Zach Parise, the NY Islanders ageless ironman, rewarded with trip to the playoffs
After the Minnesota Wild bought out his contract in July 2021, veteran Zach Parise joined the NY Islanders on a one-year contract at the league minimum. The Isles were a safe landing spot for Parise because of his familiarity with GM Lou Lamoriello, and the move added forward depth and a veteran playoff experience to a team many picked to be a Stanley Cup contender.
Of course, things didn't work out as intended.
The 2021-22 season was as tumultuous as it was disappointing for the franchise, but through it all, there was Parise, playing in all 82 games and exerting the same energy and effort that has been his calling card through a decorated NHL career. The Islanders fell well short of expectations last season, but the season was a success for Parise, who once again found an exuberance for the game and the belief that he could contribute on a nightly basis in his late 30s.
At the trade deadline in March 2022, it was thought that Lamoriello might consider moving Parise to a contender for a mid-round draft pick. But Lamoriello instead announced that Parise was coming back, an indication not only in Parise's value to the Islanders - especially at his AAV - but also that the veteran looked at last season as an aberration and that team could still compete for the Stanley Cup, the same way he thought when he signed with them the previous summer.
During the 2022-23 season, Parise, now in his 18th season once again played all 82 games and finished the year with 21 goals, becoming the first 38-year-old in team history to score more than 20 in a season. He was also the team's nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy.
Now, for the 14th time in his career, he gets a shot a winning the Stanley Cup. Parise made the post-season six times with the New Jersey Devils, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2013. After he signed as a free agent with the Wild, Minnesota reached the playoffs eight times. Overall, in 105 playoff games, he has registered 80 points (37G, 43A).
"The biggest part of a playoff series is just the ups and downs and maintaining that even keel," Parise said in NewYorkIslanders.com. "If you lose, you have to regroup and get ready for the next game. Same thing if you win, you can't get overly excited because you have to do it again."
His teammates would say that Parise doesn't up his game in the playoffs, because he brings that type of effort on a daily basis. After the Islanders dropped, what appeared to be a season defining 5-2 loss to the Washington Capitals, Parise disagreed with an assessment that the team didn't play with a sense of urgency. That may have been because he is always prepared, always focused, and always giving 100% during the regular season.
"As he's done all year long, he leads by example with his work ethic," head coach Lane Lambert said. "In the playoffs, it's about getting dirty and getting into those areas to score goals because they don't come easy. That's something he does, and we can feed off that.
Parise has brought a playoff mindset for all 164 games he's played with the Islanders over two seasons. Now he gets to put it on display during the postseason as a reward for the belief he had in the franchise to get back to the playoffs and in his himself to still play at a high level.