Wild forward Zach Parise leads the team with 19 goals at the All-Star break, but in many ways it’s been a trying season for Parise and his teammates. Parise chatted with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand about the season to date and what lies ahead:
Q Expectations were raised for this team after last year’s playoff push. This year’s team sits out of the playoff race. What is your assessment of what has happened so far this year and what needs to happen going forward?
A There’s no question we underachieved in the first half. There are a lot of things that are reasons. We’ve had a lot of injures, we’ve had a lot of sickness. It’s just been a tough start for us, for whatever reason. I think we started to play a little better the last couple games before the break, but for a little while we lost a lot of confidence with our team. Hopefully, we can keep some of the momentum going that we had.
Q How frustrating is it as a skater when your team’s goalie struggles?
A It’s a collective thing. When we were not playing well, we were giving up some chances that, when we’re playing well, we don’t give up. We put a lot of pressure on our goalies. You can never just point a finger at them. The puck has to get there through five guys before it gets to the net, and we just weren’t doing a good enough job in front of them.
Q I had a reader ask me, “Why doesn’t someone analyze the impact of grief” as it pertained to the team’s struggles? As I thought of you and Ryan Suter dealing with the deaths of your fathers, it made me realize we sometimes have expectations about athletes’ production but forget their humanity. So I would like to ask you, via this fan, just how hard has it been to play through this?
A It’s been really hard. I can’t speak for Ryan, obviously. I can only see what he went through. But for me personally, it’s been really hard the last couple of months just seeing everything, and the way everything happened. It’s been awful. A lot of times at the rink, my mind wasn’t there. It was hard to separate myself from what was going on. … Mentally, I just wasn’t there and it was hard to play. But it’s getting better and, hopefully, it will continue to.
Q One bright spot on this year’s team has been Jason Zucker, who is second on the team behind you in goals scored with 16. What has been the key to his emergence?
A The best thing about him is he came in this year, I believe, on a two-way [contract] and didn’t have a guaranteed spot. He came in and had a great camp. He fought, he hit and he scored. He wasn’t given a spot. … He chases down pucks and he’s relentless. He’s worked so hard, and he’s earned everything he’s gotten.
Q If my math is right, your twins just turned 1. What’s your best parental advice one year into being a dad?
A I don’t think I’m in position to give advice. I’m still getting advice. But it’s been the greatest thing, especially with everything that’s gone on this year. You can always come home. They’re smiling and they make you smile. It’s been awesome. They’re walking now. Just the whole thing has been incredible. You look forward so much to getting home and seeing them.