Three months removed from being dealt to the Canadiens in a trade that sent Daniel Briere to the Mile High City, the Boucherville native has clearly put the trials and tribulations of last year behind him, focusing instead on making his first season in bleu-blanc-rouge one to remember.
“My motivation level is very high right now. When you don’t have the season you want the year before, you come into the next year healthy and set high expectations for yourself. I think management’s expectations are high, too. I’m really looking forward to starting the year for real. I want to prove things. I know that I’m a better player than what I showed last year,” offered the 31-year-old right-winger, who registered 14 goals and 33 points in 55 games in 2013-14 despite being hampered by a pair of MCL sprains at different points during the season.
“I’m feeling good on and off the ice. It’s been an adjustment to come over here and play at home. It’s really special, though. It’s almost weird to a point to still be in Quebec this time of year, but I’m wrapping my head around it pretty well,” added the six-year NHL veteran, who also previously suited up for the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers and New York Islanders over the course of his career. “Everything is falling into place.”
Case in point is the almost instantaneous chemistry Parenteau has forged with linemates Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais at training camp. The trio clicked from the get-go, showcasing flashes of brilliance during intra-squad scrimmages at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard, and at times during the preseason.
“I’m very comfortable playing with Patch and Davey. They’re good players. When I give them the puck, I know that it’s going to come back my way. That makes the game a lot easier, when all of the guys on the line are good with the puck,” confided Parenteau, who posted a career-high 49 assists and 67 points in 80 games back in 2011-12 as a member of the Islanders. “I think we can bring out the best in one another. Patch is such a great shooter, and Davey is a great playmaker. When you mix that together, you’re going to see results pretty quickly. The chances are going to come with the talent we have on the line. It’s still early, but it’s been fun.”
Parenteau’s comfort level with his new linemates is just one of many things that have eased his transition into his new hockey home. Not only is the one-time 20 goal-scorer surrounded by family and friends residing in Boucherville and the Eastern Townships, but he also came across many familiar faces in the Canadiens’ locker room upon arrival in La Belle Province.
“It was a huge help having guys like Davey, Dale [Weise] and Prusty here. They’re all leaders, and they’ve been around for a while, too. They’re not only guys I know. They’re good friends,” mentioned Parenteau, who enters 2014-15 just nine games shy of reaching the 300-game mark for his NHL career. “I lived with Dale while playing for the Hartford Wolfpack in the AHL. I’ve been friends with Davey for many years, and it’s the same thing with Prusty. We played together in New York. They made the move a lot easier than I thought it would be.”
If Parenteau has the utmost respect for what his colleagues bring to the table for the Canadiens game in and game out, it’s safe to say they’ve got similar admiration for their brand new teammate.
“We were roommates in the minors, so I got to know P.A. really well. He was the best player on the ice every night. I couldn’t believe that this guy couldn’t get a chance to play in the NHL at that point. I said – “If this guy’s not making the NHL, I’m never going to get there.” He’s got so much skill. He’s feisty, and he’s such a great competitor, too,” confided Weise, referencing the fact that Parenteau spent significant time in the AHL before finally earning a full-time NHL job in 2010-11 on Long Island. “He’s one of those guys that finds a way to score key goals in key moments. When the game’s on the line, he’s one of the guys you’d like to have out there. He’s a solid addition to this room.”
That’s exactly the reputation Parenteau would like to live up to during his time in Montreal, utilizing the knowledge and experience he’s built up over an 11-year pro career to contribute to the Canadiens’ cause from the start.
“I think I can bring a lot of leadership to the group. I’ve been around. I’ve seen a lot of things. I can bring a lot of offense, too. I think that’s why the Canadiens went out and got me. I want to score some goals. I want to make this team a threat offensively and defensively every time I’m on the ice. That’s my goal,” stressed Parenteau, who already senses that the 2014-15 edition of the Canadiens will be a unique group. “I feel like I’m fitting in. The guys are pretty tight. I can tell that they’re excited and they want to get back to where they were last year. They’re not selling themselves short. It’s going to be a failure if they don’t go as far as they did last season. I like that attitude.”
That’s not surprising given that Parenteau is as hungry as ever to return to the postseason himself after getting his first taste of NHL playoff action with Colorado last season.
“I want to go back right away. It’s so much fun to play in the playoffs. That’s what it’s all about,” explained Parenteau, who registered one goal and three points during a first-round series against the Minnesota Wild that Colorado ultimately lost in seven games. “You play 82 games, but it means so much more when you’re in there. I love the battle level. The guys are going to war together. We’re going to go one game at a time, though. We’ve got to take care of business in the present.”
In Parenteau’s case, that means putting the final touches on his preparation for the start of the year on October 8th in Toronto, and for his regular-season Bell Centre debut against the archrival Boston Bruins eight days later.
“I’ve had the chance to play a couple of games at the Bell Centre. It’s still nerve-wracking. I’m trying to get over the hump a little bit. I remember playing there when I was with the Islanders and the Avalanche. It was always pretty special. Now, I’m trying to make that building my home. It’s been an adjustment, but it’s going to come. I’m pretty confident about that,” concluded Parenteau. “My parents and my brother will be there on opening night in Montreal. I’ll have lots of friends in the building, too. I’m glad I can play four road games before that happens, though.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
Giving it his all