The Columbus Blue Jackets have given Riley Nash plenty of chances. It’s time to bench him.
I’ll be the first to admit I thought that the Riley Nash signing by the Columbus Blue Jackets was a great move. And it still might be. But it has been an utter failure so far in the 2018-2019 season and it’s time to sit Nash for a few games.
The 29-year-old forward signed a three year, $2.75 million contract this offseason after an impressive season with the Boston Bruins. Nash was elevated to center the top line after an injury to Patrice Bergeron and he excelled. He kept the Bruins rolling and racked up 41 points.
But with the Jackets Nash has come crashing back down to earth. Originally he was supposed to push Alexander Wennberg for the number two center role. It quickly became apparent that Nash wasn’t up for that and he was quickly relegated to centering the fourth line.
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Over time, he transitioned to the wing on the fourth line and has been unrecognizable for the last two months of play. Nash’s possession metrics are underwater, he is poor on face-offs (43.6%), not a good penalty killer and is not coming close to producing offensively. He only has one goal and three assist in 42 games this year.
Yet he hasn’t once found himself in the press box as a healthy scratch. All the while Oliver Bjorkstrand and Anthony Duclair, both who have more than tripled the output of Nash, have found themselves on the wrong side of the lineup and in street clothes when the puck was dropped.
It’s understandable that a veteran player like Nash as built up some equity that buys him a longer leash than others. Nash has played in over 440 games in the NHL and that’s worth something.
But over half of the season is gone by and Nash has shown no signs of improving or that he is becoming more comfortable as a member of the Blue Jackets.
Quite the opposite. He has played his worst hockey in December and the first week of January and now is the time to sit the veteran.
The Jackets don’t have stellar options to replace him on the wing but Eric Robinson has shown some promise and Lukas Sedalk is a capable winger that is out there putting forth far more effort than Nash.
There is also the option of calling up Zac Dalpe who is having an All-Star year in the AHL with Cleveland. The team could also look at former second round pick Paul Bittner who is having a good year. Both deserve a shot more than Nash at this point.
If the Jackets don’t scratch Nash they are sending a conflicting message to the team. That young players who don’t produce or play hard (like Duke and Bjork) will be scratched but if you have logged more than 400 games, you’ll be fine. That can’t be the way this team operates and it’s time to sit Nash.
The Jackets next game is on Thursday at home and Nick Foligno should be returning to the lineup. It would be a nice time to scratch Nash and keep Eric Robinson in the lineup. The time is now to see what this team can look like without Nash in the lineup.