Hirsch: Game 7 is huge for keeping Parise in New Jersey

Devils captain Zach Parise' future will be greatly influenced by their outcome in Game 7 against Florida. (Tim Kolupanowich/CM)

By: Aimee Hirsch, Contributing Writer

For the New Jersey Devils, Game 7 against the Florida Panthers means more than the risk of exiting the playoffs in the first round. A loss in Game 7 could also mean the loss of Devils captain Zach Parise.

Parise, who becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, has been a key to the Devils’ offense since he began playing in the 2005-06 season. Scoring over 30 goals for a fifth season for New Jersey, it is obvious that losing Parise would be a huge hit to their attack.

As much as it seems like Devils GM Lou Lamoriello can sometimes work miracles, keeping Parise on a team that can’t make a deep playoff run might be impossible. In order to keep Parise, the Devils must make a serious run for the Cup this year which starts with a Game 7 win in Florida.

Although the Devils still remain alive in the playoffs, that hasn’t stopped other teams from showing serious interest in the future free agent. Most notably the Detroit Red Wings have their eye on Parise.

As much as it hurts to admit, picturing Parise in Detroit, it probably would be a good fit. The 27-year-old forward would bring some young energy to a team that has looked increasingly old, especially in their series against Nashville. While there is no denying Parise would probably do well in Detroit, there is no guarantee that he would enjoy any more success there than with New Jersey.

Detroit is not the Western Conference superpower it used to be. This season has showed the strength of other Western teams, like St. Louis and Nashville, both in Detroit’s Central Division. While Detroit has enjoyed more recent success than the Devils have, Parise might not actually have much higher Cup chances there than in Jersey.

Since Parise is one of the most desirable free agents come July 1, it won’t just be Detroit after him. It is undeniable that other teams will be in the mix and it is hard to imagine a team that Parise could not be successful on.

From the standpoint of the New Jersey Devils it is absolutely critical that Parise stays. Not only is he one of the most consistent players the Devils have offensively, he is also the captain. Replacing goals is doable, but replacing leadership and chemistry is not easy. Parise has played with the Devils his whole career and has been the face of their offense for most of those years.

Although it will be devastating for the Devils if Parise leaves, he can’t be blamed if he decides to choose that path. Since Parise has played his whole career with New Jersey he has seen a fairly consistent pattern of making the playoffs and losing in the first or second round (except for last season). As sad is it may be, money matters and the Devils might not be able to give Parise what he is looking for. Unless Parise were to pull a Scott Gomez or Bobby Holik and head for Madison Square Garden, or one of the other Atlantic Division rivals, that decision would not be surprising.

Now is where this crucial Game 7 comes in. All of these thoughts could be potentially expelled if the Devils can beat Florida, get past round two and show they have what it takes to challenge for the Cup. If Parise can see the potential in his team, a lot of which he contributes himself, that is the only way he will be sticking around for next season with the Devils.

Sure he could stay around for the rest of his career and his presence would make the Devils more serious contenders for the Cup, but there would still be no knowing if the rest of the team would ever be in place at the right time to win the Stanley Cup.

As a Devils fan, the thought of seeing Parise go is devastating, but he can’t be blamed for wanting a career where he can hold Lord Stanley’s cup over his head at least once. It’s always sad to see the Jeremey Roenicks and Mats Sundins retire after successful careers and no cups, and it would be sad to see Parise’s end this way too.


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