Riley Nash and the Narrative of Slow Starts

By Paul Berthelot on November 2, 2018 at 1:15 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets center Riley Nash's slow start not a concern just yet.

Russell LaBounty – USA TODAY Sports

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We are 12 games into the Riley Nash era in Columbus, and to this point, not much had been made of him. That was until John Tortorella discussed him on Tuesday. Our own Chris Pennington transcribed Torts’ comments and wrote about Nash’s slow starts.

Nash has been described as having notorious slow starts and as Chris pointed out “Nash has recorded three, four and five points in his first 20 games of the past three seasons, and then has clearly increased his productivity over the course of those seasons.”

This season, it’s more than just a lack of productivity from Nash. Two points in 12 games is certainly not what was expected when the Blue Jackets signed Nash to a three-year deal this summer. No one was expecting a repeat of the 41 points Nash has last season, but it was expected he would be a sound play-driving centre, as he’s been throughout his career.

So far, that has not been the case.

At 5-on-5 this season, Nash has a 44.78% Corsi (he has never had a season below 50% in his career).

While that number is below average, it's not uncommon for Nash to have a start like this to the season. Here's his Corsi data over the first 12 games of each season of his NHL career:

2017: 50%, 2016: 46.96%, 2015: 61.36%, 2014: 49.80%, 2013: 43.71%, 2012: 50%

There's definitely some truth to the statement that Nash is a slow starter.

The good news here is that the slow start seems to be out of the way. This is when his season usually starts to take off; over games 13-24 in his career, Nash has averaged a 51.92% Corsi, much more in line with his career averages.  

The Blue Jackets don’t need Nash to be a major point producer. What they do need is for Nash to drive the play in the right direction, getting the puck into the offensive zone to give those wingers like Oliver Bjorkstrand or Josh Anderson as much time as possible in the other team's end.

This road trip is really important for the Blue Jackets to get themselves back on track. They are some big physical teams and play a grinding style that suits Nash’s game. The Blue Jackets need to get Nash going so they can be more than just a one-line team, and if history is any indication, Nash’s game will soon start to trend upward.

Stats from Natural Stat Trick

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