'OK' just isn't enough for Parise and Wild

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 2, 2013 - 5:54 AM

Motivated by an average season and first-round playoff ouster, Zach Parise is aiming for more.

 

Zach Parise doesn’t take solace in the fact that he helped the Wild make the playoffs for the first time in five years last season. Parise doesn’t buy into the notion that simply making the playoffs equates a successful season.

After all, this is a guy who traveled to the brink of winning the Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils the year before.

Parise still knows though that the Wild, after years of restocking the cupboard and losing despite spending to the salary-cap ceiling, needed to start somewhere.

But Parise has big aspirations, and starting Thursday when the Wild opens the 2013-14 campaign against the Los Angeles Kings, the Minneapolis native expects more from himself and his team.

Parise scored 18 goals and 38 points during last year’s shortened season. Over an 82-game span, that’s a pace of 31 goals and 65 points. Not bad, but for a proud player who scored more than a point per game three years ago for the Devils and a career-high 45 goals and 94 points in 2008-09, Parise called it just, “OK.”

“In my mind, I know I can play a lot better,” Parise, 29, said. “For me, that’s encouraging because I know I can be a lot better. I’m not going to say I was terrible, but it wasn’t my best. For me, I thought it was just average.”

Talk about an honest assessment from an honest, hardworking player, one who often says what he feels and wears his happiness or frustration on his face.

Last season wasn’t an easy one for Parise, and he never could have predicted it. Parise and Ryan Suter sent shock waves through the NHL and state of Minnesota when they each signed matching 13-year, $98 million contracts on July 4, 2012.

Then, the buzz kill — they each had to wait six months to don a Wild sweater because of the lockout.

Still, Parise was coming home to Minnesota. He never envisioned how difficult an adjustment it would be to walk into a new dressing room, get accustomed to a flurry of new things, like a staff and system, after years of comfort in New Jersey.

It affected his game on the ice.

“I’m never one to make an excuse, but it was hard,” Parise said. “There’s different things that come into play. You’re playing in a new rink all the time with new people you’re not familiar with, and I think a lot of times I played too conservative, too much to not make mistakes.

“A lot of times I wasn’t overly comfortable playing. I just feel this year a lot more comfortable and relaxed.”

Playoff woes

Parise also opted not to play overseas like many NHL players during the lockout. He started to worry he’d fall behind if the lockout ended. To compensate, he felt he “overtrained, and I got worn down quick. I felt more tired last year than I ever have.”

All this culminated in April, when the Wild fell from division leader April 1 to having to win its regular-season finale to even make the playoffs.

Parise scored one goal in the playoffs. Linemate Mikko Koivu didn’t register a point. The Wild fell in five games to the Chicago Blackhawks, and that weighed on Parise all offseason.

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