|After leading the Devils with 31 goals last season, Zach Parise has 20 this year. Watch Zach Parise scoring highlights|
But without Parise at his disposal, Sutter couldn’t have as much versatility in his planning because no matter in what situation or with whom the rookie coach decides to play him, Parise always finds a way to adapt to his environment.
“I tell ya, they could put him with (John) Madden on the checking line and he’d be effective,” Devils captain and sometimes Parise linemate, Jamie Langenbrunner, told NHL.com. “He’s just one of those players that can play so many different roles.”
This season, Parise, one of eight American-born players on New Jersey’s roster, has been seen cycling the puck and scoring the so-called “hard” goals with Langenbrunner and Travis Zajac as well as creating offensive chances thanks to some fancy puck-movement with Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta.
Either way, he’s always the same player, and usually the best Devil on the ice.
After leading the Devils with 31 goals last season, Parise, now in his third NHL season, is again the best scorer for one of the League’s core defense-oriented teams. He has 20 goals this season as well as 28 assists. He dished out 31 assists last season.
Also impressive is his plus-minus rating. He was a career minus-4 entering this season, but Parise has played to a plus-14 rating through 55 games.
“We did find good chemistry with Travis and Jamie, and we had a stint with Patrik and Gio where we went on a tear there for a while,” Parise told NHL.com. “But, for me personally, I can’t change the way I play.”
Parise’s stats looked good enough to earn him his first trip to the All-Star Game, but he was neither one of the original reserves selected nor one of the subs named when forwards Sidney Crosby and Dany Heatley were forced out of the game due to injuries.
When asked if he thought he was an All-Star snub, Parise, who had 46 points at the break -- one less than former teammate Scott Gomez, the Rangers’ lone All-Star -- fumbled through his answer, the obvious sign of a player who isn’t quite comfortable talking about himself.
Can’t you just see Lou Lamoriello smiling somewhere?
“Oh … I don’t know,” Parise said. “I mean, when it didn’t happen … you look at the roster and you see all the good players on there and it’s hard to be disappointed.”
OK, so he’s not disappointed, but is he motivated by the so-called snub?
“Yeah, absolutely,” Parise said. “It definitely makes you feel that you have to work a little harder and play a little better.”
“You know, sometimes when you play on a team that doesn’t score as much you sacrifice those things,” Langenbrunner added.
Parise, though, doesn’t sacrifice anything when Sutter shuffles him around.
No matter if he’s creating with Elias and Gionta, or cycling with Langenbrunner and Zajac, Parise always goes to the net hard, is always strong with the puck, always plays fearless, and always wreaks havoc on the forecheck.
“He’s obviously a very good hockey player, the type of player that it really doesn’t matter who he plays with,” Sutter said. “He plays a certain way and that’s what makes Zach such a good player. Players can have chemistry with guys, but Zach finds his niche with anyone he plays with.”
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com.