The “Did You Know?” series ties in the news of the day with some little-known hockey factoids and/or trivia. It’ll be fun. Trust me.
Sitting around with a friend the other day (fine, it was by myself) and the question came up: Is Rick Nash overrated? Is he at all responsible for Columbus’ years of ineptitude? Sure, he hasn’t had much to work with, but isn’t he supposed to be a superstar? He’s the captain, shouldn’t he be carrying the team? And hey, his complimentary pieces haven’t been that bad.
What followed was a dizzying look back at failed drafts, questionable trades, coaching changes and misguided free agent acquisitions.
First, the history: Columbus came into existence in 2000. Two years later, Nash was taken first overall at the draft.
Since we’re on the subject of drafts, here’s Columbus’ record of first-round selections…
2000 — Rostislav Klesla (4th overall)
2001 — Pascal Leclaire (8th)
2002 — Nash (1st)
2003 — Nikolai Zherdev (4th)
2004 — Alexandre Picard (8th)
2005 — Gilbert Brule (6th)
2006 — Derick Brassard (6th)
2007 — Jakub Voracek (7th)
2008 — Nikita Filatov (6th)
2009 — John Moore (21st)
2010 — Ryan Johansen (4th)
That’s ten top-10 selections, three of which (Nash, Brassard, Johansen) are still with the team. Klesla and Brule are in Phoenix, Leclaire is an unrestricted free agent, Zherdev and Filatov are in the KHL, Picard’s with Norfolk and Voracek’s in Philly.
So that’s the (failed) draft component. Now let’s take a look at Nash’s running mates.
Since joining the Jackets, Nash has led the team in scoring five times. In the years he didn’t, the leading scorers were Ray Whitney and David Vyborny. In the years he did, the second-leading scorers were Vyborny, Zherdev, Kristian Huselius, Antoine Vermette and R.J. Umberger.
(In case you’re curious, CBJ’s leading scorers prior to Nash’s arrival were Whitney and Geoff Sanderson.)
What about the blueline?
Short answer: Yikes. The BJ defensemen during Nash’s tenure have been, how to put this…able to skate. If you were to make a list, and were very generous about it, the top six would probably be Klesla, Adam Foote, Jaroslav Spacek, Fedor Tyutin, Bryan Berard and Ron Hainsey. All-name team members Duvie Westcott and Grant Clitsome narrowly missed the cut.
What about the goalies?
Short answer: Ugh. The chronology of starting netminders during Nash’s time is Marc Denis, Leclaire, Fredrik Norrena, Leclaire again, Steve Mason, briefly Mathieu Garon, Mason again and finally, Curtis Sanford.
Short answer: A mess. Nash is 27 years old and a veteran of nine NHL seasons — during that time he’s had seven different head coaches in Dave King, Doug MacLean, Gerard Gallant, Gary Agnew, Ken Hitchcock, Claude Noel, Scott Arniel and now, Todd Richards.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Nash played with Sergei Fedorov and Fredrik Modin, both of whom won Stanley Cups…but both of whom joined the Blue Jackets well past their expiry dates. Fedorov came to Columbus at age 36 and played two uninspired seasons; Modin came over as a 32-year-old and, after scoring 22 goals in his first season, spent the next three years mostly injured.
So, the conclusion — overrated or not, Nash can’t blamed for how sad-sack a franchise Columbus has become. The BJs have shown levels of dysfunction normally reserved for Kardashians and/or Osbournes.