Finding the right captain for the right team is one of the hardest assignments in hockey. It’s not simply about identifying a star player and giving him a patch, it’s about delegating assignment. New Jersey fans of the 90’s were lucky enough to see the great Scott Stevens command the throne while becoming the man synonymous with "Devil’s Hockey". In Stevens 12 years of captaincy he set the tone for each and every game with his snarl. When Scott Stevens was on the ice you better believe everyone on the other team was scared. Stevens became notorious (and sometimes hated) around the NHL for bone-crushing and sometimes dangerous body checks. Although many viewed some of his play as dirty none can argue the impact he had on his franchise’ success. Stevens was the "enforcer of enforcers" and we may never see another player like him in today’s "new NHL". Since Stevens retired in 2004 the state of The Devils captaincy has been in turmoil, we just haven’t found the right player at the right time. We promoted Patty for a season and he just wasn’t the right fit; a great player but not the right fit. The Devils tried a veteran in Jamie Langenbrunner, but the team just never found the postseason success they had hoped for. Enter…Zach Parise.
After being signed by The Devils in 05’ Parise has been a man on a mission. In just his second full season he raised his points total to a respectable 62 after a 32 Point Rookie season. He’d follow this up with a 65 point year that had fans just a little worried as it raised questions about how high this guy’s bar really was. The next season, the 08-09 season, Parise answered that question emphatically by putting up a 45 Goal, 94 Point campaign that got him on everyone’s radar. That was the year where the potential truly blossomed and Zach Parise truly became Zach Parise. In his time with the Devils he’s shown all the characteristics you want in a team leader, his work ethic is truly something to be marveled at as night in and night out you see this guy giving 110% on every single shift. The Devils dump the puck in, there’s Zach pressing hard on the fore-check. The Devils are on a penalty kill; Zach makes a big play to get a clear. Parise is more famous for his goal scoring and passing abilities but what goes unrecognized is his abilities as a leader.
Since being tagged by GM Lou Lamoriello to be captain in 2011, Parise (The 9th Captain in team history) has been a role model for the rest of his teammates. Not that he’s any older (or wiser) then they are, but his style of play is inspiration alone. His effort level is that of a player that is just trying to survive in the NHL, not of a superstar, but what makes him a special player is his dedication to consistency and his determination to win. Not to say that I think players take nights off but there are times when a team (or certain players) looks flat and they get beaten (often badly) because of it. I’ve never seen a game where I thought Zach took the night off, and that’s the type of man I want as my leader, one that leads through example. This coming offseason The Devils organization better dig deep and sign him long term because he’s a generational talent and letting him go could cripple this organization for years( and possibly decades) to come. Although financially things appear grim I believe Parise wants to be the Devil’s captain, but he also wants to be paid according to his worth. Although it may mean Zach having to give New Jersey a slight "home-town" advantage, I see Parise being our captain for the foreseeable future. Who knows, when it’s all said and done we may be saying his name along with Scott Stevens’ when we talk about all-time great New Jersey Devil captains.