Call to the Hall: Columbus Blue Jackets

Welcome to LWOS Hockey’s summer series, Call to the Hall, where we take a look at the next great player from each NHL franchise to get called to the Hockey Hall of Fame. There are a few caveats, the player must be active, and must have played 300 games (or 150 for goaltenders) with the franchise.

Check out the previous Call to the Hall articles HERE

Call to the Hall: Columbus Blue Jackets

Young franchises always have disadvantages on these sort of lists. In the 15-year history of the Columbus Blue Jackets, they only have three players who have scored more than 100 goals while playing for them. Only two players have hit 300 points or more in a Blue Jackets sweater. In 29 games I might have written about Ryan Johansen. He’s scoring at close to the pace the player I am discussing was at a time when scoring was a little higher in the league for that player. But Johansen has a long way to go before he fills the skates of the best player to ever wear a Columbus Blue Jackets sweater (save for recent Hall-of-Famer Sergei Fedorov).

Rick Nash

He was the face of the franchise when selected first overall in 2002 and has since gone on to be one of the most prolific goal scorers of his era. At six-foot-four and carrying a large frame, it sometimes looked like Nash was not playing at full force on the ice. But Nash, now on the New York Rangers, is still capable of 40 goals. His first 40-goal season was with the Blue Jackets in 2003-04 with 41 goals. He should be hitting 400 goals before his 900th game, and if he can avoid injuries, hitting the 500-goal plateau should not be a problem before retirement. There are 42 players in NHL history with 500 goals and 32 of them are already in the Hockey Hall of Fame. It would be good to compare Nash to the ones who are not in the Hall with 500 goals.

First of all, it would be good to cut out Jaromir Jagr and Jarome Iginla, the only active 500+ goal-scorers in the league. Both will likely become Hall-of-Famers. The same goes to recent retiree Teemu Selanne and his 684 goals. This leaves Dave Andreychuk, Mark Recchi, Keith Tkachuk, Pat Verbeek, Jeremy Roenick, Pierre Turgeon and Peter Bondra.

It should be good to compare each player based on their achievements:

All-Star Game Appearances

Jeremy Roenick: 9
Mark Recchi: 7
Rick Nash: 6
Peter Bondra: 5
Pierre Turgeon: 5
Keith Tkachuk: 5
Dave Andreychuk: 2
Pat Verbeek: 2

It’s good to recognize that Nash has yet to play 1,000 games like the rest have. He sits at 862 games, with likely plenty of seasons to play in the NHL. Making it to Recchi’s number or even Roenick’s number is possible. Already he sits in the top three.

Individual Awards

Pierre Turgeon: Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 1993
Rick Nash: Rocket Richard Award in 2004

Only Turgeon and Nash have won awards. However, this is unfair. The Rocket Richard Award wasn’t established until the 1998-99 season. Had it been established 10 years prior, Keith Tkachuk would have won in 1997 while Peter Bondra would have won in 1995 and shared with Selanne in 1998.

Team Awards

Mark Recchi: Stanley Cup (1991, 2006, 2011), World Championship gold (1997)
Peter Bondra: World Championship gold (2002) and bronze (2003)
Jeremy Roenick: Olympic silver (2002)
Keith Tkachuk: Olympic silver (2002)
Dave Andreychuk: Stanley Cup (2004), World Championship bronze (1986)
Pat Verbeek: Stanley Cup (1999)
Rick Nash: World Championship gold (2007) and silver (2005), Olympic gold (2010, 2014)

Recchi, Verbeek and Andreychuk have Stanley Cup rings while the rest are missing them. Nash gets to proclaim himself on two Olympic clubs with gold medals. He’s the only one with even one gold medal. That will give him an advantage over the rest to a Hall of Fame voter, despite currently missing a ring.

500-Goal Game

Peter Bondra: 1,052
Keith Tkachuk: 1,055
Dave Andreychuk: 1,070
Pierre Turgeon: 1,229
Jeremy Roenick: 1,267
Pat Verbeek: 1,285
Mark Recchi: 1,303

Rick Nash is currently at game 862. If he can score 122 goals in his next 189 games (unlikely), he would be able to beat Peter Bondra at the number. It’s still very possible for Nash to reach the 500 goal plateau before he plays 1,200 games, which would have him hitting the mark before Turgeon, Roenick, Verbeek and certainly Recchi.

When it comes to active players currently in the league, only Alex Ovechkin is going to hit the 500 goal plateau with less games played (and Ovechkin will retire a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer). Marian Gaborik has a similar goal total for games to Nash but the last time Gaborik scored 40 goals was in 2011-12. Being two years older, while it’s possible for him to eventually out-pace Nash, it would take a turn around in his goal scoring luck. It’s more likely for Nash to move up the chart. Out of other NHLers possible to hit the 500 goal plateau in the next five seasons, only Marian Hossa at 486 and Patrick Marleau at 456 feel likely. Nash has played 310 less games than Hossa and 467 less games than Marleau. He’s on a much better pace.

Holding Nash Back

The fact is, I’m comparing Nash to players not in the Hall who made careers on the same ability: putting pucks in the net. Unfortunately for Nash, his dominant regular season play tends to be overshadowed by how average he becomes in the playoffs.

Nash has scored in the regular season at a 0.44 goals per game average, while putting up 0.81 points per game on average. While he’s only played 60 games in the NHL playoffs, he’s scored at a 0.17 goals per playoff game and 0.53 points per playoff game average. His numbers certainly drop. After posting a 42-goal season in 2014-15 to show he can still put the puck in the net at an elite level, he could only muster five goals in 19 games for the Rangers in the postseason. It was slightly better than the paltry three goals in 25 games he put up in 2013-14 or the one goal in 14 games in his first year with the Rangers, but not much to write home about. The complaint when he played for the Blue Jackets was, aside from 2008-09, Nash never got much of a chance to play in the NHL playoffs. He put up three points in a four game sweep the only season they made it. Now on the Rangers, a perennial playoff team that has saw time in the Stanley Cup finals and Easter Conference finals recently, while his numbers have been improving (14 points in 19 games is good), he has to prove he can score goals in the playoffs if he wants to make the Hall happy.

For Nash to stand out among those who can’t make the Hall after 500 goals, he needs to bring the heat and impress over those eight in the post-season. Andreychuk scored 12 goals for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1993 playoffs. Roenick had 12 goals himself in the 1992 post-season. The only player out of the eight to score less than five goals in a post-season is Pat Verbeek.

Another problem for Nash? His lack of assists, and therefore low point totals. Nash has yet to accumulate 40 assists in a regular season, and has yet to break the 80-point plateau in a regular season. It doesn’t look good for him to say he’s a Hall of Fame player when he struggles to put 30 assists in a full season. It’s actually more likely for him to hit the 500 goal plateau and not the 1,000 point plateau because of it. He’s 303 points away, which would mean another five seasons of 60 points per season. Far more likely he scores 122 goals before he puts up 303 points.

Call to the Hall

There’s still a lot of career left for Rick Nash. Through age and experience he might round out his game and utilize his teammates better, thus increasing his point totals. His shot could heat up in a lucky season, or he might get hurt and start struggling to put up 20-goal years. Either way, Nash’s advantage comes from his ability to be an elite goal scorer in his era, his All-Star game appearances, his two Olympic Gold medals on Team Canada and the amount of games it takes for him to eventually score 500 goals. It’s possible that Andreychuk and Recchi get in the Hall, leaving the highest goal-scorer not inducted as Keith Tkachuk at 538. If Nash can retire with 550+ goals, he makes a great argument for inclusion. And he’ll do it as the first great player of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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