Big Skates to Fill

Following what was arguably the Blue Jackets’ boldest trade its eleven-year history, many fans remain unhappy with the return for their former star. The general consensus being that Rick Nash was worth more than a pair of forwards, a young defenseman, and a draft pick. And so while Nash does his inaugural meet-and-greets in New York City, the crestfallen fan base in Columbus has not yet started its transition. And it may take awhile.

Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, and Tim Erixson have some huge skates to fill, as Nash, perhaps as much as any player, obtained the much sought-after "intangibles" that hide within the stat sheet.

Nash interacted with the community off the ice as much as he did on it. Through hard work and loyalty, the power-forward became the face of a franchise struggling to earn respect. He was often the team’s lone representative at prestigious league functions such as the famed All-Star Game and the postseason NHL Awards ceremony.

The Ontario-native occasionally received recognition for his contributions away from the rink but his most unique attribute was hardly detectable to the casual fan. The soft-spoken captain served as a steady and reassuring voice for the playoff-starved fans. Though it may not have been apparent, his stoic expression and was more a symbol of perseverance than apathy.

The five-time All-Star played in 674 regular season games with the Blue Jackets recording a team-leading 547 points. In 2009, Columbus notched its first and only playoff birth, however the jubilation was short-lived as Detroit swept the series. Nash could have used his team’s lack of success an excuse to leave the city, but instead of playing through the remainder of his contract then testing the market, the winger signed an eight-year contract extension with the team.

Despite being considered one of the best power forwards in the game, Nash chose to stick with the team that drafted him seven years earlier, fully aware of the success he could have with a more talented squad. In 54 games with Team Canada the power forward has registered 53 points. Nash has 12 points in five All-Star games. And during the lockout year, Nash played alongside San Jose standout Joe Thornton recording 46 points in 44 games.

He was the epitome of dedication and up until the moment the trade call was made the winger was acting with the Blue Jackets in mind. Nash offered to be a piece of the puzzle when management announced its plans to rebuild and, after months of trying, Scott Howson finally fulfilled his player’s trade request.

Nash’s records may be broken, though his predecessors will not be able to duplicate the magnitude of his influence on the franchise. His ability to grab two of the NHL’s most esteemed prizes in the Maurice "Rocket" Richard trophy and the NHL Foundation Player Award brought much-needed attention to a previously unknown expansion team, and for that, fans will be forever grateful.

It is for is for these reasons that Howson would never have found a trade to satisfy Columbus’ supporters. Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky may match Nash’s goal total next season, but they will not be able to replace him. Statistics only say so much about a player.

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