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Chris Murphy, Published July 12 2013

Despite early playoff exit, Parise said first season with Wild went as expected

OXBOW, N.D. – Zach Parise had two words for his golf game before teeing off at the Cully’s Kids golf tournament Friday at Oxbow Country Club.

“Below average,” said Parise, who starred at the University of North Dakota.

The Minnesota Wild didn’t give Parise lots of green because of his ability to reach the green. They brought him and Ryan Suter in with identical 13-year, $98 million contracts last offseason to transform them into a Stanley Cup contender.

Although the Wild made the playoffs in 2012-13 for the first time since 2007-08, there was a bit of disappointment as they just squeaked into the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Western Conference. It didn’t help that they bowed out in five games in the first round to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Parise, a Minneapolis native, is asking for patience from his home state.

“There was a lot of hype, but I think that we probably finished right where we should have finished,” Parise said. “We’re going to get better, but we weren’t good enough this year. I know there was a lot of hype and everybody thought, ‘Oh my gosh, they are going to win everything,’ but I think you have to be realistic sometimes too. I understood last year that it probably wasn’t going to be our year, but we just have to keep getting better.”

Falling to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks and seeing what they’ve built around Patrick Kane and ex-UND standout Jonathan Toews felt like a blueprint for what the Wild hope to do.

“That’s the plan,” Parise said. “That’s what we’re hoping for. Hopefully we keep doing the right things. We can get there. I think we still got a little bit of development we need to get through.”

The Wild have been busy this offseason. They resigned goaltender Niklas Backstrom and Jared Spurgeon; traded Cal Clutterbuck for Nino Neiderreiter; let Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Matt Cullen walk; signed Keith Ballard, Jonathon Blum and Jon Landry; and traded Devin Setoguchi.

Many of the moves have stirred up the Wild faithful, but probably none moreso than signing Matt Cooke, who has gotten under the skin of Wild fans since his days with Vancouver.

Wild fans weren’t the only ones annoyed by Cooke.

“Well, I just know from playing against him that I always hated playing against him,” Parise said. “Those guys are good guys to have on the team. Of course it’s disappointing to not have Matt (Cullen) back. I thought he was a really big part of our team last year. We’re going to miss what he brought to us, so hopefully someone will be able to replace that.”

By seeing Cullen, a Moorhead High School graduate, have to leave his home state, it was a reminder for Parise the unique situation he is in and that it may not last forever.

“When you’ve been in the league long enough, you understand you’re going to play with someone, you’re going to develop really good friendships and they could be gone the next year,” Parise said. “That’s the tough thing about our sport, but I was pretty fortunate to be able to play with him and he was happy he got play a little bit in Minnesota.”

Playing in his home state is something special to Parise, but once the skates hit the ice, it’s time to go to work with whatever jersey on.

“At first, it’s special,” Parise said. “There’s big excitement. But once the season gets going, once the season gets started, it’s the same. At the same time, for me, I thought it was pretty special to be playing at home. It’s not something during the year you think about. It’s just like you’re playing anywhere else.”

The ultimate goal is a Stanley Cup, and Parise hopes he can bring it to his home state.

“It would be the best,” Parise said. “With the great support that we have, I think it would be pretty special.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548