ST. PAUL, Minn. – Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi have brought their friendship and their shoot-first mentality to Minnesota, joining a team in dire need of some snipers.
Though this is a statistic subject to official scorer discretion, the Wild were last in the league last season with an average of 26.2 shots on goal per game. They were 26th in the NHL with 203 goals.
Heatley and Setoguchi, wingers acquired in separate trades with the San Jose Sharks, will be relied on to help rev up the offence while the Wild regroup under new head coach Mike Yeo and try to return to the playoffs for the first time in four years.
“Whether you were a fan or a coach or up in the press box eating popcorn, I think clearly we didn’t score enough goals and we didn’t shoot the puck enough,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said. “There’s a direct correlation between shots on goal and goals scored, so we’re a team that’s going to put an emphasis on putting the pucks in the net, playing in the offensive zone and playing in traffic and getting to the net. Certainly both of those guys do things well in the offensive zone, and that’s why they’re here.”
Heatley and Setoguchi donned their new dark green jerseys for the first time Monday while meeting the media. The 30-year-old Heatley is coming off a down season by his standards, but his 26 goals were still more than any Wild player has scored in any of the last three years. The 24-year-old Setoguchi scored 22 times last season and had 31 goals in 2008-09.
“If you score goals you’re always expected to score goals, and that’s never going to change,” Heatley said. “I love being in that spot. If you don’t like being in that spot, I think you’re in the wrong place.”
Heatley has scored 39 or more goals in six of his nine NHL seasons, twice reaching 50. Marian Gaborik had 42 and Brian Rolston added 31 in the 2007-08 season, the last time the Wild made the playoffs. In the franchise’s entire 10-year history, in fact, Gaborik (five times) and Rolston (three) are the only players to get 26 or more goals. Last season’s leader, Martin Havlat, who was swapped for Heatley, had 22.
Heatley, already on his fourth NHL team, didn’t produce much offence in the playoffs for the Sharks. His goal totals show a decline. But he sounded eager to settle in Minnesota and defy doubts about his ability to become a 40- to 50-goal scorer again.
“I always want to prove people wrong, and I’d like to do it again,” he said.
Heatley is familiar with the area as a former University of Wisconsin star, and Setoguchi remarked about how much Minnesota reminds him of his native Canada—”It’s like the 14th province,” he said.
“It’s going to be a fun experience. I’m in a point in my career where hopefully I can take on a little bit more and prove myself as a player as well,” said Setoguchi, who will wear No. 10, Gaborik’s old jersey.
He’ll probably be on the ice more, for starters.
“He hasn’t even come close to hitting the prime of his career, and I’m excited to see what he’ll do in a priority role,” Fletcher said.
Starting with, of course, swinging that stick and letting ‘er rip.
“I get the puck, I shoot it. I don’t hold onto it, I don’t make nice, really sweet plays with it. I just shoot it,” Setoguchi said. “I’m going to skate and shoot and hit, and that’s my plan.”
He added: “The game’s quicker. Goalies are better. Teams are better. In order to be a successful team, you’ve got to shoot the puck. You’ve got to get shots. I think I can shoot the puck more, and I know that’s what they want us to do, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Speed will be a high priority under Yeo. Heatley and Setoguchi will be teaming with Mikko Koivu, Matt Cullen, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Guillaume Latendresse, likely in some combination of the first two lines, trying to get those goal totals going.
“If it’s not going on, I hope the fans are patient enough with me,” Setoguchi said. “They’re going to go in sooner or later. I’m just excited to be here.”