Zach Parise has played 11 seasons in the National Hockey League, and in that time he has played for nine coaches, despite making the playoffs in 10 of those 11 seasons. That coaching total doesn’t even include two stints of playing under both Lou Lamoriello and Jacques Lemaire with New Jersey.
And that total will increase with the Wild hiring former Capitals and Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on Saturday to a four-year deal worth approximately $12 million. It just goes to show that the least stable position in professional sports might be that of an NHL head coach. That proved true again this season when the Wild fired Mike Yeo, replacing him in the interim with John Torchetti despite Yeo having the highest winning percentage in franchise history with a 173-132-44 record.
Parise was asked if he thinks coaches make a big difference for NHL teams.
“I do, I really do,” he said. “I have been lucky to play for some really good coaches, and they play a big part. A lot of it, and it has to be a hard part, but a lot of it is feel on the bench, recognizing which players are going, when you need to switch things and then there’s always the systems and coaching the team, what’s best for the team, what type of team you have. I think there’s really a lot that goes into it.”
Somewhat surprisingly, Parise said players, even team captains, don’t have input into the hiring process.
“No, no, not at all,” he said. “They make decisions based on what they see. I have been a part of a few of these, and they don’t ask the players’ opinion. There’s always meetings at the end of the year to talk about everything, and I’m sure they take those into account. But as far as asking specifically what you think and what you want in a coach, they leave that to themselves.”
Parise played 70 games for the Wild this season and had tallied 53 points, good for second on the team, before a back injury ended his season.
The toughest part for Parise was that he wasn’t there for the Wild in the six-game playoff loss to the Dallas Stars.
“Yeah it was really hard, the worst part was missing the playoffs,” he said. “That’s the best part of the season, and you play the whole regular season to try and win games and get to the postseason, and when you can’t play in the postseason it was really frustrating for me.”
The injury actually occurred over time until it finally got so bad that he couldn’t play anymore.
“I don’t know how it happened, but it started in late January,” Parise said. “I started getting a little uncomfortable in late January and it just hung around until the end of the year, and then I took a hit at the end of the year that I guess pushed it over the edge to where I couldn’t play anymore. It was there for a long time.”
He said he is making good progress and that the good news is that while his doctors initially thought he would need surgery, that’s no longer the case.
“I mean the doctors are really happy with the progress I’ve made so far, and they’re not worried about it dragging into next season or being a continual problem,” he said. “You never know, because things can happen, but I’m hoping that after some rehab I’ll be in the clear and not have to worry about it anymore.
“We decided not to do the surgery, and the doctors said that with how well I’ve been progressing — at the beginning they said that they would do it and after a while they said that the progress was going so well that they didn’t think I would need it anymore. That was a good sign.”
Looking for consistency
While the Wild has made the playoffs each season Parise has been here, the team has finished second, fourth, fourth and fifth in the division and has never advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs.
So what does the Wild have to do to become more consistent?
“I don’t know, I think every team in the league is looking to be more consistent, but for us it seems like we have way too many highs and followed by way too many lows,” he said. “We can never seem to keep it even. When we lose a handful it seems to drag on for too long, and I guess you know that’s our responsibility as players. It has just happened too many times now. That’s something we definitely have to figure out for next year.”
In New Jersey, Parise won four division titles and reached a Stanley Cup Final under Peter DeBoer — Parise’s seventh coach with the Devils — in 2012. Parise was asked if those teams had something the Wild does not.
“There were some seasons, but when we had good teams there, and for the most part we had really good teams there, we managed to find a way — every team loses three, four in a row, five in a row, that happens. But when you have a really good team you just find ways to stop the bleeding, I guess. We had really good coaching out there that you’d find a way to just not let the threes drag into fours, drag into fives. We were able to stop it. That’s something we have to figure out.”
What does Parise think the team needs to contend next season?
“That’s a tough thing to answer,” he said. “Again you just rely on the management to make decisions on what they see and who they think we need. I’m sure everyone has opinions, but there’s one person making the decisions so you put all your trust in them and we’ll move forward.”
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