Zach Parise senses tension among the masses because the cap-strapped Wild didn’t make many additions this offseason. But the Wild forward isn’t worried.
“I’m not on the negative side of things. I feel like a lot of people are,” said Parise, who led the Wild with 33 goals and 62 points last season, during Wednesday’s Stadium Series press event at TCF Bank Stadium. “I’m not saying we shouldn’t have done better last year. I felt like we could have. But the last two seasons, we were one of the last eight teams playing. I’m not saying that’s great and what we’re striving for, but you always remember what last happened.
“Unfortunately the last thing that happened was we played four games not very good [in the second round against Chicago]. Two weeks before, everyone was thinking we’re the greatest team on Earth. We were one of the best teams in the league in the second half. So I’m not coming into this season sweating, nervous that we’re in trouble because we didn’t do more. I don’t think that’s the case at all.”
Other than college free-agent Mike Reilly, the Wild signed no NHL free agents and has yet to make a trade. It lost Chris Stewart, Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cooke and Jordan Leopold, among others.
Parise said it’s incumbent on everybody to play better if the Wild wants to take the next step. The youngsters need to take that next leap, and some veterans coming off down years need to improve.
“We’re relying on players to be better, we’re relying on internal improvement that we need,” Parise said. “Hopefully everyone’s going to come into this season and be ready to go and have a good year and put it all together because we know how tough it is to win in this conference.”
Vanek feeling better
Veteran winger Thomas Vanek, who didn’t score a goal in the playoffs, admitted Wednesday he played hurt throughout.
“But I’m not one to make excuses,” Vanek said.
In June, Vanek underwent surgery in Philadelphia to repair two hernias.
“From February on, I had a few good days but mostly bad days,” said Vanek, who actually produced significantly more in the second half than in the first. Vanek said he continues to do his rehab, has started skating and “feels great.”
Lawsuit on tap
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, in Minneapolis on Wednesday, said he was deposed for almost eight hours Friday regarding a class-action lawsuit filed by almost 100 former players claiming the league is responsible for the long-term effects of concussions.
The case could be heard in a St. Paul courtroom next year.
“We believe the lawsuit is without merit, but I’m not here to debate in a public forum what’s before the courts,” Bettman said.
Now that Erik Haula is re-signed for two years, the center entering his third year is ready to look ahead. Haula had 14 points in 72 games, was minus-7, was scratched from eight playoff games and spent much of the year in coach Mike Yeo’s bad graces.
“It’s already behind me,” Haula said. “There’s no reason to dwell on it. I’ll just put the work in this summer and go from there. I’ll try to do the best I can to be in the best shape possible.”
Yeo intimated more than once that Haula’s problem stemmed from below-average fitness heading into camp.