It wasn’t even a day old before it donned the head of Jets forward Devin Setoguchi.
To the outside public, it was simply an aviation pilot’s helmet, a cool but clunky piece of hardware equipped with a tinted visor. But to the 20 plus guys in the dressing room, it was a symbol of hard work, resiliency and effort, and most importantly, the start of a new tradition.
“We just started this today so I get [to be] the first one to put the helmet on,” said Setoguchi, who scored twice in a 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks Friday.
The idea came from defenceman Mark Stuart, according to Jets’ captain Andrew Ladd. A request to Mark Chipman followed and the Jets owner delivered a short time after.
A form of recognition
“It’s going to be a fun thing for us to do and recognize guys that have great performances like Seto tonight,” said Ladd, who finished with two assists in the win. “It’s just a fun thing for our group.”
Setoguchi scored his first goal, a redirect off a pass from Dustin Byfuglien, early in the first period. It was the second of two Jets goals in the span of 1:05 that had the home team with a comfortable 2-0 lead. His second: the go-ahead marker with 2:56 left in the third period; his first game-winning goal in 55 games with the Jets.
“It’s always nice,” Setoguchi said of the two goals, his ninth and 10th of the 2013-14 season. “You guys know the stats more than I do. It’s nice to get on the board and be able to contribute for sure.”
A tough start
For Setoguchi, it was the kind of results he’d hoped for after a slump that saw the winger notch just one goal in his previous 26 contests. His inconsistency and inability to produce had started to come with consequences including a demotion to the third line, and minutes reduced.
“It’s tough for sure,” Setoguchi said of the recent slump. “Mentally, it drains a lot of energy out of you. That’s a part of being a pro and trying to get out of it and hopefully it’s the start of something but it [was] just one game.”
In his first full season in the NHL, 2008-09, Setoguchi racked up 31 goals as a member of the San Jose Sharks. He played two more seasons there, adding 42 more goals over the next two campaigns before a trade for defenceman Brent Burns landed him in Minnesota. Burns, now a forward for the Sharks, has blossomed with San Jose and is currently one of the standout players on team destined to make the playoffs for many years to come.
Setoguchi, however, hit a wall in Minnesota. The Taber, Alb. native netted only 19 goals for the Wild in his first season with the club, followed up with just 13 goals in 48 games in the lockout-shortened season last year.
Trying new things
When the Jets acquired the former 8th overall pick in the 2005 NHL draft pick in the off season, the expectation, or hope at least, was he’d return to old form. Set to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, Setoguchi has shown only flashes of brilliance, overshadowed with extended stretches of mediocrity; something Setoguchi said required him to transform his style of play over the last few games.
“When things aren’t going for you one way, you got to try and do other things,” he said. “If that’s being physical or blocking a shot or getting in on the fore check, it’s just stuff you got to do. I had a couple good talks with coach [Paul Maurice] over the last couple days and he’s kept me pretty motivated in moving forward here.”
Maurice, who improved to 7-2-0 since taking over for Claude Noel, refused to extend exactly what was said in those talks, noting that personal conversations are best kept in the room. Praise however, that was fair game.
“I’m happy for him 'cause I know that was foremost on his mind,” Maurice said of Setoguchi. “And good for him.”
Asked what he thought of the helmet gesture, Maurice just smiled.
“Those are the things, the little pieces that bind guys together so I think it’s awesome. And it’s cool looking. It’s not a great big, goofy fedora or something.”
First star – Devin Setoguchi, WPG
Finished the game with two goals including the game winner. A much needed game for the Jets winger, something fans hope comes with an encore performance.
Second star – Ryan Kesler, VAN
Love him or hate him, he’s the kind of guy you want on your team. He’s a big body who plays hard. Kesler was in on all three Canucks goals, finishing with a goal and two assists in 21:53 of ice time.
Third star – Mark Scheifele, WPG
He continues to impress, finishing the game with an assist and was a plus-2 in 19:31 of ice time.