Its been 148 days and 63 games since New Jersey Devils winger Zach Parise had his left knee surgically repaired. That is equal to exactly five months. Five long arduous months for an organization that hasn’t had to deal with this much adversity since Wayne Gretzky called them a, “Mickey Mouse organization.”
Parise is expected to make his return to the line-up this week and could be in action as early as Wednesday against the New York Islanders. “One of these next three I think I’ll be able to play,” Parise said after Tuesday’s practice.
Those words are like music to Devils fans ears.
Parise’s was injured in a 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, soon after New Jersey spiraled out of control. After the dust finally settled New Jersey found themselves buried in the bowels of the NHL. They were so bad at one point fans didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
A coaching change in December changed the Devils fortunes and they crawled their way back to respectability and for a while became a dark horse team in the playoff race. However, The horrific start has since caught up with New Jersey and they’ve faded from contention.
So how can a team that won the Atlantic Division and finished with 103 points the season before experience such a dramatic drop off? Simply put, they can’t score goals. The teams lacks any kind of offensive consistency. Even 100 million dollar man and super sniper, Ilya Kovalchuk is on pace for his worst statistical season since coming into the league.
The offense is so bad it’s been nearly three games since they have even sniffed a goal.
New Jersey has the worst offense in the NHL… by a mile. They trail the Ottawa Senators and their 29th worst offense by 23 goals. Incredibly, The Devils have only lit the lamp 152 times! That is a hair over two goals a game. If they score their average in the final seven games they will end with 166 goals. That is an astonishing 50 goal drop off from last season and a staggering 72 goal drop from 2 seasons ago!
How could this happen you ask? One simple answer…. Zach Parise wasn’t there.
Since he broke into the league in 2005-2006, Parise has played in no less then 81 games. If you forget about his rookie year he has averaged over 30 goals and 60 points a season including a 45 goal campaign in 2008-2009.
He has been the catalyst for the New Jersey offense for the last 5 years. Without Parise in the line-up the so-called “wheels fell off” and New Jersey never recovered.
It would seem as though a player of Kovalchuk’s caliber could have fit right in and absorbed the offensive void left by Parise’s absence. But it didn’t pan out that way. Throughout stretches this season Kovalchuk has carried this team on his shoulders but all too often he tried to do too much on his own. His tendency to cough up the puck hurt the Devils on several occasions either resulting in scoring chances or goals.
Unlike Kovalchuk, Parise makes everybody around him better. He was the hardest working Devil game in and game out. His work ethic is phenomenal. He never put his numbers before the good of the team. His defensive game never slipped for more offense, finishing the last two seasons +30 and +24 in the plus/minus column.
Kovalchuk on the other hand is a team worst -22 this year.
While Kovalchuk is a big name it’s clear that the New Jersey Devils are Zach Parise’s team and GM Lou Lamoriello has to make sure that Zach is locked up long term. Because if this season is any indication what life after Parise is like then the future of Jersey’s team looks bleak.
Steve’s Spin: A players value is never fully appreciated until he’s gone and when Parise steps on the ice again Devils fans should never take him for granted again.