Rick Nash has had his name linked to a lot of teams in the last few months. He’s not quite in Shane Doan territory yet or anything like that, but the list of suitors for the services of Columbus’ disgruntled not-worth-the-trouble winger has ballooned, dipped and grown again several times.
There is one thing all those suitors have largely had in common, however: Very few are Canadian. Apart from Ottawa, which built a complex deal for the Blue Jackets captain only to have it scuttled because he has no interest in going there, it seems exactly zero of the remaining six Canadian teams have even mounted an appeal to Scott Howson or Nash. The reason for this is simple. Rick Nash’s contract a full no-movement clause for the next few years and also because he has a list of teams for which he would find it acceptable to play. That list, predictably, has no Canadian teams on it.
The reason for this, according to cool-beard-haver Thomas Bink of Toronto-based discerning men’s publication Toro Magazine, is because Nash can’t handle the pressure of playing in a Canadian city, or, judging by the quality of the Photoshop job at the top of the linked article, has died.
Despite the Senators offering a “king’s ransom” for Nash, as Bing put it, he refused to go there because he’s afraid to be scrutinized in ways he would not be in places like Ottawa, or Toronto, or Montreal, or Calgary, or Edmonton, or Vancouver, or Winnipeg. Now granted, Columbus isn’t exactly a major media market with a hyper-aggressive media. As far as I can tell, the team has one paper that covers and breaks stories on it regularly. But at the same time, the assertion that Nash is afraid to go to a Canadian team because he’s shy of “the spotlight of centre stage,” to clumsily smash theater metaphors together, is frankly silly. Here’s why:
1) Look where he actually wants to go
Bink shoots his own awful argument in the foot in this story, though to be fair it takes him 11 paragraphs to get there. Nash wants to go to six teams, all of them in the U.S.: “Philadelphia, Detroit, New York, Pittsburgh, San Jose and Boston.”
Now granted, San Jose and Detroit have some passive media members, and Pittsburgh’s will really only get on a player if they’re noticeably bad every game. But the rest of that list? They’re ruthless.
Bink must have missed the entire season where the Philadelphia media attacked Ilya Bryzgalov with torches and pitchforks drawn after every three-goal performance, and was clearly on holiday when he was gutted by reporters both local and national for revealing he wasn’t starting the Winter Classic. Boston’s just got down driving Tim Thomas — a Conn Smythe and two-time Vezina winner, Stanley Cup champion, borderline Hall of Famer and arguably the best goaltender the team has ever had — out of town because he’s a Tea Party lunatic. The New York media has literally broken dozen of players in a number of sports.
But yes, the Canadian spotlight would be unbearable. Which brings us to the second reason Nash isn’t actually scared of playing in Canada.
2) A Good Canadian Boy coming home would be showered in adulation
It’s not easy to play in Canada. Ask Roberto Luongo, who’s being driven to the airport by everyone in Vancouver and shoved on the first plane to Florida for no good reason. … Hmm, what’s that? The reason is the team has a cheaper, arguably better young goaltender ready to take his job? Ah. I see. Well then what about Winnipeg, where no one thought this season’s dismal performance was in any way acceptable and people are being held to account? … Oh they didn’t care at all? And everyone acted like they were a great team despite finishing four points ahead of Toronto? Interesting. Well surely Edmonton, where they’ve been terrible forever. … A new rink? And the media’s pushing it? For HOW much money? I see. And they extended Tambellini and no one raised a stink? Right.
Okay. Well how about Calgary? … Most passive media presence in the country which doesn’t seem to care if the team is going nowhere? Montreal, then. Ruthless media. Just vicious. … No, I don’t think Rick Nash speaks French. THAT would be their biggest problem? Okay. Toronto? … Oh yeah, they haven’t even succeeded in running Brian Burke out of town yet. Well surely Ottawa, then. … Being realistic about building for the future you say?
Well, what of… wait I’m out of Canadian cities with NHL teams.
3) What do the teams on his list have in common?
Again, it is in that 11th paragraph that Bink seems to achieve some level of clarity.
“All are Stanley Cup contenders with all-star centres that can get him the puck,” he writes.
This, to me, seems to be the only two considerations Nash has in mind. Let’s go in order of the teams Bink listed as Nash’s preferred destinations and what they have to offer:
Philadelphia: Playing with Claude Giroux; Have advanced out of the first round for each of the last four seasons, including a Stanley Cup Final appearance against the buzzsaw Chicago Blackhawks
Detroit: Playing with Pavel Datsyuk; Literally made the playoffs in all but two years of Rick Nash’s entire life, and have only been bounced in the first round twice since the lockout; Are the Detroit Red Wings
New York: Playing with Brad Richards; Made the Eastern Conference Finals last season; Have great coaching, exceptional young players at all skating positions, and world-class goaltending
Pittsburgh: Playing with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin; Won a Stanley Cup three seasons ago and seem likely to be one of the best teams in the conference for years
San Jose: Playing with Joe Thornton, with whom Nash is close friends; Well-respected team even if it seems to be on the decline
Boston: Playing with Patrice Bergeron, with whom Nash played in the Olympics, and Tyler Seguin; Won a Cup two seasons ago, probably the best on-paper team in the Eastern Conference
And now let’s compare that with all the Canadian teams, based on where they finished last season:
Vancouver: Playing with the Sedins; Won the Presidents’ Trophy two years in a row; Went to a Stanley Cup Final in 2011 and lost in seven games; Will be good for a while
Ottawa: Playing with Jason Spezza; Tied for 15th-most points in the league (fewer regulation and overtime wins than Florida); Made the playoffs for the twice in the last three years, both were first-round bounce-outs
Calgary: Playing with ???; Finished 17th in the league; Missed the playoffs in each of the last three years, looks poised to do so again in 2013
Winnipeg: Playing with Olli Jokinen?; Finished tied for 21st in the league; Are the friggin’ Thrashers; Missed the playoffs the last five years
Toronto: Playing with well-known NHL center James van Riemsdyk; Finished tied for 25th in the league; Might ask Nash to play goal; Haven’t made the playoffs the last seven years
Montreal: Playing with Scott Gomez; Finished 28th in the league; Missed the playoffs last season by a wide margin, haven’t improved much in free agency
Edmonton: Playing with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins; Finished 29th in the league; Missed the playoffs the last six years; Still too young to be any good
Well hey look at that. It’s almost like Bink was right: Nash has made the playoffs once in his career and was forced back out again in four whole games, so wants to go to good teams with good centers, and not bad teams with bad centers. Wow. What a selfish jerk. He’s The Lebron James of Hockey.
4) There is a thing called the salary cap.
Finally, let’s also note that Bink earlier in the piece dances around the cap implications of any Nash deal.
“Only a dozen or so teams can actually afford to pick up his salary.”
To say nothing of the fact that, unlike most long-term deals given to star players today, the money owed to Nash actually increases as he ages, meaning that teams looking to save money on the deal even as they absorb his contract will find themselves going wanting. If a dozen teams can afford to actually pay Nash, which ones do you suppose they are? I’ll just go off the top of my head: Boston (no cap space), Buffalo (not on the list), Calgary (no cap space/terrible), Chicago (no cap space), Edmonton (probably don’t have the appetite to take on that deal given what they’ll have to pay all the kids in the next five years/terrible), Detroit (makes perfect sense), Los Angeles (maybe), Montreal (no cap space/terrible), New York (makes sense), Ottawa (not good enough), Philadelphia (makes sense), Pittsburgh (no cap space), San Jose (no cap space), Toronto (terrible), Vancouver (no cap space).
That’s 15 teams, but you get the point.
5) Scott Howson is a god damn maniac
You’ll notice I think about three teams out of that 15-team list can probably afford Nash both under the salary cap and on paper. All are on his list of acceptable teams. That’s good news. Three teams bidding.
Oh but the guy running that bidding war is delusional. He wants two NHL-ready players and two prospects at the very least. Who has the appetite to pay that? Maybe Philadelphia because Paul Holmgren apparently doesn’t care about that kind of thing. That’s a big maybe though.
Bink ends his post by noting that many athletes who opted not to take a job in Canada have gone without a lot of career success.
“But what goes around comes around,” he wrote, like a child. “Lindros never won a Stanley Cup after refusing to play for the Quebec Nordiques, while the Nords went on to win two Cups as the Colorado Avalanche. Francis played a total of five playoff games in a career that fizzled out in China. And true to form, Heatley was a bit player in San Jose before being traded to Minnesota. He’s yet to win anything.”
In closing, I think it would be really cool if Bink could remind us of the last time a Canadian team won a Stanley Cup. Thanks, I’ll hang up and listen.