Thursday, November 17, 2011

DBJ's 24 hours of Rick Nash

The Jackets' captain is on the hot seat
this time around
It seems like everywhere I've looked for the last day or so, I've seen nothing but Rick Nash.  

It's the strangest thing, akin to that time when I was thinking of buying a certain type of car and - BOOM! - all I see out on the road are cars of that make and model.  They surely were out there before I got the itch, but my senses were heightened to notice them, I suppose.  Same goes for Nash; ever since he and his first linemates Jeff Carter and R. J. Umberger played perhaps the worst hockey I've seen from a first line this season, if not for months or years, against Minnesota the other night, I've been ruminating over Nash and the Columbus Blue Jackets' locker room leadership role in The Lost Season of 2011-12.

Here are the posts I've been reading - some directly related to Nash, some a tad less so, but all discussing critical issues related to the Columbus Blue Jackets that Nash should be impacting:
I'm not going to cite chapter and verse out of these pieces - they're all well written, each in their own way - but I'll try to synthesize what I'm reading in the hopes that it might add a little to the discussion.

First, let's be frank.  The CBJ's on-ice performance in 2011-12 has been abysmal.  Dan Rosen's "confidence" piece suggests that coach Scott Arniel's revamped "post-Grit" scheme is working in fits and starts, but I'm still dubious.  Even with the loser point in Boston tonight.

Regardless, Rick Nash hasn't done much to contribute toward an on-ice turnaround.  Since the vaunted four-day "re-Training Camp," Nash has had exactly one assist (no goals) on 14 shots and pulled a composite -6 in the plus/minus over the three games (Chicago, Winnipeg, Minnesota).  Carry The Flag's piece lays out precisely how far Nash's game has tailed off.  Remember how Ken Hitchcock had Nash playing actual defense - even going as far as to put him on the penalty kill?  He was devastatingly good.  Now, he stands there.  Watching.  While the team - HIS TEAM - loses.  Again.  And again.

Can Rick Nash reclaim his past on-ice performance and
reinvent himself as a leader to help salvage The Lost Season of 2011-12?
Or is another course of action wiser?
In Rosen's piece, Nash admits to the strain of leading this circus show.  Wagner's Cannon piece suggests a combination of interesting ways to get Nash the point producer back on track, but the discussion of his galvanizing his teammates to play better, and smarter, isn't there.  Alison points out the tremendous void of team leadership, Nash included.  Point is, he might think that he's some incredible leader by his demeanor and on-ice behavior...but the results aren't showing.  Especially if you buy the argument that this team has more talent than it's ever had.  (I buy that it has a higher payroll than ever, but the talent has yet to display itself - let alone measure up to the payroll.)

Nash is far and away the most expensive player on the Columbus Blue Jackets roster, and he also is the team's captain.  He asked for both.  As such, he carries the dual burden of being an exceptional player and an exceptional leader.  Right now, he's doing neither.  Or, if he is doing either well, it sure as heck isn't showing on the ice.  

So it's time to borrow a quote from an American legend and suggest three basic ways to handle adversity:

"Lead, follow, or get out of the way."  -Thomas Paine

I love this quote.  It's simple, profound.  It offers three distinct approaches.  So let's look at what each path could mean to Rick Nash...

LEAD: Appreciate that whatever leadership style he's been using isn't working, hasn't been working (at least for a long while) and try something else.  If you don't know where to look for different approaches, I bet the Leadership Center at Ohio State University could help.  If it makes Nash uncomfortable, tough.  Change is part of the growing process as a leader.  (And the same could be said for the growing process as a coach, Scott Arniel.  At least Arniel is grudgingly making scheme adjustments.)

FOLLOW: Give the captain's "C" to someone else.  Focus on playing hockey and lose the unnecessary obligations.  When he's paid something like $2 million more than anyone else in the locker room, he'll always be a focus of attention.  So why not let Umberger, Wiz or someone else be the spokesman for the roster and take some of the heat off?

GET OUT OF THE WAY: If Nash doesn't want to change, perhaps it might be best that he and team management recognize that even a superstar has a ceiling, and that it won't be enough to get the team to the promised land.  Nash wants to win, and maybe that's best done with another team.  The Blue Jackets want to win, and maybe that's best accomplished with the stockpile of talent that could come from moving Nash.

Of course, the other notable saying is that "Winning cures everything."  And it surely would in this case, rendering this entire discussion largely moot...until the inevitable next slump.  So why keep kicking the can down the road?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent. I too really like Nash; he's the face of the franchise. However... he needs to produce. He needs to put this team on his back and carry it like he did during the playoff year. Where are the goals? Where is the hustle? I think its time the captain spend some time on line 2 or 3 until he gets his game together.


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