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Maven's Ravin: What's Next for Nash?

By Stan Fischler
February 28, 2012

If nothing else, the Rick (I'm Not a Used Car) Nash melodrama has moved from the realm of mystery to Greek Tragedy. William Shakespeare would employ one of two lines to describe Rick's February Follies: 1. "Much Ado about Nothing.” or, 2. "All's Well That Ends Well." Except that there's no end in sight. In fact a resolution may take longer than it does to read "War and Peace."

The point is that there's no rush for the Blue Jackets' captain to be deported from the subterranean depths of Columbus. That move -- and there's no doubt about it -- will happen sometime between July 1 and Aug.31; you can count on that. 
As for the Rangers eventually nabbing Nash, that will depend on: 1. How successful the Blueshirts' Cup run happens to be; 2. Whether any team not located on Seventh Avenue develops an attractive offer Columbus cannot refuse; and 3. Who's REALLY calling the shots in Ohio -- Scott (Not Likely) Howson; Craig (More Likely) Patrick or a less-visible ownership type.
Nash's "I Really Love Columbus" press conference the other day was classy, but not sassy. Still, that won't mollify steadfast Blue Jackets fans who'll find rooting for him anymore a bit on the tart side. 
What the club requires is a major-MAJOR revamping from the top down and that would appear to put Patrick in command and, therefore, he'll be making the final Nash decisions. 
Columbus is a potentially solid hockey market that needs only a team to encourage -- as opposed to discourage -- its wide fan base. Under Howson's stewardship, it's been a plain, old downer and if you don't believe me check James Wisniewski's bloated contract alongside his blimpish minus-record on defense.
BEST BETS FOR THE FINAL-CUP ROUND: The Rangers' Monday night 2-0 edging of New Jersey is further evidence that John Tortorella's sextet will be in better shape than 28 other NHL clubs at playoff time. And the reason is simple; New York has been playing playoff-type hockey since Game One of the campaign. The Monday clash was merely another example of solid goal-to-defense-to-checking-forwards post-season hockey at its best.
However, what cannot be overlooked is the exceptional, season-long growth in Vancouver where the Canucks now are in the city's best position ever to challenge for Lord Stanley's piece of pewter.
Armed with the incomparable Sedin Twins -- seriously, can YOU guess who is who between Daniel and Henrik? -- the Canucks are a treat to watch. They also have benefitted from painful-but-useful playoff experience and a savvy coach.
Really, though, it’s now or never for Roberto (Don't Call Me A Choker) Luongo & Co. to capture The Cup.
Best of all Vancouver -- with little fuss or fanfare -- produced the best, quiet Trade Deadline grabs of all Western teams. Checking line center Samuel Pahlsson has Cup savvy while Rookie forward Zack Kassian has impressed all year, along with backliner Marc-Andre Gragnani, not to mention forward Andrew Gordon.
With this formidable lineup, the Canucks have a dozen-and-a-half games to fine-tune their previously Close-But-No-Cigar machine. 
And wouldn't it be something if we wind up with a New York-Vancouver Final a la 1994!
FIGHTING -- YES OR NO? Make no mistake; organized hockey's fighting bloc is growing. Anti-fisticuffs lobbying has grown within the continent's two largest amateur bodies -- USA Hockey and Hockey Canada. The potential plan is to have fighting banned rather than encouraged as it has historically been since the dim, distant past.
It's not only possible but probable that USA Hockey will follow the collegiate system whereby players are not only instantly ejected because of fighting but will face suspensions as well. As a result hockey fights on the university level are few and far between.
The pro business -- and make no mistake it is a business -- is another story. Many promoters on the minor league and NHL level believe that a significant segment of fans not only want but expect to see fighting in the ice sport. But more and more major-league types are challenging that dictum. 
"Times have changed," Detroit Red Wings Executive Vice-President Jim Devellano tells me. Once a fighting-in-the-game advocate, Jimmy D now believes that the pro-fight era is moving toward its twilight. Nonetheless, Gary Bettman insists that the fans prefer that fighting not be abolished and has healthy attendance figures to prove his point.
Not that the Commissioner needs another fight on his hands, but this fight over fighting looms as one that will go the distance; with no winner as yet in sight.
•  FIVE PRIZES FROM THE TRADE DEADLINE MISH-MASH: With all the hullabaloo about the Nash-To-The-Finish-Line furor, there has been a tendency to overlook a few  lower-key yet fancy-schmancy moves of note. So, try these five on for size:
1. Nicklas Grossman to the Flyers: This is a splendid move by Paul Holmgren who needs defense help like a moose needs a hat rack. But any general manager will confirm that an NHL club never can have too many defensemen with the homestretch in sight.  Right off the bat Grossman collected three assists and climbed to a plus-three with Philly.
2. Dominick Moore to the Sharks: Mister Tradeable's move-a-year syndrome should not be construed as a negative. At age 29, Dauntless Dom still is capable of the big play at the right time. The Maven considers him The Poor Man's Ryan Callahan.
3. Kyle Quincey to the Red Wings: Over and over again, I'm asked what is it that keeps Detroit's sextet among the NHL's elite and the answer inevitably comes back to savvy management by Ken Holland & Co. With Nik Lidstrom's aging, coach Mike Babcock requires a solid, second-pair Dman and KQ will be OK in that role.
4. Jerred Smithson to the Panthers: Dale Tallon has been busier than an overworked paper-hanger with an itch! Smithson-to-Florida is yet another unobtrusive move that's guaranteed to pay in Sunrise. He's a hitter, good on face-offs and guaranteed to come up with a big goal -- as he has already proven in Nashville. 
5. Cody Hodgson to the Sabres: I have saved the best for last. Kudos to Darcy Regier for extracting a superb, 22-year-old center from Vancouver. Hodgson possesses one of the best shooting percentages among young talent and will enjoy a lot more ice time in Buffalo than he did in British Columbia. As my buddy, Zach Weinstock, likes to say, "One good center is worth two good players at any other position." And Hodgson is it! 


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