Living in the New York City area, attaching the word “elite” to a professional athlete brings with it an invitation for debate. Ever since the day Eli Manning declared himself to be an elite National Football League quarterback – and then back his talk with a second Super Bowl Championship – it seems that whether or not to attach the “elite” title to an athlete is a sport within itself. The New York Rangers are one team that should be very careful about attaching the elite title to anybody on its roster. Henrik Lundqvist is absolutely an elite goaltender, and there should be little debate about that. However, when it comes to the Rangers, and their penchant for turning supposedly elite hockey players into mere mortals (or much worse), the Rangers have a track record for bringing in supposedly “elite” hockey players, and having a success rate only slightly more favorable than that of Dwight Howard at the free throw line: Wade Redden … brick. Chris Drury … clang. Scott Gomez … air-ball. Brad Richards … the jury is still out, but deliberations are coming to a close shortly. However, on Tuesday night, and during the last week as a whole, the Rangers and their fans have begun to finally get introduced to a different breed of Ranger: Rick Nash – elite hockey player. Is Nash among the very best in the league the way that Lundqvist is between the pipes? Quite possibly. And for the Rangers, the presence of an elite Nash, as opposed to the inconsistent Nash we saw during the early part of the season, could be the catalyst for what has been an up-and-down season to finally turn around for good. There is no question that the Rangers traded for an outstanding hockey player during the summer, but Nash’s journey to Broadway also came at quite the cost. The Rangers not only sacrificed some important pieces of a team that made the NHL Final Four, but Nash also came at the cost of significant salary cap space, that ultimately led to the departure of even more key players. At times this year, the grit of Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov (both traded for Nash) have been missed, and there is no doubt that Brandon Prust’s departure via free agency has been felt at times. Would all three be Rangers had Nash not become a Ranger? Quite possibly.All of which leads to the inevitable question as to whether or not bringing Nash to New York was a good idea. On Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, Nash proved that the trade in fact was the right move for this franchise. Granted, it was one game, but what we saw from Nash, particularly during the third period, was something that many good Rangers have not been able to provide consistently, not even Marian Gaborik. Nash had a presence on the ice on Tuesday night that the New York Rangers have not had since Jaromir Jagr was last a Ranger. Every time he touched the puck, the building buzzed, and there was an aura of excitement when he was on the ice generally reserved for elite players. Don’t misinterpret these statements: Gaborik by no means is a bust. He has been very good overall, and at times great, but there have also been times when Gaborik’s effectiveness – on top of his scoring – have disappeared for long stretches. After all, a hockey player can be quite effective when not scoring, and Nash has been effective nearly every game even when not scoring, while Gaborik has looked lost far too often. While Nash has not been spectacular on the score-sheet thus far, his effectiveness in terms of being a consistent offensive threat is unparalleled on this team. When Nash has the puck, opportunity seems to present itself, and now that he has seemed to find his scoring touch, there is a possibility that Nash is ready to become the team’s offensive leader. What makes Nash different than a player like Gaborik is that Nash’s success is virtually due as much to his blue-collar style of play that fits the Rangers system perfectly as it has been to his scoring touch. A sniper, Nash is not. In fact, there are times when the ‘Dwight Howard shooting a free throw’ analogy can be applied to Nash, but when he gets his skates moving, and uses his size and reach effectively, Nash is practically unstoppable. Nash is the perfect blue-collar, on-ice leader for this Rangers team that succeeds because its blue-collar style of play. Gaborik, while he has been outstanding at times, is almost the exception of the Rangers’ rule. Gaborik is a sniper, and uses finesse and creativity to create opportunities, whereas Nash is more likely to dig a loose puck out of a corner or block a shot to start an unsettled opportunity than he is to pick a corner from an odd angle. The success of both Gaborik and Nash are crucial to this team’s Stanley Cup prospects, so none of this should be seen as an effort to portray Gaborik negatively, but there is something about Nash that captures the excitement of the fans in a way that no other Ranger does, except perhaps Lundqvist. He is the superstar the Rangers have been missing since Jagr was exiled from New York several years ago. Gaborik was supposed to be the star, and has been at times, but his inconsistency has also plagued this team. Richards has been a disappointment thus far with only the occasional flash of the skill he displayed before signing with the Rangers as a free agent last summer. Nash, on the other hand, has commanded a presence about him that certainly bodes well for the Rangers for the long-term, even when he is not scoring. Simply put, he is a power forward who gets to the net, and he has just enough finesse skill to carry this team offensively when he needs to. If anything, during the early part of the season, Nash did not assert himself enough … which could be in part due to his playing for the worst franchise in hockey up until this point. But, at times – particularly Tuesday night – Nash has provided just the spark the Rangers needed. Actually, since Nash’s recent mystery injury, he has been quite the spark for this team. The Nash/Jagr comparisons are not exactly a square peg in a square hole. We’re talking about two different players here, but their impact on the Rangers team is where a comparison can come in. With all of the talk about a team rolling four lines, the fact is that every team needs a catalyst to be a frontrunner for the franchise. The New York Islanders have John Tavares. The New Jersey Devils have Ilya Kovalchuk. The New York Rangers had Marian Gaborik, and while he remains very much a Ranger, this team is Nash’s for the taking. He brings an x-factor to the ice that not even the ‘Great Gaborik’ can provide. Ultimately, the Rangers very much miss the grit and determination that Dubinsky and Anisimov brought to the ice, and with injuries and inconsistency to the defensive corps thus far, Tim Erixon sure would have been a help to this team. However, none of them bring to the ice what Rick Nash can bring, and hopefully bring consistently for the remainder of the season, now that he seems to have truly found his game. This Rangers team has all of the pieces of the puzzle to eclipse their post-season run of a year ago, despite an inconsistent start to the year. They can be the 2013 version of the Los Angeles Kings. What they need is somebody who can step in to bring it all together. Whether or not Rick Nash can be this man could hold the keys to a potential Stanley Cup run on Broadway. Mike SpinnerHockey This Week Follow Mike on Twitter @michaelspinner Be sure to check out other great articles at Hockey This Week Magazine.