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Tonight’s game features two power forwards at opposite ends of their careers.
Tonight the Leafs get their first look at New York’s big free agent acquisition: Rick Nash. How different things might have looked had the off season ‘gone our way.’
The headline might have read, Leafs’ Nash Debuts in New York, The City That Might Have Been. However, instead of landing Nash the Leafs traded for James Van Riemsdyk, a move that echoes, to some degree, their missing out on Brad Richards the year before.
That year Toronto’s poor-man’s-Richards was Tim Conolly, who is currently playing for the Marlies. We can resolutely say that settling on Conolly was a bad decision, made much worse by the ludicrous contract he was signed too, even if it was only for two years.
We should not say the same about JVR.
In fact, and while it is stupidly reactionary to make such comparisons/ reach such conclusions this early (but here I go anyway) JVR has preformed just as well as Nash has, and at far less cost.
While JVR may never be the offensive threat Nash has been over his career, he has far more upside, being a 23-year-old former second overall pick. The notion is that JVR has not even brushed his potential yet, which we have only had rare glimpses of, namely in the 2011 playoffs where he was the best Flyer for long stretches.
At any rate, Van Riemsdyk was a low risk investment, considering the cost was merely Luke Schenn, who currently has no points and is a plus 1 on Philadelphia. Schenn had struggled mightily in Toronto over the past few seasons, often seeming a step behind and having a propensity toward untimely penalties.
Moreover JVR is never going to be expected to be “the guy” in Toronto, having come here with relatively low fan fare, and never having scored more than 21 goals in a season. Meanwhile, had Nash come to Toronto and merely kept up his current scoring pace (he was only 59th in NHL scoring last year, while being one of only 99 players to play an entirely injury free season) he would have likely been considered a failure. Such is the risk with messiah-like players. When the Nash Sweepstakes was on, many astute hockey journalists wondered aloud if he could be considered an elite player anymore, once again having only been 59th in scoring last year. Had he come to Toronto Leaf fans would surely have had unreasonable expectations for him. Remember that Phil Kessel is one of a handful of players to score over thirty goals over the past 4 seasons, yet conventional wisdom has it that trading for him was a bad idea.
In New York, Nash gets to be a complimentary player on a well-rounded team with lots of talent and even more depth. And correspondingly, in Toronto JVR finally gets a chance at being a top six forward, and will be allowed to slowly grow into the player he seems likely to become.
by Jesse B