Earlier today Eric T. of the newly formed, already great website NHL Numbers wrote a solid post on Zach Parise that used advanced stats to demonstrate why teams may want to exercise a little caution before throwing their checkbooks at the unrestricted free agent this summer.

His point is correct: a scorer’s offensive prime is much younger than most people think (usually over by around 26), Parise is 28, and if you look at his numbers the past few seasons, the trend could be considered a concern.

But my rebuttal to that idea is pretty simple: sometimes the human angle matters, and Zach Parise is going to be an offensive force for quite awhile because his passion and work ethic will make it so. I know of very few NHLers that care like Parise does.

My favourite hockey analysts are the ones that can use numbers to help them make their points, but also remember that that the game isn’t played on a computer or by robots, and not all careers take the same arc. Eric noted this in his piece by mentioning guys like Jarome Iginla and Patrick Marleau (who still snipe 30+ a year), and contrasting them with guys who’ve fallen off in their later years like Dany Heatley and Vincent Lecavalier (who have fallen off sharply).

We can’t always be sure which guys are going to last and which aren’t, but I think most people who saw Danny Heatley with his shirt off when he was one of the League’s best snipers could have assured you he wasn’t going to be one of the guys scoring a ton towards the end of his career. The zealous commitment to fitness necessary to be successful for a long time was never there (think of guys such as Rod Brind’Amour, Mark Recchi, and Gary Roberts to know the type who stay effective).

Zach Parise is very much poured from the Jarome Iginla mold - they’re both straight-edged, passionate hockey players who care little about anything other the sport of hockey (aside from family).These are the guys that get personal trainers, scrutinize their nutritional intake, and watch hockey in their spare time. (Oh, and they both kick ass in playoffs – Parise’s forechecking this post-season has been phenomenal.)

Parise’s Dad is J.P Parise, who was an Islander with my father, and I played against Zach in college. We have common friends. I do some work with Easton (hence the top photo), and I had the chance to spend some time with him, as he’s an Easton guy. I assure you: this is a guy who cares. He’s not the guy who’s gonna go out and get buckled on a game night and play hungover the next day. Hockey means the world to him.

Here’s his numbers over the past four seasons, via the chart in Eric T.’s post:

Year Goals Points 5v5 pts/60 SOG/60 Corsi Rel
’08-09 45 94 2.93 14.2 16.3
’09-10 38 82 2.59 13.0 12.4
’10-11 injured
’11-12 31 69 2.18 10.0 4.2

Every number is headed in the wrong direction.

Or on the other hand, last season Zach Parise was a player with a ton of leadership qualities, a positive Corsi (ability to drive the play), over 30 goals and nearly 70 points. I don’t see him being a guy who finishes with less than 50 before he hits his mid 30′s, and I could see him sustaining or bettering his last season for many years.

I respect the idea that he may not be a guy who’s going to finish among the scoring leaders any more (though it’s not unthinkable), but knowing how the guy operates as a person has me believing he’s going to be a great NHL player for a long time to come. A cap hit of $6-7 million for a guy like this that takes him into his mid-to-late 30′s wouldn’t make me flinch as a GM.