February 10, 2011
He's currently on an offensive hot streak, with 8 points in 7 games and a six-game point streak that ended last night in a win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. But the fact is that he's scored 40 percent of his points on the season since Jan. 22, which speaks more to his struggles in the first three months than his recent point totals.
"Hockey's a weird game. Sometimes you play good hockey and you don't get any points, sometimes you're not having a good game and you get three. I can only control what I can control," he said, after a recent Sharks' win in Washington.
"It's been going well for me lately. I have to focus on bringin' it every night, every game."
What "bringin' it" has brought to Setoguchi: a spot on Joe Thornton's(notes) wing, frequently with Dany Heatley(notes) on the other side, which is like Las Vegas for a hockey player: Even if you've been there before, you yearn to return there for the glamour and the frequent jackpots.
But as Setoguchi's name is mentioned on the score sheet more often, it's also making its seemingly annual appearance in the rumor mill. He was mentioned as a possible trade option for the Pittsburgh Penguins by TSN's Darren Dreger this week, "assuming Sharks GM Doug Wilson is willing to consider moving" him.
"You can't even think about it. There's no time. It's nothing you can control. If you're going to sit there and stress about it, you're going to play worse hockey," said Setoguchi, his words sounding more emphatic as he continued.
"Do I expect anything? No. I want to be here. I talk to my agent, I talk to those guys. That's the key word: Rumors. Anyone can start a rumor on the Internet, and then 150 people can blog about it."
Fear the Fin is one of the 150 people blogging about Setoguchi and the trade deadline, and handicapped his situation like this:
If he is moved, we assume it will be for a player akin to Goligoski: young, talented and affordable. Until something happens, though, no one is going to know much of anything. Setoguchi is going to be bandied about just because of his talent and easy to move contract. Since Wilson didn't pull the trigger on a move for Beauchemin, we're guessing it's going to take a lot more to pry Setoguchi away from the Sharks.
There are teams looking for players of Setoguchi's caliber out there. If any become too desperate, that's when we think Wilson will strike.
There's no telling where Setoguchi will end up. That's true for the trade deadline as much as it's true for the Sharks' lineup.
And then the Dany Heatley trade happened.
Last season, Setoguchi dipped to 20 goals in 70 games, his goals-per-game average sliding from 0.38 to 0.29 and his points per game going from 0.80 to 0.51. He saw some time with Thornton and Heatley, but saw more time with the likes of Joe Pavelski(notes) and Ryane Clowe(notes).
The chance to skate with Thornton is a carrot for Setoguchi. "You want to play with those guys," he said. "You gotta bring it every night. If you're not going, you're letting yourself down."
Coach Todd McLellan said he's earned it. "Seto's playing the way that Seto is supposed to play. He's quick, he's on pucks, he's getting shots off. We're pleased with him right now, and we use him accordingly," he said. "All of a sudden he's playing with players that he's comfortable with."
That comfort leads to confidence, which leads to 8 points in 7 games according to Seotguchi.
"It's a confidence thing. A player that has confidence vs. a player that doesn't have confidence, who holds onto that puck for an extra second before making the play," he said.
Which brings us to the Sharks, who are as confident a bunch as there is in the NHL these days: 9-0-1 in their last 10 games, tied in points (66) and wins (30) with the Dallas Stars atop the Pacific Division after spending a good portion of the season outside of the conference top eight.
"We expect every year that it's going to be a tough race. Obviously, this has been a different year for us, where we didn't start off with a big lead in the division and were looking down on everyone," Setoguchi said.
"You lose a game [in this conference], you can fall from fourth to eighth."
Which is to say that success can be fleeting, and that today's top-of-the-world can be tomorrow's down-in-the-doldrums. All of which Setoguchi understands all too well.
"He knows that we'll pull [his spot on the top line] on him pretty quick if he doesn't compete," said McLellan.
"It's a rewards system. If anyone knows that, it's Seto."