It’s official – the ninth captain in the history of the New Jersey Devils is no other than #9 himself, Zach Parise. Parise joins Don Lever, Mel Bridgman, Kirk Muller, Bruce Driver, Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner in an exclusive group of players to wear the “C” in New Jersey. Since Langenbrunner was traded from New Jersey to the Dallas Stars in January earlier this calendar year, the Devils have played without a captain. Elias and Ilya Kovalchuk served as alternate captains, and will continue to serve that role for the 2011-12 season, which opens on Saturday against the rival Philadelphia Flyers.
Parise told Tom Gulitti this morning that although it is a big honor to be captain, he doesn’t plan to change anything about his game. The Devils’ first round draft pick in 2003 also mentioned that he was never informed of a meeting to discuss the captaincy, and that he was surprised when coach Peter DeBoer told him today. His hard-working play on the ice shows his leadership by example. At 27 years of age, Parise is the Devils’ youngest captain since they named a 21-year old Kirk Muller captain, who also wore the number 9, back in 1987.
Zach Parise will also begin the season healthy, after a nightmare season not only for the Devils, but for Parise on a personal level. His 2010-11 season was limited to just 13 games due to a torn meniscus. He posted three goals and three assists in the season’s first 12 games before the injury, and returned for just one game against Montreal late in the season, but was shut down following the game because the Devils had officially been eliminated from playoff contention after a dramatic mid-season surge. Parise, however, expects to re-gain his scoring touch, as he had scored at least 30 goals in each of the previous four seasons before last year, including seasons of 45 goals and 94 points in 2008-09 and 38 goals and 82 points the following season.
Despite the fact that Parise has insisted that he wants to remain in New Jersey beyond the 2011-12 season, his contract does expire at season’s end, and if he is not re-signed before then, Parise will become an unrestricted free agent. However, he will be eligible to re-sign with the Devils beginning in January, something that most, if not all Devils fans can only hope will happen. Given the Devils’ commitment to winning and the fact that the organization gave Parise the honor of being the team’s new captain, it seems that both sides have a mutual goal to keep Zach Parise in New Jersey for the long-term.
The Zach Parise era in New Jersey begins Saturday night. The future looks bright for the Devils, as they have a surplus of young talent coming up, and now they have a captain to lead them.