TORONTO — Sporting at least an opening-round series’ worth of growth, Rick Nash is already in the right mindset to get his Columbus Blue Jackets back to the playoffs.
The 26-year-old captain was at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto Wednesday to promote the release of NHL 2K11 for Wii but admitted that his priority this season is to grow a beard come spring for its more superstitious reasons.
“We got to make the playoffs. That is by far the expectations going in,” Nash told sportsnet.ca. “Obviously it is going to be tough, but we need to get back to where we were in ’08/’09.”
It was that season when the Blue Jackets made franchise history by qualifying for a first-ever playoff series. The club was swept by eventual Cup finalists Detroit and failed to make it back last year, finishing a distant 14th overall in the Western Conference.
Over the summer the team did not make much of a splash in the free-agent market, choosing to re-sign its young players and add experience in former Edmonton Oilers captain Ethan Moreau.
“(Moreau) is going to be huge in the dressing room. The leadership and experience he has earned being captain for all these years with be a big boost to our young guys.”
Nash too will be looked on to provide experience, a trait he added by winning a gold medal in February as part of the Canadian Olympic men’s hockey team. It is the Olympic line of himself, Mike Richards and Jonathan Toews that is his combination of choice in the 2K11 game:
“Toews and Richards were at blast to play with at the Olympics,” Nash joked. “I have played with Thornton many times, too with a lot of success. On the Blue Jackets it would have to be (Kristian) Huselius and (Antoine) Vermette.”
An in net?
“I got a lot of faith in (Steve) Mason, but again, (Roberto) Luongo and (Martin) Brodeur would not be too bad.”
Being on tour with Nintendo and the NHL 2K as part of ‘The REAL Hockey Experience on Wii‘ has kept Nash close to hockey, and honed his skills in the virtual world. The latest installment allows players to create superstar moves, and when asked, Nash said his would mirror the goal he scored against Phoenix back in 2008.
“If I could re-create that move and put it in the game, I am doing it,” Nash joked. “It was unbelievable; I am not sure I could re-create that.”