With the news of Chris Kreider’s imminent return to the Rangers line-up (likely tonight), it’s fair to say the sooner the talented winger is back in the line-up the better the Rangers chances are to overcome the Penguins. The fact that a rookie – who has had a solid yet unspectacular first full season with the Rangers – is almost seen as a saviour for the offense can be seen as an indirect criticism of most if not all of the Rangers big name offensive players up front, most notably Rick Nash.
How Chris Kreider fares in this year’s playoffs and the start of next season will have a direct impact on the future of Rick Nash. Many Rangers fans have already begun to jump off the Nash bandwagon amid his distinct lack of playoff production. If Kreider could come back and become the consistent scorer everyone thinks he could be it could spell danger for Nash’s Rangers future.
Kreider has greater straight line speed than Nash, and perhaps most noticeably (evident even while out of the line-up) goes to the net and the high traffic areas more consistently. Given the comparative costs of the two wingers, if Kreider could replicate what Nash has done as a Ranger (which isn’t a huge stretch given Kreider’s talent) the Rangers may look to end the Nash era early.
Both Kreider and Nash are power forwards with great size both of who possess elite finishing ability. The biggest differences – which both count against Nash – are that one is significantly cheaper and carries less baggage as a Ranger. If the Rangers were to be eliminated by the Penguins this week, and Nash carries his barren streak into next year, the negativity and questions around Nash may be too great to reverse. Marian Gaborik was almost chased out of two despite a pair of 40-goal seasons as a Ranger while on a less skilled team.
The perfect scenario for the Rangers would see Kreider return immediately and hit the ground running, while coinciding with Nash potting a few and getting back to being the elite power forward everyone knows he can be. That scenario would give the Rangers offense an immediate boost and a realistic chance to go toe to toe with the Penguins. It seems a rookie may really be a saviour in waiting.