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Another Year, Another Game Against Minnesota

In a couple of hours, the New Jersey Devils will play host to the Minnesota Wild. It’s the second time this week that Devils fans will get to boo a star player that left the team unceremoniously, and everyone should take advantage.

Minnesota Wild v New Jersey Devils Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Can you believe that this is the seventh season since the New Jersey Devils made that Cup run in 2012? It seems crazy to me, but also considering all of the losing the Devils have had since then, I guess I might have subconsciously tried to forget some of it. Of course, it has also been just as long since Zach Parise played a game in the red and black. I don’t want to get into all the particulars about it. He gets booed every year when he comes to the Rock, and rightly so. Another year, and another game to boo #11 on the ice today.

However, the Devils are playing yet another Saturday afternoon game, this one against Minnesota, and given my desire to make my Saturday articles relatable to Saturday afternoon games when applicable, I wanted to see some of Parise’s overall performance numbers both before and after 2012. Most all data from analytics websites like Corsica and Natural Stat Trick have data since the 2007-2008 season, and while Parise was playing in New Jersey since the 2005-06 season, using the later dates to start works well enough. From 2007-12, Parise played 339 games for the Devils, and since, has played 370 for Minnesota. Those are comparable games played. So, how has he done comparably in some basic statistical categories between New Jersey and Minnesota?

From those fairly basic numbers, he was clearly more productive when in New Jersey than he has been in Minnesota. Not that he has been bad for the Wild; 275 points in 370 games for just under 0.75 points per game, with quality possession numbers, is quite good. Ray Shero would take those numbers for sure. But they don’t quite hold up to what he was doing before the big contract. 316 points in 339 games, 0.93 points per game, along with better possession numbers, are more worthwhile, and that he accomplished while playing here.

Of course, you can rightly say that Parise was younger when he was in New Jersey. Playing in his mid-late 20s, you would expect him to be better than now, when he is now in his mid-30s, certainly not the same prime years. But what is also relevant is the contract situation. Minnesota signed Parise to a 13 year, $98 million deal that offseason. The AAV on that is a solid $7.538 million per year, a number worthy of a perennial top liner. However, before that in New Jersey, he was making a good deal less. He signed the one-year deal with Lou Lamoriello for the 2011-12 season worth $6 million, and before that, he was on a RFA deal, 4 years with a $3.125 AAV. Given how the NHL works with restricted free agents, it might not be entirely fair to compare contracts when one is a restricted free agent versus unrestricted, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore it altogether.

Between 2007-2012, Parise earned $18.5 million playing for the Devils, and scored 316 points, good for just over $58,500 per point. In Minnesota, he has so far earned approximately $66.5 million, if you count that he has earned half of his salary so far this season. With 275 points so far for the Wild, that comes out to over $241,800 per point. Just a little more expensive for Minnesota than it was for New Jersey.

Again, I admit that that is really not an entirely fair comparison given how contracts work in the NHL, plus given how regression works due to age, but my point in the end is still the same. He earned the major deal he received from the team that let him go home, and he has not been a disappointment, but in truth, he was a better player for the Devils than he has been for the Wild. I don’t think you can say with a totally straight face that Minnesota paid Parise solely for past performance and not for future potential, but I think to a degree, you can say that he was given that major deal for what he had done in New Jersey, and it was not entirely replicated when he moved up to Minnesota.

Now, to play devil’s advocate for a minute, I would have been happier had he signed that 13 year, $98 million deal for New Jersey in 2012, even now knowing the slight production dip that has taken place since he has gone north. There were a couple of years there were the Devils were close to playoff contention, and it stands to reason that had the team’s captain in 2011-12 still been on the team, especially to play with the other player we just set the boo birds on back on Tuesday, that might have put the Devils over the edge and gotten them into the dance in those years. The 2013-14 season comes to mind specifically, when they were 5 points out of a wild card position and a dominant possession team. They also could have had a chance in the lockout-shortened 2013 season as well, as they only ended up 7 points out of a playoff position, but again had the possession numbers to indicate a potentially better team. Would Parise have been the spark needed those two years? Who knows, but perhaps.

In the end, however, the past is the past, and in a couple of hours, Devils fans will have yet another chance to rain some boos down on Zach Parise for leaving the Devils high and dry after leading the team to within two wins of a Stanley Cup Championship. He decided to go home, to ply his trade up north, and the trajectories of two franchises changed. Now, while we wanted nothing more than for Parise to win a Cup here in New Jersey, I am sure like me, you all root for Minnesota to lose the minute they make the playoffs. So far so good, and let’s see if that cannot continue for a few more years.