Kukla's Korner Hockey

Kukla's Korner Hockey

Matheson ponders Rick Nash's disappearing act and more in Hockey World columns

05/12/2014 at 8:39am EDT

The New York Rangers' salary structure is quite top-heavy, so both the Rangers' beat writers and those following the team from afar have suggested that the Rangers will have to use a cap-compliance buyout on either Rick Nash or Brad Richards.

The combination of Brad Richards' resurgence under Alain Vigneault (to the tune of 51 points for his Capgeek-listed $6.67 million cap hit) and Rick Nash's struggles (39 points in 63 games and a no-show come playoff time for a cap hit of $7.8 million) have those in the know suggesting that Nash is the odd man out.

This morning, the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson wonders where Nash's game went given that the 6'4," 213-pound winger's become a perimeter player in the first of three "Hockey World" columns:

The six-foot-four, 212-pound Nash is twice the man the Norwegian Hobbit, Mats Zuccarello, is. But he hasn’t had half the goal production. Daniel Carcillo, who’s never had soft mitts, has had nine shots and two goals for the Rangers in the playoffs. Three New York defencemen — Marc Staal, Kevin Klein and Dan Girardi — have scored goals.

It’s this way every playoff for Nash, mind you. He’s played 28 playoff games (24 with the Rangers, four with the Columbus Blue Jackets) and has two goals and 13 points. His reputation is taking an awful beating.

This is a big man, who is making $7.8 million in the regular season, coming up very small when it counts most. He skates and swoops and shoots like the vastly under-appreciated Peter Mahovlich of years past — same size, same reach — but without the results. Mahovlich scored 30 goals and 72 points in 88 playoff games for the Montreal Canadiens.

“Peter and Nash? Yeah, that’s a pretty close comparison,” said former NHL coach Scotty Bowman, who had the garrulous Mahovlich in Montreal.

Mahovlich scored 773 regular-season points in 884 games; Nash has 628 points in 783 league games. Mahovlich played centre with Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt as his linemates for a time. He had a 117-point season in 1974-75 and 105 points the next year. That’s a luxury the winger Nash doesn’t have in New York or before that in Columbus. He’s had one 79-point regular season and nothing else in the 70s through 11 seasons.

Both Matheson and Bowman continue, and Bowman's more charitable regarding Nash's silent springs than Matheson:

Nash is a better defensive player than Mahovlich was, which is why Canadian Olympic coach Mike Babcock liked him on the 2010 and 2014 gold-medal teams. He’s certainly capable enough to play with world-class players, which means something. But Mahovlich also played in the epic 1972 Summit Series and scored a thrilling short-handed goal in Game 2, going around three Soviet players before beating Vladislav Tretiak.

“Peter was a factor in that special series,” said Bowman, who never misses a playoff game on TV and has watched Nash fairly closely this spring. "He’s getting shots, but you don’t score and you do get pressing. The shots miss by inches or go off posts. You’re trying to pick corners. It’s like Patrick Sharp with Chicago. Last five years, he’s had 32 (playoff) goals, more than anybody else on the Blackhawks. This year, he’s only had one goal (Friday night on the Minnesota Wild’s Ilya Bryzgalov) and he’s had about 40 shots (actually 33),” said Bowman.

Matheson's also ponders the following in "This 'N' That"...

Greatest injustice: Marian Hossa, a phenomenal two-way player, has never won the Selke Trophy for the NHL’s best defensive forward. It must be because Hossa is a winger, not a centre. Since 1992, only the Dallas Stars’ estimable Jere Lehtinen (three times) has broken the stranglehold of centres winning the best defensive/offensive player award. He’s plus-183 in his NHL career and needs five points for 1,000.

Scotty Bowman, who would know, says you can win a Stanley Cup with “a good goalie, just not an average one,” which puts Antti Niemi in the good category because he has a Cup ring from the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks championship team. His star has definitely dimmed in San Jose. Maybe the Sharks can trade him (he has a very affordable $4-million salary next season before he becomes an unrestricted free agent), but I don’t buy people saying UFA Ryan Miller would be an upgrade. Why? Did he get the St. Louis Blues over the hump in these playoffs? No. Chicago’s Corey Crawford outplayed him. Miller’s zenith was 2010 at the Olympics Games.

The Colorado Avalanche still think Alex Tanguay (hip surgery) can be a top-six forward next year. If so, that has to make P.A. Parenteau trade bait for a defenceman, right? It’s sad to see goalie J.S. Giguere leaving the ice after the Avs’ loss to Minnesota in Game 7 knowing it was probably his last NHL game. He’s been one of the classiest, most approachable NHLers for years. Jiggy turns 37 on May 16.

And he offers front office-ponderings in his "Short Shifts":

Maybe Paul Holmgren will love being the president of the Philadelphia Flyers, which is a fancy-schmancy title, but it’s a business-first job, not hockey. Holmgren is a hockey man, first and always. The good company man, Holmgren agreed to be kicked upstairs from general manager because his assistant, Ron Hextall, was ready and teams with vacant management chairs were seriously eying the former goalie. But unless Holmgren suddenly loves the business side, he might ask for a different hockey job or move elsewhere.


Hall of Famer Adam Oates can probably make $800,000 not to work next season after the Washington Capitals fired him, but I can definitely see him working with head man Randy Carlyle in Toronto. I can see ex-Carolina Hurricanes assistant coach John MacLean, who played with Brendan Shanahan in New Jersey, joining the staff, too.

I wonder if ex-Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz should hang in and see what opens up after next season starts rather than jump back on the horse in lukewarm coaching situations in Carolina, Florida and Vancouver, and even Washington, where he’d be coaching Alex Ovechkin.

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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