by Bob Crawford || AHL On The Beat Archive
It’s been the classic “good news/bad news” situation for Hartford Wolf Pack right wing P.A. Parenteau in this, his seventh year of pro hockey.
On the good side, Parenteau has gotten by far the best NHL opportunity of his career. He played a total of 14 games with the New York Rangers early in the season, more than twice as many NHL games as he had logged in his previous six years. He did fairly well too, contributing one goal and four points in those 14 contests and scoring a pair of shootout-deciding goals.
The big negative, though, was injury trouble that felled Parenteau in the AHL. The Hull, Que., native suffered a concussion Jan. 17 in Manchester, when he was hit hard into the boards by the Monarchs’ Kevin Westgarth, and missed 16 games. During that time, the Wolf Pack slid from six games over .500 and fourth place in the Atlantic Division to a tie for sixth place and a struggle to stay on the positive side of the .500 mark.
“It’s been a really up and down season for me,” Parenteau summarizes. “I finally got my shot to play in the NHL. I really owe a lot of recognition to (Wolf Pack general manager and Rangers assistant GM/assistant coach) Jim Schoenfeld and (Ranger head coach) John Tortorella for giving me my first real chance at the NHL, after I’d been working real hard to get there.
“But unfortunately I got hit real hard by Westgarth, and that was the end of me for a month-and-a-half. But that’s part of the game, injuries are going to happen. I’ve been pretty fortunate in my career so far. I missed a couple of weeks at the end of last year and that month-and-a-half this year, I’m sure there are a lot of guys who are a lot worse off than me.”
Despite those recent travails, Parenteau remains excited about what can still be accomplished this season.
“The most important thing is, there are a lot of games left,” he says, “and there was a point when I would have said I don’t have a lot more left to prove in this league, but now that I got hurt for a month-and-a-half, I can find some motivation here, to try to help the Pack make the playoffs. We’re in a tough spot right now, and I want to finish really strong. I want to make playoffs, and that’s going to look good on everyone.”
This season is Parenteau’s third in the Ranger organization, since he was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks for a seventh-round draft pick Oct. 11, 2007. Parenteau was an unrestricted free agent this summer, but chose to return to the Rangers, at a time in his career when many players with comparable levels of experience and success elect to go to Europe.
When asked what led him to stay on this side of The Pond, rather than opt for the shorter seasons and less-physical play of the European brand of hockey, Parenteau’s response is, “The first thing is, because I know that I can play at that (the NHL) level. The day I get up in the morning and think I can’t play in the NHL, I’m definitely going to go overseas, it’s going to be a no-brainer for me when that day happens.
“I really feel that I should be in the NHL, but it’s not up to me. There are a lot of things you have to go through in life.
“It’s (going to Europe) definitely something I’ve looking at. I’ve had a lot of good offers. But when I talked to Torts (Tortorella) and talked to Schony (Schoenfeld) this summer, they gave me a one-way contract, which is pretty hard to say no to. And I knew I was going to get my shot (at the NHL).
“I played a lot of minutes my first seven games there (with the Rangers), and I played some really good hockey. And then when the injured guys came back it (his playing time) kind of went down and I went on the fourth line and it was kind of downhill from there. But I stay positive, and to be honest I have no idea what I want to do next year. It’s up in the air. Right now I’m focusing on the games that are left in the year, and then I’ll make some decisions. I have a lot of options, and we’ll go from there.”
One of those options could be to stick with the Rangers, who Parenteau says gave him some good feedback on his play with them.
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“When I talked to John (Tortorella) he was happy with me,” Parenteau confirms. “He was happy with what I was bringing offensively to the team. There were some things on the defensive side of the puck where he wanted me to get better. But every year I think I get better, not only offensively, but every year I’ve played I think I’ve gotten better defensively, my all-around game got a lot better. It’s something I take pride in because that’s how you’re going to get to the next level.
“Obviously everyone knows I’m an offensive player and I like to carry the puck, make some plays and score goals, but to play at the next level sometimes you’re not going to get the ice time you get when you’re in the minors, so you have to do some other things. And I’ve been working on that. It’s a little unfortunate that I got hurt, but I’m staying positive.”
Those two shootout winners, too, in 2-1 Ranger triumphs at Ottawa Nov. 14 and in Florida Nov. 25, may very well have opened some NHL eyes to Parenteau’s capabilities. And while he hardly considers himself a shootout specialist, Parenteau hopes that being able to come through in those spots, and help secure four valuable standings points for the big club, is a strong boost for his resume.
“Every time you do well in a situation that’s high-pressure like that it’s good for yourself,” he says. “And I felt pretty good in the shootout. I probably got a little lucky, obviously, but it was a good feeling. It was fun, it was definitely the highlight of my season.”
Another highlight was Parenteau’s first NHL goal, which came in his first game in a Ranger uniform and was the only Blueshirt goal in a 3-1 loss Oct. 28 on Long Island. As Wolf Pack fans would expect, also, it was a pretty skill play, on which Parenteau dangled into the slot and put a backhander past veteran Islander goaltender Dwayne Roloson.
“That was the best feeling, by far, I’ve ever had on the ice,” Parenteau says of finding the net for the first time in the NHL. “You try to recall it in your head, how it happened, and you can’t really. It’s just a big moment, something you waited for, maybe I waited a little longer than a lot of guys that had a chance to play in the NHL, but it was a good feeling. I thought I played a pretty good game that night, and obviously it’s one of the best moments in my career, scoring that goal, it was a nice one.
“I really want to get back there (to the NHL),” he continues. “I know there aren’t many games left in the season, but that’s always my main goal when I play here with the Wolf Pack. I want the team to win and I want to play some solid minutes, but I’ll always have in the back of my head that I want to go back up there.”
Parenteau is quick to add, though, that he stresses to himself that his quickest route back to the “Big Show” is to be a dominant force in Wolf Pack victories at the AHL level. He still feels, too, that, even though he lost a lot of the second half of the season to the injury, there is still a lot of good he can do for his own career in the time that remains, by helping to elevate the team.
“No doubt about it,” he says to that. “You never want to end a season on a bad note, and not making playoffs would be a bad note, definitely. We hit a rough patch for a while with the Wolf Pack, we had some injuries, the team wasn’t playing very well, and now you’re kind of paying for it, looking at the standings. But with the team we have now, the addition of (Kris) Newbury (acquired from Detroit at the NHL trade deadline) for a second line, the guys are getting hot again, I’m really positive. I think it’s really doable to make playoffs, and even to upset someone in the first round too.”