribution, and a level of chemistry with their wingman. If Vigneault can develop the relationship further and Stepan can carry on from his stellar 2012-13 season, the sky is the limit for the pair. Vigneault’s Canucks teams and his approach to the game allowed the Sedins to develop into 100-point bonafide NHL superstars. Neither, it could be argued, have the same skill set as Rick Nash.

It’s early to speculate, but if the Rangers do become a more offensively inclined team, a team with more puck possession and – critically – a team with better special teams production, it’s not a stretch to expect Rick Nash to climb the scoring charts and become one of the league’s premier scorers. For all his skill and goal scoring it’s reasonable to suggest Nash has never maxed his talent into elite production. If he does it in New York Alain Vigneault will get a lot of credit for it.

12 Responses to “What can we expect from Rick Nash under Alain Vigneault?”

  1. Randy says:

    I think Nash will have a very strong regular season under AV and alongside Stepan (I am hoping for Zuccarello on that line, too). There were so many times during this past regular season where I was blown away with Nash’s ability to drive to the net and maintain possession of the puck. He had a rough postseason, but we have to remember that this was only Nash’s second time in the playoffs, so hopefully it is just part of a learning curve and he will rebound.

    I think it is difficult to compare how AV will use Nash with how he used the Sedin’s because of how different their styles of play are. The twins had success on the PP because of their passing and vision, while Nash will most likely find success from shooting and making plays with his size and reach. guys like Stepan, Brassard, Zuccarello, and MDZ need to elevate their play to open up shooting lanes for the guys who can shoot like Nash, Girardi, McD, moore, etc. When the passers on the PP make the smart plays, the shots open up, and Boyle and Cally knock home the rebounds. i wish it could just actually work that way…

  2. cv19 says:

    How many 19 year olds in this league have scored 41 goals? As a 29 year old he’ll have more. Book it.

  3. Dave says:

    I’d expect about 75% OZone starts.

  4. Walt says:

    As much as I would love to see Nash’s numbers climb to the high heavens, lets get real now. The Sedin twins grew up together, they know each others moves before they happen. They have played together their entire lives, and they should have the numbers that they do!

    AV should do one thing first, and foremost, that is let Nash skate with Step, or Brass, whomever he decides to pair him with, and let them go. The thing I hated about Torts was shift after shift, guys skated with different players, never getting a chance to develope chemistry. If that one thing is done, mark my words, Nash will have a banner year! That and an inproved PP, how can it not improve, most of the team should have higher scoring numbers than in the past.

    We have the makings of a very good team. Barring any major injuries, and a few decent trades, URA signings, and an offensive thinking coach, we can go very far. I sure as heck will enjoy 4-1, 5-2 games, vs 2-1 nail biters.

  5. Centerman21 says:

    As a supporter of Tortarella and his type of hockey. I didn’t like the coaching change or the mutiny reported by the players but at this point one can’t help but be excited about the changes coming. The weaknesses this team had over the last 5 years should be fixed and Nash could have the best season of his career. I think he had better report with Brassard on the second line. Maybe Kreider can take the LW position on that line like in the playoffs against Boston. That could be a very productive line for the Rangers with 2 big wingers to go to the net and 2 top lines with Hagelin-Stepan-Callahan as the top line. It seemed to work as those 3 are better 2 way forwards than on the Brassard line!

  6. Mikeyyy says:

    A big year coming up for Nasher.

    Imagine if you will, an offensive system designed around his hockey awesomeness. /drool

  7. GAC says:

    Expect Nash to have a big year offensively under AV, but would also like to see a little more “sandpaper” to his game. At 6’4″ & 220-230lbs., defensemen should cringe when retrieving the puck in their own zone when he’s on the ice (ala Milan Lucic). Same goes for Brian Boyle

    • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

      Agreed. Nash needs to bring some nastiness. That’s what was sorely lacking from him in the playoffs and what will propel him into one of the top players in the league.

  8. Bloomer says:

    Rick Nash has played for a plethora of coaches and many different so called “systems”. His play has been consistent throughout his hockey career. He didn’t mature as a hockey player as did many of the Rangers so his play won’t be effected by the coaching change
    What killed the Canucks in the last 2 playoffs was their forwards being too lethargic on the back check and their defensemen being caught up ice. Players like Nash will do fine with this style of coaching. However, its doubtful the Rangers will make the playoffs playing pond hockey in the competitive Eastern divisions.
    AV coaching system failed in Montreal and he will be in for an eye opener when he gets behind the bench in New York.

    • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

      The rangers know how to play tight defensively sound hockey, I highly doubt the change in coach will lead to pond hockey as you say. Those characteristics don’t disappear.

  9. James says:

    Listen, I love the NYR & have for 43+ yrs. But lets be honest here, except for Nash, and the King, we have a bunch of 3rd and a cpl of 4th line players. You can say all you want about Step but he’s is a 2nd liner with potential, and bordering mostly on 3rd liner.
    We need to stop “disillusioning” ourselves. We need a true 1st line Center for Nash to succeed.
    Now Sather needs to retire, his old style hockey is just like Zucc’s KHL coach said it is “Stone age Hockey”. I say this knowing that it was directed at Torts but it starts with the Owner & GM. We need a GM that’s up to date with present day hockey ie, Chicago’s GM and others around the League.
    Hey, I loved Torts up till this year. Calling players out in the press, and the way he treated the press was getting old and is just down right unprofessional, and his Coaching style is out dated in today’s NHL. But hey he brought back a winning culture to the team Thank him for that. AV will be a nice change, but he is no magician and he will have a big challenge on his hands.
    I hope this doesn’t hurt to many Ranger fans feelings here, it’s not what I’m trying to do. But we all have to be honest and the Ranger Org. needs to be honest also. I’m really starting to think they just care about filling the seat’s and that’s it. Without some big changes here, were looking at another mediocre season “again” and maybe “worst”. I think bringing up some talent we have in the minors is the way to go, because of salary cap. Might be the only option with buying out BR and “not” falling into the “D. Briere Trap”. I pray they don’t go that route.
    But I for one, will still be rooting for our beloved team the NYR’s.
    Thank You for listening to my rant
    JS