Posted by: kristagolden | July 15, 2012

The Rick Nash situation: a theory

I recently became a writer for Rant Sports’ Columbus Blue Jackets blog (“But you’re a Blackhawks fan!” And I always will be, but the Jackets are familiar to me because they’re division rivals). We’ve already poked fun of the Rick Nash trade story, but here’s my actual take on it, even though I won’t ever publish this on Rant unless I’m asked. And yes, I have two articles already written – one if he goes, one if he stays. – K

Let’s go back to midseason, when the rumors began. Who would’ve thought that Rick Nash, the face of the franchise, would want to leave the only team he’s ever known? Yet two weeks before the trade deadline, a month after Todd Richards was made interim head coach (he’s since been promoted to permanent status), that Scott Howson would announce that “all options are open”. BOOM, Nash is on the market. Here’s the thing, though: Rick has a no-movement clause in his juicy 8-year contract, so he gets to pick where he’d like to go. He gave a list of teams (Rangers, Sharks, Flyers, Red Wings, Bruins and allegedly the Penguins) and passed that on.

We’ve documented the fact that Howson is asking for the impossible, like first-born children or someone’s mortal soul or things to that effect (I think our version is hilarious, by the way). BUT if you ask me, it’s more complicated than that. In fact, it reads like a soap opera.

Yes, Howson has done some good for the Blue Jackets, like build up the blue line (currently sporting James Wisniewski and Jack Johnson). But that alone will not bring wins and/or playoff potential – you must have a solid goalie unit (which they do not) and good forwards, ideally with puck skills and moves like Patrick Kane. Nash sees what’s been happening since Howson came on board in 2007, and he’s not thrilled. So when he went to management and requested a trade, it wasn’t out of a desire for the team to rebuild, as he publicly said, it was a vote of no confidence in Howson.

And how did Howson take this? Well, let me play devil’s advocate for a moment. Howson sees Nash as the cornerstone of the franchise, the alpha and omega of the team, the one guy the entire franchise has been built around (it was only two years old when they drafted him). For Nash to want to leave probably felt like a slap in the face, like he was ungrateful for everything the organization has done for him in ten years. How do you punish ungrateful behavior such as this?

Welp, Howson decided that if Rick Nash wants to go, it will cost whoever wants him the most. This is the crux of the situation – Howson wants not just one but several players, as well as prospects and draft picks. What he wants is players of Nash’s caliber to fill what he most likely thinks will be an enormous hole.

  • Howson wants Logan Couture, and the Sharks aren’t willing to part with him or anyone else.
  • I’ve heard that he wants the Rangers to give up the likes of Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan McDonagh or Derek Stepan.
  • The Red Wings just lost Niklas Lidstrom and Jiri Hudler, so they’re not willing to lose any more key guys.
  • Are the Flyers really going to give up anyone for just one guy?
  • According to Emma, the Bruins that are wanted are in some combo of Dougie Hamilton, David Krejci, Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic, other prospects and draft picks. Yeah, right.
  • The Pens just signed Sidney Crosby and traded Jordan Staal to Carolina. I can’t think of anyone who’s expendable.

But it’s not like Howson’s peddling top-shelf merchandise. In the past three seasons, Nash has barely hit the 30-goal mark and wound up with a -19 (for the record, his 2011-12 record was 30 goals, 29 asissts for 59 points and that -19). His points are good, but if a 40+ goal scorer hasn’t done that since the 2008-09 season, you can’t trade him on the promise that he’s as good as he was, say, seven years ago. In essence, Howson wants the moon and several far-flung galaxies for an inferior product.

So, what will happen in this offseason? Howson could lower his price if he sees interest waning and finally lure someone into a trade, or he could dig in his heels and watch those teams back away from what they think is an outrageous price. If Nash is traded, the Blue Jackets will be able to move past this moment in time and push forward in the season. But if there’s no trade, Nash will be trapped on a team for whom he doesn’t want to play, answering to a man he will probably grow to despise with every passing day. He could sit out training camp and maybe the season, but that will cost him in terms of a daily fine, and the team will have to take the $7 million cap hit (like the Boston Bruins will do with Tim Thomas). He’ll more than likely play under duress, sitting in that locker room awkwardly trying to lead a team that knows he doesn’t want to be there.

In the end, there’s no win-win scenario for this drama. But I can tell you that Scott Howson’s job should be on the line because of how badly he’s handled this, if not given to someone else. Blue Jackets fans deserve something good this season, and I don’t think he can deliver that.

– Krista

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