Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Minnesota's Parise vows to be 'much better' in 2013-14

Weighty expectations after signing $98-M deal

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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Presented with his first full season of opportunity to prove the value of his 2012 free-agent contract of $98 million over 13 years, Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise is of firm opinion and focus.

The lockout-shortened season and his 18 goals and 38 points was not really him and it wasn't good enough.

"I think it was more a lot of times playing not to make a mistake," Parise said Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center, where tonight the Wild meet the Winnipeg Jets in the first of five meetings this season. "Yeah, too conservative, trying so hard not to turn the puck over or always getting it deep. Things like that where a lot of times last year it took away from my creativity with the puck.

"I don't think it was a big deal; it's just that in my mind I knew that I was a much better player than I showed last year."

The lure of Parise, who had spent all of his previous seven seasons with the New Jersey Devils, was not that he was strictly offensive, but that he was so well-rounded and offensive.

He's got that in mind for 2013-14, already with three goals in three games.

In the end, the points will tell the tale, the 29-year-old Minnesotan said Wednesday. In his past, he has reached 45 goals and 94 points.

"Fair or not, a lot of players, myself included, you get judged by your production," he said. "I was brought here to score, to produce offence. I get it. I take a lot of pride in that.

"That's why I just knew I could do a lot more (last season)."

The four-month lockout that followed his signing tried his patience, he said.

"That was brutal," Parise said. "That was bad. I guess it was anti-climatic, because everyone was so excited and then the season was put on hold for that long.

"But 29 other teams had to do the same thing. Just bad timing."

And despite Parise's wish for something better, the season wasn't a total bust.

"We had a really good stretch in the middle of the season, I think first in the division for a little bit, but we lost Cully (Matt Cullen) and we just had a hard time consistently ... he played a lot of power play, penalty killing, second-line centre and we had a hard time replacing that," he said.

"Then we just didn't play well heading into the playoffs. We got blown out by Edmonton and Calgary in our own rink at the end of the season. It's hard to just limp into the playoffs. You can't just all of a sudden go in and expect to beat Chicago when you're not playing well going into it."

It's clear, though, none of it has soured his decision to play for the Wild.

"It's awesome here," Parise said. "It's really fun. Everywhere, you've got the hardcore fans, so passionate, but here it's a lot like Canada, when you grow up everyone plays hockey, everyone's knowledgable about the game. Everyone cares about the game and everyone loves the game.

"Even just going around town and stuff, you know the fans are always saying hi and wishing you luck; it matters and it's fun."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 10, 2013 D3

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