Rebuilding Rick Nash
ESPN's Scott Burnside has a good piece today on the work Blue Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock has begun to do with young phenom Rick Nash since arriving in Columbus:
"He's been a really quick learner. He's not just a good penalty killer, he's become a great penalty killer," Hitchcock said. "He's had a huge impact on our games.Part of the reason GM Doug MacLean hired Hitchcock, other than trying to save his own hide, was to have the veteran work with some of the youngsters to help them become more than just one-dimensional offensive players (here's looking at you, Mr. Zherdev). The whole Nash situation is reminiscent of when Hitchcock arrived on the scene back in 1995 and had another No. 1 overall pick, Mike Modano, as his prized player.
"He's adjusted much quicker than I thought anybody could. He's done a 180-degree turn right away. I've got to tell you, it's been pretty impressive."
Modano eventually became one of the best defensive players in the league, something that seems like a stretch for Nash (who was a combined -62 in his first two NHL seasons). Still, there he is, skating on the penalty kill for the first time I can remember, and the Blue Jackets are something other than god-awful for the first time in a long, long while.
Step 1 in the building process, no doubt.