As hockey fans know, Rick Nash was traded yesterday from the Blue Jackets. The trade officially brought the Nash era to an end in Columbus; however, since the original announcement that a trade was asked for in February, we’ve watched the slow removal of Nash from the franchise. It was subtle – no more Nash on the official website, his voice no longer implored us to follow the team during radio advertisements, #61 didn’t loom large over Nationwide Arena or the Columbus Airport. By the time Nash was officially “gone”, it seemed like he’d been gone for a long time. But this was Rick’s way. Quiet, under the radar. It was Rick’s blessing and curse:
Off ice, you can never be at a loss for a story of Rick’s dedication to community and kindness. These stories were almost always followed with a “and no one even asked”, “there wasn’t any media there”.
On ice, though Rick owns the current CBJ record books, people who clamored for fiery leadership or blatant displays of energy were left wanting more.
As the losses piled up, and the playoff wins remained a dream, Rick’s nature became his albatross in Columbus. Few can argue whether Nash’s skill remains one of the best in the league, but it was the scepter of “hero” that seemed to weigh him down. To many, Rick Nash had become “Rick Nash”. In some ways, the expectations were impossible to accomplish.
And then came the request for a trade. In the midst of the worst year in franchise history, it became known that Rick wanted out. To a select list of teams. Some celebrated this announcement, considering it proof that Nash wasn’t “all in” for Columbus. Some went through the emotional process of realizing that their guy was leaving: was leaving the Blue Jackets, was leaving Columbus, was leaving US.
I’ve never been the kind of fan who celebrates “the franchise player”. Perhaps it’s the underdog in me, but I’m leery of anyone who is supposed to be everything to everyone. I had grown tired of watching opposing defences swarm Nash while Umberger/Prospal/Brassard languished on the other wing. I had become exhausted with hearing “what does Nash need” for trades, free agency, drafts. And we all know the headlines “Nash is too good for Columbus” and so on. And maybe, Rick had grown tired of these things too.
So when the intention to trade became clear, I did not begrudge the request. We all want what’s best for ourselves. Sometimes, it means shedding elements of our surroundings to achieve our goals. Noone gets to the highest levels of professional sports without a ridiculous amount of hard work and skill, there is no harm in seeking a payoff for that.
We suffered through the never-ending waltz of trade today / no trade today, confined by a list and taunted by the media. We watched as the storyline changed from Nash being too good for Columbus to Nash not being all that good at all. Our team was long maligned, now our one star was leaving us and he was being maligned too. And a crazy thing happened, in a weird twist of events, many CBJ faithful felt compelled to defend Nash, and his GM, Scott Howson. Blue Jackets fans who had been berating the Captain for wanting to go now had one last chance to, in their own ways, appreciate and champion the player who was leaving. It wasn’t a proper goodbye, but, when the deal was signed, the emotional pendulum had perhaps swung from disdain and loss to pride and acceptance.
And now, Rick Nash is no longer a Blue Jacket. Ranger jerseys with the #61 were available for purchase this morning. The man who helped form the identity of the CBJ for the better part of its formative years is gone. Who will our fans look to as the face of the franchise? Who will our players look to for how to practice, or to take that possible game winning shot? Who will be the CBJ?
We’ve started to hear “collective scoring”. We’re talking about Johnson, Wisniewski, Nikitin, Murray, Dorsett and Dubinsky. We are a team of many faces – not just one.
I believe that there is something poetic in receiving numerous pieces back for the one part that is Rick Nash. A quality NHL team is not one player, it is a mosaic of coaching, and development, and scouting, dedication, work ethic and on-ice talent. It wasn’t Rick Nash that had this whole thing wrong, maybe it was us. And maybe, we’re trying to finally set this thing up the right way. Perhaps our flaw was thinking that Rick Nash could make us a winner when it really will take so much more. Maybe we’re finally starting to put the pieces together to do this right – for a long time.
Rick Nash is gone. And I wish him well. And I stand behind my favorite team of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
We are no longer all about Rick Nash, we are about our team. Listen to the words: “team” vs. “Nash”. Excuse? Justification? Salve? Maybe its just reality.