During the 2013 playoffs, the Rangers struggled to compete at a high level. Then head coach, John Tortorella, did the unthinkable. After slowly whittling Brad Richards‘ ice time down to almost nothing, Tortorella benched the veteran for other players. The fan base was outraged. Screaming for General Manager, Glen Sather to do something about this mockery. It just wasn’t the right thing to do in the eyes of all those people in the stands and watching on TV who clearly knew more about what to do than the Rangers’ staff. As it turned out, Richards ended up being benched only two games before the team was eliminated.
On the rational side of things, Tortorella made the right choice. He just made the choice far too late for it to help his team. Few can say that Richards played to his full potential or skill level last year; blame it on the lockout if it makes you feel better. The thing is, Brad Richards still isn’t playing with any type of consistency and definitely is not playing as though he is a top six player. None of the top six are playing as such. So what does Alain Vigneault do now that he is rapidly approaching an early exit from the post season?
Remember at the beginning of the season when Vigneault benched Mats Zuccarello for a game? Remember how unhappy he was about not playing in that one game? He came back from that game out and really lit up the rink. All season Zuccarello has been the go to player for the Rangers. Now everyone calm down, I’m not saying Zuccarello needs to be benched again. There is another player on the team who seems to only play well when he feels compelled to up his game for personal reasons.
Remember that one game this season in Columbus when Rick Nash actually “took the body” and played a really great game? Nash had seven shots on goal and even scored one, he got the winning shoot out goal for the Rangers as well. He totaled nine penalties in minutes and registered 19:28 in ice time. Yeah, that’s the one. He just returned from his concussion and was an absolute monster on the ice; it was great. If you weren’t in a state of shock that left your jaw on the floor during that one, you don’t watch much Rangers hockey. In 10 games this post season Nash has four points; assists only. Those four assists came early in the Rangers’ series against the Philadelphia Flyers. Without any points against the Penguins, Nash is also a -1 in goal differential. Some fans say, “He’s had some good looks.” This is true but as an “Elite Goal Scorer” his job is to get the puck in the net. At nearly eight million dollars each year, he’s getting paid to do more than get good looks. To put his paycheck in perspective for you, he’s making almost a full million dollars more than Henrik Lundqvist this season.
It’s not as if Nash is just in a slump or having an off-year either. Last year Nash had one goal and four assists in 12 playoff
games. In 2008-09 Nash tallied one goal and two assists in four games as a Blue Jacket. Those numbers are not impressive by any standards. It’s also not as if Nash is a physical player nor does he help with face-offs. At this point, Nash is being out scored by Daniel Carcillo, two goals in five games. J.T. Miller has two assists in three games and Jesper Fast has an assist in his three games. Fast and Miller both add speed to the team that Nash doesn’t seem to be adding and they are playing to stay with the team and not sitting in the press box or back to the AHL.
Maybe sitting Nash for a game in favor of, dare I say it, Carcillo would be a good idea. Give him a reason to fight for ice time. It’s nothing he’s ever had to do before. He’s like a little kid whose parents gave them everything he ever asked for so he never appreciated any of it. If he is serious about playing and winning, he will step up his game and fight to get back on the ice. If he’s not serious, we will see a broken Nash who plays for a paycheck and nothing more. What does the team have to lose now? They are staring down the barrel of a gun called elimination. It’s a shot-gun loaded with buck shot so it won’t be a pleasant feeling when the round is released. The time to act is now, before it’s too late.