It’s only been 7 long months since Rick Nash stepped into Nationwide Arena for the first time as a member of the New York Rangers. A lot has happened to both franchises since then. Columbus has made themselves into a bona fide threat in the fiercely competitive Metro division and has put the league on notice that this isn’t your sweet fun loving losers anymore. This team will punch you in the mouth unprovoked and take 2 points when they’re done. The Rangers on the other hand went from a overvalued and underperforming team to a legit Stanley Cup contender. They got rid of boisterous and loud mouthed John Tortorella and brought in the level headed and underappreciated Alain Vigneault from the Vancouver Canucks.
In 2 years the Jackets went from dead last in the league with no stability to one of the most committed teams to winning in the NHL. The captain on that team of course was Rick Nash. To see the change in culture, the alternate captains on that team during the course of the season were as follows; Jeff Carter(traded), Antoine Vermette(traded), Vinny Prospal(retired), R.J. Umberger(traded), Derek Dorsett(traded) and James Wisniewski. Of those players, only Wisniewski remains. Jack Johnson came in the Carter trade, Marian Gaborik(since traded) was included in the Dorsett trade and of course most recently Umberger was traded for Scott Hartnell. It’s quite a transformation for an organization to go through in that short period of time.
It’s very obvious where the energy of the fans will be focused on Saturday night for the CBJ home opener against the NY Rangers. Rick Nash will be public enemy number one in a city who once treated him like an adopted son. Any goodwill was lost when he made his return last March and got into a shoving match with beloved Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky. In what was a precursor to the postseason, that was the game that got Columbus engaged with their fans and set off a 1 month party that made Nationwide Arena an electric atmosphere. On a personal note, I will always have great respect for Rick Nash because of 10 years of loyalty and his love for the city. Even though he wears a different blue these days, when I see a #61 jersey in his old Union Blue while strolling down Nationwide Blvd I have nothing but positive thoughts for the guy who wore the face of the franchise tag with integrity and class.