The title is very broad. What I am really asking is who is better right now, this season in your opinion. You cannot directly compare Elias and Parise overall for various reasons. Patrik Elias has played in the NHL over a decade, where he has competed in the "old" and "new" NHL, whereas this is Parise's fourth NHL season, all of which he has played in the post-lockout era. Both Parise and Elias have had fantastic seasons so far, and have helped carry a Devils offense, which is currently top ten in goals scored, when Marty went down with an injury. As a Devils fan, I am very impressed and proud of Elias, Parise, and my entire Devils team so far this season; but while I am confident and proud of what has gone on so far, I will not get arrogant anytime soon, since there is an entire half of the season left to play, where anything good and or bad can happen at anytime.
I first want to take a look at Patrik Elias. He is having a tremendous comeback season after combining a total of 41 goals and 124 points the past two seasons, which are respectable numbers, but far from what Elias is capable of producing. You can say that Elias is more of a playmaker, with a tendency to snipe as well. In the past two seasons, it can be argued that Patrik's assist totals have saved his stats, and rendered them as respectable, but non-flashy numbers for a first line winger. So far this season, Elias has 21 goals, 34 assists, and 55 points in 48 games. While he likes to score goals, Patrik tends to make playmaking his priority. Call it unselfish, call it smart; it's what he seems to think first when he's in possession of the puck. Don't consider him entirely predictable though. If Elias has to or thinks he can shoot, he will, and he likes to hawk around the net for the occasional rebound. This has worked 21 times for Elias this season, and if all goes well, it should continue. Elias has 34 assists this season, and continues to make playmaking his priority, as mentioned before. The obvious difference between his play this season when compared to recent performances is how he has been scoring goals. This season, Elias scored eight goals when playing on the special teams (six on the power play, two shorthanded). Elias is reliable to use on the power play, as he currently has the ability to set up and score goals and has been seeing a lot of time on the PK, which coach Brent Sutter seems to be doing on purpose. Patrik is also reliable in the clutch, and proves his worth, since he has five game winning goals this season, and is currently tied for the record for most overtime goals scored. Coincidentally, Patrik's partner in crime in four on four overtime play is no other than Zach Parise.
For the majority of the season, Zach Parise has led the Devils in goals and points. The kid is only 24-years old and seems to have a very bright future ahead of him. He has speed, good hands, and always finds his way to the net. Zach tends to be a legit scorer with playmaking tendencies. One can also argue that so far this season, Zach's ability to score goals and setup goals have been even, since he has had the same amount of goals and assists many times this season. If it were up to me, I would say Zach is or should be known more for his scoring ability, since he has not gone for more than three games this year without a goal. The only disadvantage Zach has against him is his size of 5'11, which is not a monumental factor, but can affect him when he is battling in the corners against the bigger defensemen in the league. Like Elias, Parise has been effective on the powerplay with seven powerplay goals and five game winning goals. Unlike Elias, Parise has not seen a lot of ice time on the PK, but has made appearances, where he simply did his main job of keeping the puck out of the zone.
Although I did say you cannot compare these two players overall, these can be a few things to consider. Although Elias is currently, and has shown several flashes of offensive brilliance in the past, he has had inconsistent seasons. After tremendous years in 1999-2000 and 2000-2001, Elias' point totals were under 65 for the next two seasons, before he tallied 81 points in the 2003-2004 season. Despite these "off-seasons" that Elias has had, one could say he is a very potent offensive threat when he is at the top of his game, much like how he is playing so far this season. After a slow rookie year, in which he compiled 32 points in 81 games, Parise scored two consecutive 30+ goal seasons in the following years, getting 62 points in 2006-2007 and 65 points in 2007-2008, in which he led the Devils in points that season for the first time ever. In their first three seasons, both Elias and Parise totaled 159 points. There is a difference though. Patrik Elias did not play a full 82 game season until 2000-2001, and tallied 159 points in less games than Parise, in the "old" NHL, when the Devils were a "boring" trapping team. In his first three seasons, Parise has played every one in the post-lockout era, and has only missed two games in his first three seasons, and put up 32 points in his rookie year, but immediately doubled his output in the next two seasons. If Parise is entering his prime, the timing couldn't be any better as he does so in the new NHL during a time of transition on the Devils, since Sutter has stopped playing the trap, and is playing a more wide open style of hockey, in which he can roll all four lines.
While the general answer may seem one-sided. Consider everything that has been said. Right now, this season, who do you think is the better player? Patrik Elias or Zach Parise? Whose role on the Devils team do you think is more vital?