While no one will argue that losing Rick Nash will be like losing a finger or another important appendage, it’s a reality that many Blue Jackets fans will have to come to grips with this upcoming off season. However, the enigma that is Rick Nash has to be viewed in any and every angle as for years he stood as the hero of Columbus. A star player that not only played here in Columbus for more than half a season—looking at you Jeff Carter—but actually wanted to play here and was the main attraction for bringing new players to Columbus. As the time runs down on Rick Nash in a Blue Jackets uniform, and he looked darn good in a Blue Jackets uniform, it’s time to ask a question that dared not be ask when he was solely in our corner for fear of being ridiculed by fellow fans.
Is Rick Nash leaving this team really that bad?
Cursory glances at his statistics would seem to shout that it is, in fact, a very big deal that the leading scorer of the Blue Jackets for pretty much his entire career is leaving the team, but upon a more detailed glance at his statistics, change may not be so bad for the Blue Jackets and it may not be so bad for him. Don’t get the wrong impression though, anyone who believes that Rick Nash isn’t every bit the talented and amazing player that he is has a head further in the clouds than Bryzgalov.
First and foremost, in the 29 games that the Jackets won this last season that Rick Nash participated in, he scored 14 goals and 27 total points with a +/- rating of 15. That’s pretty impressive, nearly a point per game pace and being up 15 in the +/- category is not too shabby either. This is the kind of player we all think of when we think Rick Nash and the kind of player the Blue Jackets need. If you look at the staggering 53 games Rick Nash played where the Jackets lost, he scored 16 goals, 32 total points with a +/- rating of -34. It would not be necessarily wrong to blame that -34 on the cardboard cutout of Steve Mason that played in Steve Mason’s place all last season but you cannot place all the blame on the goalie. That’s even considering that the goalie was Steve Mason.
Let’s crunch some more numbers. Zekebud of Jackets Cannon laid out a very detailed analysis of Rick Nash and how he contributes to the team using the GVT statistic. For those who don’t know what a GVT is, you can learn more about it here. Basically, it’s a flat number that sets an easy to recognize value to a hockey player. As you may have guessed by now, Rick Nash has the highest GVT on the Blue Jackets with a 9.5 GVT rating. This number is actually lower than his production over the last 2 seasons, but when you’re a Blue Jackets fan you try not to delve much into the past. Anyway, Rick Nash has a 9.5 GVT, as mentioned. The popular rumor is that trading Rick Nash would facilitate the removal of Steve Mason in goal. If you check Steve Mason’s GVT, it is -19.3. For those who aren’t so good at math, this means that Rick Nash would have to be twice as good to even out the level of suck brought by Steve Mason. Removing Nash from the picture ostensibly removes Steve Mason from the picture. Without any player additions, that makes the Blue Jackets, as a whole, 9.8 GVT better than they are right now. Imagine that, no more cap hits from Mason or Nash and the team as a whole gets 9.8 GVT better. According to PuckProspectUs.com, that would be the equivalent of adding Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall or Dennis Wideman to the team free of charge. Think about that for just a second. Just removing Rick Nash and Steve Mason together is already the equivalent of adding Niklas Kronwall to the team and that’s not counting whoever the Blue Jackets get for Nash. Just removing Nash and Mason at the same time, the Jacket have gotten back all the positive they lost from Nash and then another Rick Nash worth right on top of it.
There are other things to consider as well, as the lack of depth at the forward line in general for the Blue Jackets. As Matt from inwordsandphrases.com will tell you, the Jackets don’t have a lot of strength at forward when compared to winning teams. With only two players that hit the .7 points per game plateau, it can be said with no argument that the Jackets are among the most shallow teams. While this is a problem that trading Rick Nash won’t fix, the Jackets are obviously in need of better goal tending. If the Nashville Predators, who have only one player that hit the .7 and .8 points per game plateau—and it was the same guy who hit both—have proven anything, it’s that defense and goaltending win games just as much as having a bunch of high scoring forwards. Even more so in some cases, defensively minded teams like the New York Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes made it further than the “goal every 2 minutes” flavor of hockey played by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Vancouver Canucks and Philadelphia Flyers.
For what it’s worth, Rick Nash really is worth every player that Scott Howson manages to squeeze out of him, so this should not be an account of Rick Nash being a bad player because he absolutely is not. The numbers don’t lie, though, and removing Rick Nash in order to get a better goalie is, far and wide, one of the smartest moves that the Jackets could possibly make.