Renewed scoring mentality taking hold in wake of Wild's recent moves
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota Wild forward Devin Setoguchi feels his role with his new team is simple.
"I'm just going to try to shoot the puck," said Setoguchi, who along with Dany Heatley, was recently dealt from San Jose in a pair of blockbuster trades. "That's all I try to do - I get the puck. I shoot it. I don't hold on to it or make nice plays with it. I just shoot it."
That bodes well for the Wild. Ranked 26h in the NHL last season in scoring, the struggling franchise has had enormous trouble putting the puck in the net. It was a problem general manger Chuck Fletcher saw as his top priority to remedy this off-season, which is exactly what he has done.
In a matter of days, the Wild underwent a game-changing facelift. Less than two weeks after acquiring Setoguchi for All-Star defenseman Brent Burns, Fletcher shook things up again, shipping fellow All-Star Martin Havlat to the Sharks in exchange for the dynamic scoring winger Heatley.
"We've blown a pretty big hole in the fence by trading Brent Burns and Havlat," Fletcher said. "Certainly we paid a price to acquire some quality assets, but I like our mix of forwards now much better."
Setoguchi and Heatley are now at the forefront of that group. They will be expected to reverse the pass-first mentality the Wild fell back on throughout last season. The duo was in town for the first time on Monday to meet with first-year head coach Mike Yeo, who laid out his high expectations.
"Biggest thing I took from it was their excitement level -- what they want to bring to the table and what they want to bring to this group," Yeo said. "Part of message to them is right from day one we have to get better. In order for that to happen we have to be constantly evaluating their progress and where they're at."
The elevated responsibility and chance for a fresh start is what Setoguchi feels can bring his game to a new level.
"I'm at a point in my career where hopefully I can take on a little bit more and improve myself as a player as well," Setoguchi said. "I'm going to have to help out in areas I'm not really too keen on and that's being a leader. That's another part of my game I need to work on and now I'm in a position where I may get that chance."
The Alberta, Canada native was a key producer in his four seasons with the Sharks, but hasn't matched the output from his breakout second-year (31 goals, 34 assists) in 2008-09. Given the plethora of offensive options San Jose had, Setoguchi became more of a role player, combining for 42 goals and 35 assists in the last two seasons.
With his move to the Wild, however, Setoguchi is expected to be one of the team's go-to threats.
While the addition of Setoguchi was enough to invigorate the roster with new life, it was the acquisition of Heatley that renewed the excitement level of the Wild's waning fan base.
In the two years since Marian Gaborik departed for the New York Rangers, the Wild have been hard-pressed to find a player to fill the void left by the loss of the team's all-time leading scorer.
Backed by a highlight-reel nine-year career, Heatley is the type of offensive force who has the ability to become the new face of the franchise.
"I've always been a goal scorer. I can put up numbers. That's what I'm expected to do here," Heatley said.
Cemented as one of the NHL's top wingers in the last decade, Heatley has been hounded by recent speculation he has reached the back-end of his career after his 26 goal 2010-11 campaign.
Yeo, however, has no concerns about his 30-year-old forward.
"I don't see any reason why he can't have his best year ever in the National Hockey League," Yeo said. "You look at what he has done and the success he's had in this league. Certainly we hope he can do at least that here and challenge him to do it even more."
The Wild may still be a year away from becoming a yearly playoff contender, but with Heatley and Setoguchi intact they are a step closer towards becoming the championship-caliber squad Yeo envisioned when he took over the team less than a month ago.
"I feel much more comfortable with the forwards that we have," he said. "The top-six forwards are going to be real high-skilled and real tough to play against. They're going to be physical and nasty, and I like that."
Monday marked the start of the Wild's week-long development camp. In attendance are 42 of the team's top prospects, including Mikael Granlund, Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella and 2011 first-round draft pick Jonas Brodin.
"The purpose of this week is to give these guys experience, give them a chance to come here to develop and learn," Yeo said. "This week is more for them than it is for us. It's great for us in the bigger picture of things. In the long run it's going to make these guys better.
The camp concludes over the weekend with a pair of public scrimmages, which will give Wild fans one of their first glimpses of Yeo in action.