TORONTO – In the middle of a lost season for the Toronto Maple Leafs, P.A. Parenteau has found a few things that had been sorely missing.
Confidence. Satisfaction. Encouragement.
There is an enthusiasm about the well-traveled winger, even while playing for the NHL’s 30th-ranked team, mainly because he doesn’t view his time as a member of the Maple Leafs through the scope of losing but rather of career advancement.
“It’s the best I’ve felt in the last three years for sure,” Parenteau said before Thursday’s 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers. “The fact that I haven’t been injured is huge and the fact that I have the confidence of my coach makes a huge difference. I feel as good as my first year in Denver and my Islanders days.
“I’m really happy with how things are going personally this year.”
You might assume that Parenteau is also happy about the fact he’s about to get off this sinking ship — one of the most likely Leafs to be moved by the Feb. 29 trade deadline.
But that’s not how he views the situation – not after seeing his ice time drop quicker than his production with the Avalanche two years ago and then suffering through a concussion-plagued season in Montreal.
Parenteau strongly believes that Habs coach Michel Therrien never had faith in him and was careful about choosing his next destination after getting bought out. It was important that Mike Babcock personally reached out when Toronto made its pitch, and the two have enjoyed a strong relationship ever since.
“You know what’s interesting about bringing in P.A.? The last two stops he had didn’t go very good,” said Babcock. “He decided he wanted his career back, we talked a lot about it and he had to get to work. He worked real hard … and he’s got reasonable numbers for the National Hockey League.
“He transports the puck, he runs our power play, he’s efficient for us and I’ve just got to remind him to work every once in a while.”
Right now the Leafs are asking him to do a little bit of everything. With a bevy of injuries, and top-line winger Leo Komarov ejected early in Thursday’s game, Parenteau ended up playing 22:31 against the Rangers and scoring his 15th goal of the season.
He’s provided excellent value for the $1.5-million, one-year contract he signed with Toronto and will be easily turned into an asset at the deadline.
Contending teams want what Parenteau has. He’ll give you solid offensive depth without being a defensive liability – the Leafs have controlled more than 52 per cent of even-strength shot attempts with him on the ice – and can even help in the shootout down the stretch.
The 32-year-old is a career 19-for-41 in those situations.
It’s the business side of the game that dictates he should be traded, but it is the human element that’s gotten him so attached to Toronto over these last few months. No one inside the organization has told him what to expect over the next 10 days, but he’s realistic about the situation.
“I know it’s a possibility; I’m well aware of that and so is my family,” said Parenteau. “I’ve said it – I love it here, I’d love to stay – but I know how it works.”
There are no hard feelings either way.
In fact, Parenteau is clear that he would consider signing another deal with the Leafs on July 1 even if he’s traded away now.
“Absolutely,” he said. “That’s something I would definitely consider with the way they’ve treated me here and the way things went.”
That’s a pretty strong statement considering the way things have gone in Toronto this year. The team has lost 37 of 57 games so far and is currently in pole position for the Auston Matthews Lottery.
But Parenteau understands the importance of fit better than most, having kicked around the American Hockey League for seven seasons before landing a full-time NHL gig and now onto his sixth different franchise at this level.
The grass isn’t always greener.
One of the things that pushes Parenteau is trying to extend his career as long as possible, and he believes that playing for Babcock has brought the best out in him.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” he said. “You know when your coach wants you out there as a player, and that’s the way I’m feeling this year. Even before we had all of those injuries, I felt like I was a big part of the team. It’s fun, it’s fun that way.
“Obviously it’s a rebuild here for us here this year – and things have been kind of rough lately – but I’m enjoying myself still. It’s fun to have that confidence back.”