Zach Gone Wild

By Stevie

Zach Parise and Ryan Suter at the 2010 Olympics

After an extremely emotional first few days of free agency, the Zach Parise/Ryan Suter sweeps have come to an end as both players have elected to join the Minnesota Wild.

The move for both players while affording them each quite lucrative contracts, also puts them closer to their respective hometowns, Parise himself a native of Minneapolis and Suter from Madison, Wisconsin. The Penguins and Red Wings, along with many other teams, made competitive offers to the free agents, but in the end, the guys decided to head to the heart of the country, where the Minnesota North Stars once played.

Each player will earn $98 million over the next 13 years, likely taking each player into his retirement. Parise was extremely open about what exactly was at stake with this decision: in addition to salary, Zach (and Suter) were looking for a place to call home. Minnesota is already home to Parise and a chance to play in front of his community and to be able to spend the duration of his career giving back to his own town has to be greatly appealing. Bobby Ryan is hoping to return home to Philadelphia wearing the black and orange for much of the same reason.

Hockey is not ONLY about winning the Stanley Cup. The percentage of players with their names engraved on the Cup is far less than the  number of players who spend their entire careers in the  NHL. This is your career and such a grueling career takes sacrifice, but these players need to do what is best for them and this includes financials and picking a city to live in that is good for their families. They need to examine the various accoutrements that each team is able to offer, as well as the living area, the quality of people on the team not just as players, but as their coworkers and companions, and how they can develop and progress with each team. It is so much more than about winning a Cup and from year to year, the Cup can go to anyone.

Pens fans are split between being happy with the decision and what it will mean for the future of hockey in Minnesota, while others are salty over the situation, claiming that Parise and Suter chose money over a Stanley Cup.

As I explained in my most recent post, this is their career and it is finite. One blown knee and your career is over. Some are angry, saying that Sidney Crosby outclassed these guys by taking a hometown discount and that the game means more to him than money.

Sidney Crosby is positively bank rolling in endorsements from Gatorade,Reebok, etc. You think that didn’t factor in? He has money coming in from other places. Do you also think that the influence of living under Mario Lemieux’s roof and wanting to stay close to his owner and mentor wasn’t a factor? Sidney Crosby did what was best for HIS career and Suter and Parise did what was best for THEIR respective careers.

So they got paid? HOCKEY. IS. A. BUSINESS. Say it with me folks: HOCKEY IS A BUSINESS.

There. Understand now?

The other issue I have here is that people are saying “Enjoy never winning a cup.”

Let’s examine this, shall we?

Thirteen years with the Wild is a looooong time. How many years prior to winning the Cup in 2009 were the Pens just the absolute WORST team in the NHL? They couldn’t buy a win if they wanted to. It’s called building a team. The Pens acquired a lot of top talent because they were the worst in the league, just like the Oilers are doing now. And over time they made the right moves with coaching, management, acquiring players, and fostering good development and plays in order to pick up the organization and lead it into a new generation of greatness.

Why are the Wild (or Edmonton or even Columbus) exempt from this?

The Wild were in first place in the league early in the 2011-2012 season. That is no small feat and it should not be dismissed as a fluke. The Pittsburgh Pirates last season were in first place at one point and now look at the season they are having this year after some moves and acquisitions. You have to start somewhere.

The Wild have talent in their system. Goalie Niklas Backstrom with a stronger support system and the likely must improved power play, he could be a threatening goalie. Additionally, someone like Parise could be just what Dany Heatley needs to increase production by challenging him and working with him. Heatley didn’t even have a bad season, scoring 24 goals and 29 assists. Heatley has been a 40-50 goal scorer in the past and is still a relatively young guy.

Suter and Parise are going to give Head Coach Mike Yeo something to build upon. Do not dismiss what this franchise might do within the next few years. They have just as good a chance as any other team to become a viable threat.

The Penguins didn’t lose anything in free agency. They never had these guys to begin with. Keep in mind, that the Pens did acquire quite a few good players in Brandon Sutter, Tanner Glass, and Dylan Reese. Glass will easily slide into Arron Asham’s roster spot, bringing more grit to the team, hard hits, and is good for about as many goals as you could expect from a third/fourth line winger.

Brandon Sutter has scored 21 goals before and the way the Pens have been setting one another up for goals, he is in a great position to do this again and more.

Additionally, did everyone forget that the Pens signed Tomas Vokoun? Goalie tandem problem solved (we hope). Gives Marc-Andre Fleury a mentor and more rest throughout the season.

The only thing that really hurt in my opinion, was losing Steve Sullivan. Character guy, good veteran, and great at setting up plays. The Pens aren’t any worse off now though than they were before.

Defense is what is needed. They just need one good, natural d-man who is going to block shots and protect the net, rather than another play maker. Marc-Andre Fleury needs support more than the Pens need a scoring winger. The Pens were the most scoring team in the NHL last season, but they also got scored on a lot and that was their downfall in the playoffs.

I don’t know about you, but if I am a UFA looking at the Pens in the past three playoffs, I don’t see a Stanley Cup winning team. I see a team that needs to work on its defensive strategy and make adjustments in their game.

The Pens have a good core. They just need a few pieces to build around it. I am and have been a big supporter of bringing back Mark Eaton, who is a free agent. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and is always in the right place at the right time.

The market still has some solid guys out there. It doesn’t take a team full of superstars to win a Cup. It takes the right combination of working parts. Since the lockout, no team has repeated in winning the Cup. Anything is possible as long as the Wild take full advantage of the gift they have just received and properly build the team around these two key guys.

Good luck to the Minnesota Wild and congratulations to the fans and city of St. Paul. This is indeed a great day for hockey.

I personally cannot wait to buy my Parise Wild Shersey.

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