The Wild announced that forward Zach Parise underwent successful microdiscectomy surgery Tuesday, a procedure that is expected to keep him out for the next 8-10 weeks. With Parise out potentially until Christmas or even calendar year 2018, let’s take a look at five questions regarding this announcement:
*What is Parise’s injury exactly? Parise, 33, is believed to have initially injured his back in January 2016. He played through it, but re-aggravated it shortly before the playoffs that season. Parise missed all six of the Wild’s postseason games as Minnesota was knocked out in the first round by Dallas.
He rehabbed that offseason and played 69 games for the Wild last year but scored just 19 goals — though he did have two goals and an assist in the Wild’s five-game playoff loss to St. Louis. Parise reportedly felt healthy going into training camp, but he experienced a setback and has not appeared in any of the Wild’s first six games. The back injury was causing weakness and pain in his legs — and the surgery is expected to alleviate that.
*Why not get surgery sooner? That’s a natural question to ask considering how long Parise has been afflicted by back trouble. That said, it’s important to remember that back injuries can be finicky and that the impact on his legs is believed to be a relatively new symptom. As noted in that above link from spine-health.com, this surgery is more about alleviating the symptoms in legs than the back. The surgery “relieves the pressure on a spinal nerve root by removing the material causing the pain. During the procedure, a small part of the bone over the nerve root and/or disc material under the nerve root is taken out.”
*How much will the Wild miss Parise? This part is debatable, but let’s start here: Parise’s game has slipped over the past couple seasons. Whether that’s a function of age, this injury, some other factor or a combination of a bunch of things, it’s true.
Parise finished eighth on the team in points last season (42), and even if he hadn’t missed time he wouldn’t have finished higher than sixth. He averaged 0.61 points per game — his lowest total in a full year since his rookie season more than a decade ago.
More telling, perhaps, are his puck possession stats. For much of his career, Parise’s teams (New Jersey and Minnesota) controlled the puck for about 55 percent of the time in even strength situations when he was on the ice (a stat known as Corsi). Over the last two seasons, that mark has been just under 50 percent (49.7). Parise isn’t solely responsible for that, but it is telling.
All that said, Parise is still a top-six forward on this team and belongs on one of the first two lines. He works well in small spaces and has 96 career power play goals. His determination can lift a line — and perhaps an entire lineup. He will be missed while he is gone — just not as much as he would have been missed four years ago.
*What does the Wild lineup look like for the next several weeks? Thin. Very thin. Minnesota has played several games without Mikael Granlund, who is battling a groin injury. Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter are weeks away from coming back. That’s a lot of offense missing from a team that can’t afford to dig too much of a hole. The Wild is 2-2-2 after a strange first six games and how has six consecutive home games. We’ll see how the depleted lineup responds.
*What’s the long-term impact? The best-case scenario is that Parise returns in the time frame indicated by the Wild and can resume playing relatively symptom-free this season and beyond. If the Wild can hang in through all these injuries, it could be a force down the stretch if everyone is healthy.
The worst-case scenario is two-fold: Shorter-term, if the Wild can’t at least tread water with all these injuries, the season could take a bad turn. Longer-term, if the surgery doesn’t fix all of Parise’s problems and his back or leg problems linger, he still has seven years left on his contract after this one.