Big and slow, with too many miles on his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame.
Those were the knocks on Rick Nash in the latter half of the 2013-14 regular season and into the playoffs, as the big man from Brampton, Ont. slumped his way through his second consecutive post-season letdown.
Sure, his New York Rangers made it all the way to the Stanley Cup final, but Nash was more passenger than driver in that journey. Nash tied Benoit Pouliot for eighth in Rangers' forward scoring in the 2014 playoffs with 10 points, despite averaging the fourth-highest ice time among that group.
But boy, what a difference a summer makes.
The 30-year-old Nash has started this season white-hot, scoring eight goals and adding an assist in his first eight games. He has two multi-goal games in that stretch and he’s only been held off the scoresheet twice.
Eight games is obviously too small a sample to project over a full 82-game campaign, but Nash now has plenty of time to beat the 26 goals in 65 games he put up last year.
Heck, even if he lets up on the gas a bit, he could match or surpass the pace he showed in the lockout-shortened 2013 season. Nash scored 21 goals and 42 points in 44 games that year, but fell off a statistical cliff in the playoffs.
The big winger scored just one goal and five points in the 2013 playoffs through 12 games, despite averaging a whopping 20.65 minutes a game. His points-per-60 minutes played was also a meager 1.21, which is well below his career average of 2.54.
He didn’t fare much better in the 2014 playoffs, despite appearing in more than twice the number of games. Nash had only three goals and 10 points in the post-season, and went 19 games between his last regular-season goal and his first playoff one. All three of his playoff goals came against the Montreal Canadiens (two against backup goalie Dustin Tokarski), and he failed to register a point against the Los Angeles Kings in the final.
And lest we forget, Nash registered just a single assist playing a secondary role on the Canadian gold medal-winning Olympic team through six games.
Of course, Nash’s down season could be attributed to the concussion he suffered early in the year on a Brad Stuart hit that put him out for 17 games.
But a summer of rest seems to have worked wonders for Nash, and now he’s lighting it up again and among the league’s top goal scorers. Even if he drops down to his career average of 1.37 goals per 60 minutes of ice, he could add another 27 goals by season’s end with the ice time he’s getting in New York.
In short: Rick Nash could flirt with 35 goals this season – a feat he hasn’t accomplished since scoring 40 in 2008-09 with the Blue Jackets.