Rick Nash Really a Ranger and Other Thoughts

Last February I wanted Rick Nash on the Rangers in the worst way. I thought the Rangers had to give up whatever it took to get Nash, even if that meant Chris Kreider, and I campaigned hard for Glen Sather to get it done.

Sather tried to get it done by supposedly offering Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon, J.T. Miller, Christian Thomas and a first-round pick for Nash. It was a deal the hockey world collectively agreed was a great return for the Blue Jackets, but Scott Howson turned it down and then denied it was ever offered. Howson missed the trade deadline and it looked like he would have leverage in the offseason with more teams in the mix, and could possibly get even more from the Rangers for Nash if they didn’t win or reach the Cup. But then Howson outed Nash by saying he asked to be traded, compromising his leverage and forcing him to have to move his franchise player in the offseason no matter what. So Howson accepted the Rangers’ offseason offer on July 23 of Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first-round pick, which was significantly lower than the original reported offer. The Blue Jackets never intended on keeping Rick Nash because they couldn’t keep Rick Nash. They had “tried” to build their team around him, but never gave him adequate pieces to play with. (Question: How does Scott Howson still have a job?)

I thought the Rangers had to have Rick Nash at the trade deadline because they lacked premium and consistent scoring for the postseason and with a young defense, it was going to come down to Henrik Lundqvist every game again … and it did. Once the crazy bounces stopped going the Rangers’ way, and the shots from the corner stopped deflecting off defenseman’s skates and going in, and they stopped scoring in the final seconds … the Devils beat them.

A lot of people opposed trading for Nash at the deadline because of his contract, the years on his contract, his salary and the cap hit. Others cited the Rangers being “two games away from the Cup” with the team they have as a reason to not trade for Nash. But when you think about them being down 3-2 to the eighth-seeded Senators and needing to win back-to-back elimination games, being forced to a Game 7 against the seventh-seeded Capitals (and they needed to win in triple overtime in Game 3 and a goal with 6.6 seconds left in Game 5 before another overtime win) and then losing to the rival Devils, a 6 seed, in six games, it didn’t feel like they were just two games from the Cup. The only time the Rangers won back-to-back games in the postseason was in Games 6 and 7 of the first round. Technically they were two games away from the Cup, but really they weren’t that close.

I hadn’t written about the Nash trade yet, partly because of the Yankees and partly because it still hadn’t really set in that Rick Nash is a Ranger. When was the last time I had really, really wanted a New York team to get Player X and it worked out? It certainly didn’t work out with Cliff Lee and still hasn’t. But last week the Nash trade became a reality when I walked by the NHL store on 6th Avenue and saw his No. 61 jersey displayed in the front window. Then this week at Yankee Stadium I saw several people wearing Nash shirts for Yankees-Orioles and it really started to set in.

With Nash officially a Ranger I wanted to look at the three main reasons I kept hearing as cons to trading for him aside from his contract.

1. Don’t Give Up Chris Kreider
I was ready to give up Kreider in February when no one else was (except for WFAN’s Brian Monzo). Kreider played well for three years at Boston College, but he also didn’t put up better numbers than a lot of other BC and Hockey East players that ended up becoming average NHL players. The jump Kreider made from the NCAA ranks to the NHL playoffs was impressive, scoring five goals and two assists in 18 games in three tight series, and he showed a glimpse of what Rangers fans can expect in the future. But Kreider was also picked 19th overall in the 2009 first round and was the 28th of 30 players from that first round to appear in an NHL game, so it made me skeptical as to why the rest of his class had already been in the league and he kept returning to BC.

Would I have traded Kreider this offseason for Nash after having seen him in the playoffs? Probably not. But it’s not because I think he’s a guarantee to become the type of player or offensive presence that Rick Nash is, but it’s because I didn’t think the Rangers would have to give him up to get Nash. When Howson didn’t trade for Nash at the deadline and then said Nash wanted out, you knew Howson wasn’t going to get what he wanted anymore. I thought the Blue Jackets would get more than they ended up getting (I thought it would take Derek Stepan or Carl Hagelin), but I didn’t think they would get Kreider and they didn’t, so all Rangers fans got what they wanted.

2. Nash Can’t Win Because He Hasn’t Won
A lot of uninformed or unintelligent fans cited Nash’s four playoff games in nine seasons as a reason to not trade for him. Because it’s his fault the Blue Jackets reached the postseason once, and not the poor supporting cast or defense and goaltending situations. And let’s forget that he’s a first-liner on Team Canada with Sidney Crosby. Yeah…

3. His Offensive Numbers Aren’t That Good
Nash’s worst goal-scoring season came in his rookie season in 2002-03 when he scored 17 as an 18-year old. The sad thing is that was his worst offensive season and those 17 goals would have tied him for fourth on the Ranges last season with Stepan for goals on the team. Stepan was 21 to start last season. Since his rookie year, Nash has put up 41, 31, 27, 38, 40, 33, 32 and 30 goals. In that time, the wing’s best centers have been R.J. Umberger, Antoine Vermette and a 36-year-old Sergei Fedorov. That’s real life.

I haven’t been this excited about a New York trade in a long time. I’m excited for the Rick Nash era in New York because he’s Rick Nash and because he’s been one of my favorite players in the league since his rookie season. I’m more excited for the people that only know his name and not his level of play to find out just how good he is.

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The worst Yankees start I have seen in person at Yankee Stadium came on May 28, 2005 when Carl Pavano and the Yankees lost to the Red Sox 17-1. Here’s Pavano’s line from that day: 3.2 IP, 11 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 K. (Tony Womack hit second, John Flaherty hit eighth and Robinson Cano hit ninth so it was a weird day.) It was actually the last time I would see Pavano pitch in person until Opening Day 2007 (since he would soon be out for the rest of 2005 and then all of 2006) when he got the start by default and injuries (ironic). That was a bad day in the Bronx, but Tuesday night against the Orioles might have been worse.

When the Yankees went up 5-0 in the first, I was laughing with my friend and his brother about how we might be able to go to the Yankee Tavern in the third inning if the Yankees kept it up. We didn’t know the Orioles were going to answer with seven two-out runs in the top of the second, including a Chris Davis grand slam.

When the Orioles made it 5-3 with the bases loaded and Davis coming up, we joked that he was going to his a grand slam. I jokingly predicted it was going to go where the Yankees’ bullpen meets the auxiliary scoreboard. Then when he crushed an 0-1 pitch that just kept carrying and carrying and eventually hit the top of the wall in left-center and bounced over, we weren’t joking anymore.

I’m not sure if Nova is going to get a postseason start with CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte at the front of the rotation, Hiroki Kuroda having a great year and Phil Hughes pitching well. If Nova wants to be in the conversation and avoid being the Javier Vazquez of 2010 and the A.J. Burnett of 2011 when it comes to the rotation, he needs to start pitching the way he did in June (5 GS, 3-0, 1.26 ERA).

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I spent an unnecessary amount of time over the last month going to MLB Trade Rumors, reading what Buster Olney and Jon Heyman wrote and clicking any headline or link that teased some sort of rumor. I even forced myself into following Ken Rosenthal for the last few hours of the deadline (don’t worry I unfollowed him at 4:01 p.m.). That’s how enticing and addicting the MLB Trade Deadline can be.

I don’t remember every deadline or every move at every deadline, but this had to be in the Top 3 worst trade deadlines ever. The hype of Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Justin Upton, Matt Garza, James Shields, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury led to nothing happening. I blame Bud Selig because he’s the one to blame. With the one-game playoff, there are currently eight teams with a chance at a wild card in the AL and there are five with a chance in the NL. Teams in the AL didn’t know if they should be buyers or sellers or if it was worth giving up pieces of the future for a chance to play one game and then face the Yankees or Rangers in the ALDS.

During the final hour of the deadline the Yankees made a push for Ryan Dempster because the Cubs were running out of time and it was going to cost the Yankees nothing. I didn’t want Ryan Dempster unless it cost them nothing and even then I didn’t want Ryan Dempster because I didn’t think his success would translate in the AL East or in the AL playoffs. However, by the end of the 3:00 hour I wanted the Yankees to get him just because it had dragged on and it felt like they had to do something at that point even if they didn’t need to and even if it didn’t make sense to.

I thought the Yankees needed to add a starting pitcher and I still do, but it shouldn’t have been Ryan Dempster and I’m glad it wasn’t. The guy I wanted the Yankees to get is the guy I wanted them to get in December 2010 and now he might be available again and Texas better not get him.

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