"I may only be 24, but I’ve played four years. I’ve been in the playoffs every year and played overtime games in the playoffs every year. I’m at a crossroads where I need to pick up my game one more step, be a professional and turn into that man you’ve got to be in order to play in this league. I’m ready to take the jump and make the step and help out the team as much as I can."
Those are the words of Devin Setoguchi, on the day he was formally announced as a member of the Minnesota Wild. The 24 year old, a veteran of 267 NHL games, will wear a #10 sweater.
And for those who have decided to forget, #10 was last worn by Marian Gaborik, arguably the most electric (and polarizing) player in the annals of Wild history. While comparing him to Gaborik is a grave disservice, Setoguchi can put the puck in the net- but here is where the rub is.
He had the luxury of playing in a well-run San Jose organization, and skating with a perpetually talented and offensively explosive roster of characters such as Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, Joe Pavelski, Ryane Clowe, Logan Couture, Dan Boyle, etc. You get the point here. In essence, Todd McClellan could sneak a guy like Setoguchi out onto the ice and capitalize on a matchup. He wasn't asked nor had to shoulder the load offensively. But even on a stacked team, Setoguchi was prone to a disappearing act at points in the season. The lack of consistency could be attributed to a lack of maturity and perspective; considering the situation he's been in since he was drafted: class organization, perennial playoff team loaded with talent: it would be easy (and in his defense he's just 24) to rest on your laurels and see that the success comes year after year.
Then one day you sign a three year extension, and then the next day you're dealt to a team that hasn't won a playoff series since 2003, much less made the playoffs anytime in recent history. Suddenly you go from penthouse to outhouse; one would hope that the realization that the business aspect of the sport means that you could be here one day, gone the next would certainly be jarring the world that you know. Here, in Minnesota, he'll likely find his place on the top line alongside Heatley and Mikko Koivu. And our offensive depth...well...nothing to write home to Ma about. And making the playoffs aren't exactly a lock either- he will get every opportunity to contribute and be "the guy." Quite frankly, no one involved in this transaction: Setoguchi, Chuck Fletcher, Mike Yeo, the fans, or the rest of the team, can afford to have a season marked with "occasional brilliance" again. Now the things you strive for- the playoffs and ultimately The Stanley Cup, seemingly aren't as close as before. Boom- perspective.
While it makes for nice lip service on the day you slip on the Wild Sweater for the 1st time, the plain truth is that Setoguchi has to do what he said; step up his game and be a pillar that this team can count on night in and night out, and be the player that San Jose thought he could be when they traded up to nab him 8th overall in 2005- because he'll get every opportunity (top line minutes, play with talent, power play time, etc.) to do so.
At a certain point, a player has to protect his career, and that time for Setoguchi is now- because this ain't San Jose anymore.