Part two of the "maybe, kinda, sort of, possibly taper your expectations slightly" series
The Wild became the most talked about hockey team over the summer when they made a huge splash by landing the two biggest free agents of the year in Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. These signings left Wild fans celebrating in the streets, while fans from other teams started making accusations that Minnesota was under the impression that the Stanley Cup was theirs for the 2012-2013 season. All of the controversy leads to one thing; what can Minnesota Wild fans actually expect from Ryan Suter and Zach Parise? Yesterday we discussed Suter will be up for discussion, today it is Parise’s turn.
Zach Parise joins the Minnesota Wild after playing for the New Jersey Devils, who drafted him 17th overall in 2003. He played for the University of North Dakota for two years, played for the Devils AHL affiliate during the 2004-2005 lockout, and had been a fixture for the Devils since 2005. He was an assistant captain for 2 years before becoming team captain last season. Parise has also played extensively for team USA, and was named assistant captain for the 2007-2008 and 2009-2010 seasons. Additional padding to his resume are 61 playoff games, including the Stanley Cup Finals last season.
Statistics wise, Parise is very impressive. He has played in 502 NHL games (61 of those have been playoff games) and scored 410 points (194 goals, 216 assists). He has a +/- rating of +57 over his career. Only twice in Parise’s career has he scored less than 30 goals in a season; his first year in the NHL when he scored 14 goals and in the 2010-2011 season when he only played 13 games due to injury. He scored a career high of 45 goals during the 2008-2009 season.
Last season, Dany Heatley scored the most goals on the team with 24, followed by Kyle Brodziak with 22, Devin Setoguchi with 19, Cal Clutterbuck with 15, Matt Cullen with 14, and Koivu with 12. These were the only guys on the Wilds roster that scored goals in the double digits. If Parise has an average year, he will score at least twice as many goals as 95% of the rest of the team. For a team that was at the bottom of the league (if not very last) in goals scored, Parise is a nice upgrade to a struggle group of forwards.
If the Wild can score more goals (and stop the carnage that is injured defensemen), making the playoffs is practically expected. Hold off on the Stanly Cup celebrations for a few years, but it is not a stretch to think that baring any drastic injuries (or cam barker-like trades) the Wild could be playoff contenders on a consistent basis. Pairse, like Suter, has the experience to lead the team into the unknown that is NHL playoffs. The only other playoff veteran on the team is Matt Cullen (and Steven Kampfer if you want to get technical, although he never played in a playoff game).
It is one of the worst kept secrets regarding the Wild this season that he will be an anchor on the first line with Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley. Heatley performs best when he is being fed the puck, and both Koivu and Parise like to pass. The likely scenario is that with another solid 1st line player, Heatley’s numbers should increase significantly. As long as Koivu can starve off the injury bug, his numbers should be doubled, or even tripled.
The most telling part about what Parise’s brings to fans is his likability. The fact that some of the New Jersey Devils fans burned his jersey when it was announced that he had signed a contract with the Minnesota Wild is a testament to how well he was received there. Fans started a $250 dollar jersey on fire, not because he was a horrible player who cost them a championship, but because as fans they loved him so much that they felt betrayed by the fact that he was going to be playing for another team. Wild fans already have a torridly weird obsession with local players anyway, but add in the fact that Parise has world class talent and you have an instant fan favorite.
Just keep your pants on Wild fans. Parise, again just like Suter, is adjusting to a completely new system and a new team. He has even more pressure on him to live up to the hype of being a local superstar; Fans love him one minute, and demand he be traded the instant he has a bad game. He did spend the lockout skating with the majority of Wild players in Minnesota, so that should ease a bit of adjustment pressure off him.