Rangers score big in Nash trade
The most telling statistic of all about Rick Nash's nine seasons in Columbus probably is this: five NHL all-star games, four NHL playoff games. In the Blue Jackets' miserable tenure in the NHL, Nash was always their one-hit wonder, the "My Sharona" in a sea of bad album cuts.
Today, the Blue Jackets parceled out that big hit single for a collection of B-sides. Ending months of endless rumors, Columbus general manager Scott Howson shipped Nash, a third-round pick and minor-league defenseman to the New York Rangers for forwards Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, defenseman Tim Erixon and a first-round pick next year.
Reaction to the deal was swift, as is the case in a world of Twitter. To quote another song title, the consensus to the deal seemingly can be summed up in Peggy Lee's: "Is That All There Is?"
"If these names are right this is a disaster for cbj," Tweeted former Blue Jackets GM Doug MacLean (gee, you don't think he still has an ax to grind over being fired by the Jackets, do you?). But other, further removed NHL experts didn't seem to think much of what Columbus got back for a 28-year-old left wing who has scored 30 or more goals seven times.
"There is no game breaker in Nash deal -- NYR did very well in trading no core players. #goodforNYR" -- NHL analyst Ray Ferraro tweeted.
Nash is one of only four players -- Ilya Kovalchuk, Jarome Iginla and Alex Ovechkin the others -- that have scored 30 goals in each of the last five seasons. But other than one year (2009), his teams never made the playoffs (and in that one playoff appearance, the Jackets were swept in four games by Detroit, never once having a lead in the series).
He has been labeled by some as one of those great individual talents who nonetheless never made his teammates better. We'll know for sure how accurate that rap is next season, as Nash will join an Eastern Conference playoff finalist that probably was just one good stick away from being a Cup finalist.
Legendary former Montreal Canadiens GM Sam Pollock once coined the phrase "Whichever team gets the best player wins the trade", and there is little doubt the Rangers, by that standard, won the trade.
Dubinsky is a good heart-and-soul forward, but with only modest offensive skill. His 10 goals last season were a career low. But he's a relentless checker and good on faceoffs (52.2 percent average over the last five seasons). Anisimov put up some decent scoring numbers for a defensive-oriented team, and will get a big opportunity to display his considerable skills more in Columbus. Still, he was considered more of a complementary-type player with the Rangers.
If the Blue Jackets had been able to pry either Derek Stepan or Chris Kreider from the Rangers, no doubt reaction to the deal would be much more excitable from the pundits.
But absolute judgment on this deal is a ways off. Erixon has shown considerable promise as a defender. He's a 2009 first-round pick with Calgary, who endured some knocks to his character by refusing to sign with the Flames and essentially forcing a trade to a place he wanted.
As Ferraro noted in a follow-up tweet: "Tim Erixon, u know the phrase "careful what you wish for"- Didn't want to play in Calgary, got his deal to NYR, now will play in CBJ #oops."
Let's not discount what that first-round pick of the Rangers may turn into, though at this point that looks to be a late first-rounder at best.
For the Rangers' sake, it better be. The pressure is really on now for coach John Tortorrella to take them to that first Cup final since 1994. Can Nash flourish under a coach who preaches defense first and all-out intensity every second? Nash has never been confused with Frank J. Selke.
But on this team, he won't need to be either. With Nash, Torts can probably ease up a little on the robotic defensive style he needed to employ to win with last year's personnel. Now he's got a nice-looking group of top forwards, with Nash, Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan, Stepan and Kreider.
In a conference call with reporters after the trade, Howson seemed thrilled by his return for Nash. "It took five-and-a-half, six months to get the value we're happy with," Howson said.
The rest of the hockey world is sounding more like Peggy Lee.