Why It's Time for Columbus to Let Rick Nash Go in Peace

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.

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