New Jersey Devils: Return Of Zach Parise Is Bittersweet

By Nick Villano
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

On Independence Day of 2012, former New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise ripped out the hearts of fans in the Garden State when he announced he was going to the Minnesota Wild.

Some fans thought that they knew he was going to leave the Devils, because a lot of stars before him did to try to grow their star power. Many were thankful he didn’t go to the New York Rangers like Bobby Holik and Scott Gomez before him. The Wild was in another conference and could not hurt the Devils until the Stanley Cup, which many fans still thought the Devils could make.

A lot has happened to this franchise in 16 months. David Clarkson left the team to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Ilya Kovalchuk retired to play in the KHL. Jaromir Jagr, Michael Ryder, Ryane Clowe, Cory Schneider and Damien Brunner are all names that Parise would not recognize on the score sheet as Devils. The team has been trying to recover ever since Parise left to play for his hometown.

Parise received a 13-year, $98 million contract from the Wild. Many believe that if the Devils had not signed Kovalchuk, then they would have had enough money to match, or even exceed that deal, to make Parise a life-long Devil. He has denied that, but nobody can know for sure.

After one of the most disappointing losses of the season (and there have been a lot of them so far) to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night, the Devils look to get past Parise’s much improved Wild to get back on track. A surprising season from goaltender Josh Harding has carried them to a  7-4-3 record.

It seems like forever and just yesterday all at the same time since Parise wore the Devils red and black. People will always remember him calling over the entire team after Adam Henrique scored the Eastern Conference winning goal against the Rangers in 2012. The wait is over after the Devils did not face any Western Conference teams in the lockout shortened 2013 season. It has been 487 days since Parise could say he was teammates with Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac, both of whom will miss today’s game with injuries.

This is a bittersweet day for many fans. Parise represents the last time the Devils were really good, and he makes us think of better times. Hopefully the Devils can get fans a win and make them feel that better times are ahead.

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