won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophy, awarded to the league’s top goal scorer, for his 41 goals in 2003-04.
But Nash never really got a chance to defend his trophy last year, missing 29 games as a result of a high ankle sprain suffered in training camp and a knee injury, suffered in a knee-on-knee collision vs. Calgary on Nov. 3.
Despite the injuries, Nash became just the sixth player in the last 10 years to score more than 30 goals while playing in less than 60 games.
“That was the amazing part, scoring 31 goals last year,” Head coach Gerard Gallant said. “He didn’t have much of a training camp and then he missed the first 25 or 30 games. I am guessing Rick Nash was probably 100 percent for one month of the season and that was near the end of the year.
“He was injured all season and playing with the knee brace and the injured ankle, it was incredible for him to score 31 goals. But you never know with Rick Nash, he could score every night.”
A goal per game?
“I think Rick Nash is the type of player that could score a goal in every game he plays,” Gallant said. “He gets opportunities every night. Obviously there are not too many guys that can score a goal a night, but if somebody can do it in the NHL, it would be Rick Nash.”
Nash himself can care less about the number of goals he scores, as long as the team is winning.
“I don’t think about that at all,” Nash said. “That is not a big deal to me. If I score 10 goals and the team makes the playoffs, I am happy.”
Last year Nash was projected to play on the top scoring line with Nikolai Zherdev on the right wing but there was uncertainty at center, rotating Jan Hrdina and Todd Marchant on his line.
Then the Jackets obtained future Hall-of-Fame center >Sergei Fedorov on Nov. 15. Nash would return to the ice a month later on Dec. 17, scoring 31-23-54 in 51 games with Fedorov.
“[Nash] came back and I joined the team and it was a no-brainer he would do well,” Fedorov said. “He was excited to come back. Unfortunately, he injured himself at the beginning of the season. It was devastating, but he came back stronger than ever and he seamed excited to play and our team was doing much better and playing better defensively which gave us a chance to play better offensively.”
Nash too picked up his game defensively, as his plus/minus increased from -35 in 2003-04 to +5 in ’05-06, an improvement of 40 goals. Nash's plus/minus increase was the fourth highest improvement from 2003-04 to 2005-06, Mike Madano (-21 to 23) was the highest at +44.
This season, Nash is projected to play across from RW David Vyborny, the Jackets all-time leader in goals, assists and points. Fedorov, when he returns from injury, will center the Jackets’ top scoring line, until then, Mark Hartigan is projected to play the pivot.
“We have a lot of talent here, so whoever we are with, we are going to create offense no matter what,” Nash said. “Vyborny is one of the most under rated and talented forwards in this league.”
So what is his goal this year?
“As a team and individually it is the same answer, make the playoffs,” he said. “All we can do is talk, talk, talk about it. I just kind of want to do it.
“Everything feels good. I am just waiting for Friday.”
The Jackets open their sixth NHL season on Friday, hosting the Vancouver Canucks. Click here to purchase tickets.