Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Paging Mr. Richard Nash"

Rick Nash has not yet had a "three stars"-worthy performance this season.
Time to step it up?  (Photo courtesy of Danielle Browne)
Four games into the season, it's a little early to make grand statements about what type of season a given player is having or will have.  I'll submit, however, that it's never too early to draw conclusions about the performance of a given player to date.

And in this case, it's safe to say that Rick Nash has had better starts to his seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It's been somewhat clear to the casual observer (of which I am one now, seeing as I'm often running around chasing a toddler instead of focusing like a laser beam on the games as they're being played) that the CBJ captain has not been the prolific on-ice performer that we are accustomed to seeing.

What I was unclear about, though, was how Nash performs at the start of seasons.  Is he a "fast start" guy?  Does he take a few games to find himself and then go on a scoring run?  So I went into the stats vault and extracted the following information about Nash's production in the first four games of the six post-lockout seasons that he has played in Columbus.  Look at it yourself and see if you agree with my conclusions:


Year
No. of 
Games  

Goals
Assists
Points
Shots
+/-
Avg. 
TOI

2005-06
1
0
0
0
3
0
8:24
2006-07
4
3
3
6
12
4
17:27
2007-08
4
2
2
4
15
-1
19:56
2008-09
4
3
0
3
22
-1
22:53
2009-10
4
2
5
7
15
0
18:54
2010-11
4
1
0
1
16
-3
19:50

I consider 2005-06 to be an anomaly.  Playing in only the first game, in which he sprained an ankle, doesn't make for a valid comparison.  And no, I'm not holding an injury against the guy.  


There are plenty of variables involved in Nash's comparatively
slow start to 2010-11, but the team is going to need him to
deliver results.  (Photo courtesy of Danielle Browne)
What surprises me about the 2010-11 season is twofold, and it's not the plus-minus dropoff this season.  It's a new system, and every player needs a little slack on that front at the beginning of a season.

Most profound to me is his lack of goal scoring.  Sixteen shots over a four game period is fairly consistent with Nash's past performance, but only one goal?  I suppose that there's something to be said for investigating the quality of the opposition - the defenses and goalies do have an impact on a forward's ability to score goals.  On the flip side, one would think that Nash's professional progression would make the likelihood of at least treading water on goal tallies over the years that much more reasonable.  Regardless, the shots are flying, but they're not going in.  

With the goal production lagging against prior seasons, and with Nash having assumed the role of captain over the seasons, one might think that he's trying to take the Steve Yzerman captain approach of subsuming his personal glory to lift up the players around him.  The problem is, with zero assists thus far this season, the only thing I can hope is that Scott Arniel is using him as a decoy while getting his linemates into the mix.  Kristian Huselius has been having a strong early season (3G, 1A, 4PTS, -1), so this is not out of the realm of possibility.  

But here's my problem, and it's nothing new to readers of this blog: Nash's contract represents a $7.8 million cap hit, or 13.1% of the CBJ salary cap.  It's the sixth-highest cap hit in the entire National Hockey League.  That's two R.J. Umbergers.  Two Antoine Vermettes.  That's Kristian Huselius plus Derick Brassard.  That's more than two entire fourth line combinations of Chris Clark, Derek Mackenzie and Derek Dorsett (the multiple jumps when you swap Jared Boll in for Clark).  

When you're that integral to the team from a financial point of view in the salary cap era, there's just no excuse: You need to perform.  And if you're a scorer - and Nash, with a Rocket Richard Trophy already in his trophy case, is just that - you need to be scoring.  

Luckily for Columbus Blue Jackets fans, there's plenty of time before we need to hit the panic button.  

5 comments:

  1. I do feel he could be producing more, however, the effort has been there. He will pick up the scoring pace. In fact, I bet he gets a goal or two tonight and vs. the Flames!

    Good blog, though.

    Here's a suggestion: Profiling the young offensive d-men and adding potential/career/current performance info (Kris, Anton, Moore, Savard)

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  2. I would tend to agree, Josh. If the shot count was way down, I'd be stressing a lot more.

    I'll see what I can do about the d-men, but I have to be honest...I'm still learning the game, and stats that suggest defensive performance (as opposed to goals and assists) are kinda squirrely. You have to start looking at all sorts of alternatively-developed stats like Corsi ratings, and I'm just not confident in my interpretive skills on that front. But I'll give it a shot when I get a chance to bear down and run those numbers. Just understand if it doesn't seem as informed.

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  3. Good deal. And I think you have a great knowledge of the game and writing abilities. I look forward to reading more of your work, regardless of the topic, that is if it's CBJ related ;).

    And props to myself for calling Nash potting two goals :) (as I tweeted to you as well, props for me, I mean :)

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  4. DBJ - Good post. You have moved on, so I don't know if you'll see this. But I guess the piece of evidence you are overlooking is the term 'right wing'. You should break those numbers down when Nash is playing left wing, and when he is playing right wing. At right wing, Nash is subli-ma-whatever you said himself to make his teamates better i.e. Juice.
    Good post
    gallos

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  5. Congrats, Josh, on the prediction.

    Gallos - Seeing as Nash woke up and didn't see his shadow, I think I'll move on. But you have a point on left wing/right wing scoring.

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