PITTSBURGH, PA - FEBRUARY 26: Columbus Blue Jackets fans in Pittsburgh show their support for Rick Nash #61 of the Columbus Blue Jackets as Nash warms up before a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 26, 2012 at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
If you're like me, you've slowly made your peace with the fact that, as we inch closer and closer to the draft, Rick Nash will most likely be traded sometime in the near future. When the news first broke that Nash was on the block in February, I didn't want to believe it. One of the hardest things to do when I go and cover a game in the press box is to turn off the "fan" switch. I do it; but there were some times the first few times I went in which I was still a little giddy-nervous to go into the dressing room and talk to some of these guys.
Rick Nash was at the top of that list. In this landscape of professional athletes, Nash is truly a nice man. The first time I interviewed him at length about the All Star Game in 2011, after the interview he shook my hand and told me that it was nice talking to me. He didn't have to do that. For all the fire he takes for various things, there's never been any doubt that he loved playing here, and that he was a genuine, truly nice human being. He was a Blue Jacket.
So, when it became more and more clear that Rick Nash was ready to move on, many fans may have taken it a bit personally. I know, speaking for myself, that it was hard to come to grips with letting him go. So, for those of you like me, this piece is an attempt to help you make your peace. It's time for us to let him go. Here's why.
Of all active players as of the end of this 2011-2012 season, Rick Nash is 24th in career goals. Granted, this is a subjective stat to pull, but Nash is a goal-scorer. On the top 25 list, Nash is the second-youngest player (Ovechkin), and has played in the second-fewest games (Ovi, again). Only three other players began their careers in the 2000s. But more importantly, the other 24 guys on this list have something Nash does not. I have to tip my cap to my friend Brian, who suggested I do some research into this stat, and this is the fruit of that labor.
What is Nash missing compared to everyone else on that list? It's simple: those other 24 guys all have extensive playoff careers. Let's look at the following table of the top 25 active goal scorers:
|Rank||Player||Goals||Career Games||Playoff Games||Furthest Round Advanced||Stanley Cup?|
|1.||Jaromir Jagr||665||1,346||180||Stanley Cup Finals||Yes|
|2.||Teemu Selanne||663||1,341||111||Stanley Cup Finals||Yes|
|3.||Jarome Iginla||516||1,188||54||Stanley Cup Finals|
|4.||Jason Arnott||417||1,234||122||Stanley Cup Finals||Yes|
|5.||Marian Hossa||417||978||130||Stanley Cup Finals||Yes|
|6.||Daniel Alfredsson||416||1,131||111||Stanley Cup Finals|
|7.||Ilya Kovalchuk||406||779||32||Stanley Cup Finals|
|8.||Patrick Marleau||387||1,117||129||Conference Finals|
|9.||Ryan Smyth||374||1,151||93||Stanley Cup Finals|
|10.||Vincent Lecavalier||373||998||63||Stanley Cup Finals||Yes|
|11.||Milan Hejduk||371||991||112||Stanley Cup Finals||Yes|
|12.||Ray Whitney||365||1,229||103||Stanley Cup Finals||Yes|
|13.||Patrik Elias||361||1,042||162||Stanley Cup Finals||Yes|
|14.||Dany Heatley||349||751||66||Stanley Cup Finals|
|15.||Brian Rolston||342||1,256||77||Second Round|
|16.||Alex Ovechkin||339||553||51||Second Round|
|17.||Joe Thornton||324||1,077||114||Conference Finals|
|18.||Marian Gaborik||324||722||54||Conference Finals|
|19.||Martin St. Louis||323||931||63||Stanley Cup Finals||Yes|
|20.||Petr Sykora||323||1,017||133||Stanley Cup Finals||Yes|
|21.||Shane Doan||318||1,198||55||Conference Finals|
|22.||Todd Bertuzzi||303||1,093||80||Conference Finals|
|23.||Olli Jokinen||292||1,042||6||First Round|
|24.||Rick Nash||289||674||4||First Round|
|25.||Steve Sullivan||283||969||50||Conference Finals|
Wow. Upon first glance, other than the mercurial Olli Jokinen, Rick Nash looks awfully lonely down there in the single digits. 13 of the top 14 players have played for the Cup in their careers. Obviously, that's a bit skewed because most of the guys up there at the top have been in the league a lot longer. But still, there are some pretty stark contrasts on this list when compared to Nash. Jokinen is the biggest loser on this list, but he's also not the marquee player that Nash is. He's played 368 more games than Nash, and has just three more goals. He's also been traded twice and changed teams three times in the past four seasons in an effort to catch the elusive lightning in a bottle. I digress...
That basically leaves Nash alone down there. He's been in Columbus for 674 games, and has just four playoff games to show for it. Nash turns 28 years old on Saturday. The clock is not in his favor.
So, unless you believe that the Jackets are ready to be perennial playoff participants RIGHT NOW, it's time to let Nash go. It's time to get him higher up on the "playoff games played" list. I don't blame Nash for looking at lists such as this and wishing his time would come. I don't blame him for wanting to go to another team for a chance to play for Lord Stanley. I don't blame Nash for thinking that leaving his prime years with only four games played in the post-season just isn't good enough.
I look at this list and I get it. And it helps me to make my peace.
Godspeed, Rick Nash.