Wednesday, March 21, 2012

NashWatch: The Incredible Disappearing Captain

It's time for us to make our peace with the deteriorating Rick Nash situation.

I already had, really, before Rick Nash provided the only real highlight in last night's debacle.

I already mentioned a bit about the cliche of "Rick Nash just trying to get on the scoresheet" in the recap of last night's game. However, it's more than a sad cliche, really....

It's a sad sign of the times.

Prior to last night's deflection from Jack Johnson, Rick Nash had gone a whopping nine games without a goal or an assist. This, after tallying three goals and an assist in the three games after the Trade Deadline.

Those three games at least appeared to indicate that Rick Nash was still aboard. He would still wear the sweater. Still be a Blue Jacket. Still be one of us.

Now, Rick Nash is also a streaky player. That sentence is also a sad cliche. However, it also really is true. He is. The guy gets white hot... then dry-ice cold.

When he's hot... he's a freakin' spectacular hockey player. When he's cold... well, he's just another hockey player.

But that's a fact of life we have lived with ever since Rick Nash became a Columbus Blue Jacket.

From his entry-level contract... through his contract extension with Doug MacLean (who caught hell for whining about teams overspending and the need for Salary Cap... and then immediately signed Rick Nash for $5 million/year, once he got the cap)... and all the way up to his current $7.8 million/year deal.

The problem with this scoreless streak, however, was the timing. At any other time, Blue Jackets fans could gladly accept the fact that Rick Nash is... well, streaky.

The problem this time is that he has requested a trade. Now, there is the recently-discussed development that Nash went over Howson's head to talk to John P. McConnell about a change of leadership, and when it was shot down, he requested a trade.

I would also be willing to bet as well that if you took a poll among the CBJ faithful, and asked them to choose between Rick Nash remaining with the Blue Jackets as a player and Scott Howson remaining as GM... I think the majority would probably choose Nash.

But not so fast.

Whether or not Rick Nash asked for a change in the front office before requesting a trade, or just wanted out after the season turned into a disaster... I think Rick Nash is made it pretty clear that he's ready to move on.

That there was a bit of debate last week as to Nash's level of commitment, when my esteemed colleague Dark Blue Jacket discussed comments Nash made to the Edmonton media at the beginning of the Jackets' last Western Canada Road Trip.

During that dialogue with the media, Nash said, "We're going to try and get as many points as we can by the end of the season. Finishing last is something we don't want to do. Perhaps management and other levels of the organization have different obligations, but for us, there's no chance that we want to finish in the basement."

Now, DBJ labeled that statement as "mutinous." It's kind of a strong word, but I don't disagree. If anything, implying that the management would expect or want the team to take a dive to secure that top draft pick (or at least the most ping-pong balls in the Draft Lottery) seems to support the belief that there is something more to the reports of Nash asking for a management change.

Sure... Nash more than likely heard the collective gasp in Columbus when Scott Howson revealed in his post-Trade Deadline news conference that Nash had requested a trade. From there, a schism of sorts began among CBJ fans... those who felt Howson threw Nash under the bus to cover his own perceived failings, and of course those who felt betrayed to know that all that talk about being a Blue Jacket and spending the next several years here was just a bunch of crap.

But Nash was a gentleman about it the next day. He didn't call out the management or lend any credence that he wanted Howson removed. He made it sound like his request for a trade had to do with trying to get the team the pieces that it needs to contend...

...oh. And for his career.

He didn't elaborate on that for "my career" part. Repeated it a couple times, but didn't elaborate. Essentially, he tried to make himself still seem like the good guy... and the "company man" he has always been for this franchise.

Last week in Edmonton, he broke character a bit. As much as Howson outing Nash's trade request was a "proverbial warning shot across the bow" at Nash... Nash returned fire.

But make no mistake… Nash's statements in Edmonton was just as much an agent-coached, spin-filled load of crap, as the news conference he gave after the deadline.

I'm not saying that we as Blue Jackets fans need to turn our backs on Rick Nash. I'm sure he's a very likable guy.

I'm just saying that we need to get used to the fact that this ugly divorce is going to happen. I think we all also need to get used to the fact that it very much needs to happen.

Getting to that point, however, is likely to be a very painful process. The process is made all the more difficult by the fact that Columbus and the rest of the hockey world know that Nash requested a trade, which was a very bad move on Scott Howson's part.

Much like calling out the management while half-assing it on the ice was a very bad move on Nash's part. Like I said before, I think there's a reason why Nash doesn't and probably shouldn't do news conferences very often.

It's time to let go.

Certainly Rick Nash cannot be expected to carry the entire team on its back... although at $7.8 million a year, it's understandable that people might have such expectations. But while I don't feel he needs to completely carry the team… I do feel he should be doing something more than just dragging their asses across the finish line.

It's time to let go.

However you may feel about Scott Howson's leadership and whether he should even be the general manager when the season is over... if Rick Nash thinks he can somehow impact whether Howson has that job, he is a bigger fool then he has unintentionally made of himself in the media in last few weeks. If a player starts dictating who should be in the front office, that sets a dangerous precedent. It's not like Rick Nash can run this team any better than he has captained it lately.

However, fans find themselves in a situation that seems very "no-win." Howson has probably hurt his chances of getting what he wants for Nash by revealing Nash's desire for a trade. Nash is further hindering the process by being so selective in which teams he will go to.

Oh. That scoreless streak he only recently snapped probably isn't doing him any favors, either.

Scott Howson will apparently get one more chance to "re-shape" this team this summer. How he can do that with a likely drawn-out battle of trying to move Rick Nash to get some workable pieces in order to fill out the long-term strategy... that's anyone's guess.

This is the mess we face this summer. And we still have two weeks of the regular season and the entire Playoffs to sit through.

I've mentioned before that it's important that Jackets fans continue to support this team... and as long as Rick Nash is wearing a Blue Jackets uniform, he is part of this team.

However, there are nine games remaining in this hockey season. And based on his play, Rick Nash is already looking ahead. He's still wearing the uniform, and we should treat him accordingly, even if he does seem to have checked out.

But come April 8, it's time for us to start looking ahead as well. And although this could be a very long and painful process for him to leave Columbus... we need to get used to the idea that Rick Nash will no longer be a Columbus Blue Jacket.

It's time to move on.

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3/1/2012: Well... Now That Nash Has Spoken...
2/28/2012: Bad Season... Turned Nightmare...
2/27/2012: Trade Deadline Day: The Beginning Of The End (?)
2/16/2012: Bubble Hockey (Players): Rick Nash

1 comment:

  1. Another great post, my friend. I think you articulate so many points that people need to truly let sink in. For me, I'm in agreement with you and, I will always be about the team before any one player.