Other than the start of free agency, perhaps there’s no other time of the year where hockey fans, the media, and even front office staff get overly excited about other team’s players. Some trade deadline’s end up as complete busts, while other’s see more movement than anyone could have anticipated. How this week will turn out, nobody knows for sure.
However, for the first time in a rather long time, I’m hoping the Rangers will stand pat. Even if it means holding on to you-know-who regardless of whether he signs a new contract by 3pm Wednesday. This year the reason to stand pat is simple — we’re playing very well and we still have yet to see the best of Rick Nash.
The Rangers are 17-9 since the holidays. Their PP is clicking around 20%, their highest in years. Hank is back to his old self. The teams directly below them in the standings (e.g., the Capitals, Maple Leafs, etc.) look to be anything but complete or elite. Other than last night’s flop against the Bruins, the Rangers are still headed in the right direction.
Despite all that, everyone still seems to want to make a trade. Whether it is for Martin St. Louis for his skill or Chris Stewart for his grit, the never-ending desire for new toys continues. But what about team chemistry? Have we even seen this team at its best yet? I think not.
While other players certainly need to step their game up coming down the homestretch — hello Derek Stepan — perhaps no player could have a greater impact than Rick Nash. At this point, the guy has been healthy for over three months. That’s more than enough time to get acquainted with Alain Vigneault and his system.
To date, Nash has been averaging 0.66 pts per game, his lowest output since his rookie year (02-03). His 8 hits in 45 games this season are also somewhat alarming given he was supposed to be the power forward we had always been missing.
Still, all hope is not lost for the big man. Nash’s days as being a premiere power forward in this league are probably behind him, but what we do need to see more of is game to game consistency. Some nights he looks like the Nash of last season, driving to the net and creating grade A chances between the hash marks. Other nights, I can’t find him.
If AV can find a way to get Nash back to producing close to the level that Torts got out of him last year, or even what Arniel got out of him in Columbus, the Rangers will be far better equipped to handle a series against Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, etc. Those teams have had our number in the past. This year could be different, but we can’t go into battle without Nash at his best.