Wild's Setoguchi sifts through the wreckage

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 21, 2012 - 11:03 AM

Devin Setoguchi hasn't had the type of season that he or the Wild envisioned. An odd offseason accident might have been prophetic.

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Devin Setoguchi has endured an inconsistent season in which he has scored 18 goals.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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A concrete flowerpot saved Devin Setoguchi.

Maybe the whole bizarre incident last July was a strange omen for his first season with the Wild, a team that has plummeted down the NHL standings.

Setoguchi walked into his chiropractor's office in San Jose, Calif., three weeks after being traded to Minnesota. Outside, an elderly woman lost control of her car as she tried to park in a handicapped space. Paralyzed from the waist down, the woman was using hand controls to drive.

"She hit the wrong trigger, and hit 'go' instead of 'stop,'" Setoguchi said, shaking his head. "She drove right through the door. But first, she hit a cement flowerpot."

Standing in front of that door, Setoguchi heard the flowerpot get obliterated. He turned and caught a glimpse of a car heading his way.

He couldn't go left because of the office's counter, so he turned right just as the car smashed through the window and sprayed glass and dirt from the flowerpot everywhere.

"I ran and jumped, and as I jumped, the front of the car hit me in the back and I got shot 10 feet down the hallway," Setoguchi said.

Setoguchi slowly picked himself up off the hardwood floor. In pain and bleeding, Setoguchi drove himself to the emergency room. He still has scars from cuts all over his back. He needed stitches to close cuts to his hand.

But Setoguchi was lucky. If not for the car striking that flowerpot first, Setoguchi would have been "ran over without even knowing the car was there. It was crazy. ... Yeah, she's not allowed to drive anymore."

The injuries Setoguchi sustained in the accident halted his offseason training.

"Pretty much my entire July was ruined," Setoguchi said. "My hand was messed up for a while there. My back was banged up. A good, solid three weeks, I could do nothing, so I had a shorter summer than a lot of people."

Setoguchi said, chuckling, "It takes awhile to get the bruises to heal after you get hit by a car."

A tough start

The accident was the start of a difficult first year for Setoguchi in Minnesota. He had high hopes for this season, saying only days before the accident that he was at a "crossroads" in his career.

Only 24 at the time, Setoguchi already had four NHL seasons under his belt. He had scored 31 goals his first full season, but after 20- and 22-goal seasons, Setoguchi said it was time to "turn into that man you've got to be in order to play in this league."

He wanted to rid his game of the streakiness, but with the Wild 10 games from a fourth consecutive postseason absence, Setoguchi is disappointed by his performance. In 59 games, he is the Wild's third-leading scorer with 18 goals and fifth-leading scorer with 31 points.

"It's been a frustrating year so far -- a lot of highs and a lot of lows, which is what basically is considered inconsistent," Setoguchi said. "So on a personal level, it's always tough when you're struggling, especially when the problem is we're having trouble putting pucks in the net."

Setoguchi has scored some big goals, such as an overtime winner in Detroit and last-second goals in the third period. But there have been stretches in the season in which he has struggled to find his game, like a two-goal run in 15 games before and after a knee injury from Dec. 2 to Feb. 9.

The other side

Defensively is one area where he feels he could have been better.

"Goals are goals. Wins are the biggest thing," he said. "There were a lot of games that we lost where I probably could have had a couple more goals, probably could have made a couple more plays to keep goals out of our net.

"Looking at the numbers, we weren't a team that was going to score a lot of goals, but we should have kept them out. That's the big thing. Personally, I'm [minus-15] now. I've been pretty much a plus player my whole career."

Coach Mike Yeo said Setoguchi must get out of the habit of thinking every night he has to score two goals.

"He's not preparing the right way with the thoughts he puts in his head," Yeo said. "I think it's a maturing and learning process with him. When he's struggling to score, he takes shortcuts to pucks and cheats and overanticipates.

"When you do that, you end up behind the play so many times. The thing with him is once he quits thinking about scoring and actually learns how to play the game consistently ... the more goals that'll come for him."

An early offseason

Setoguchi's accident last summer was kept under wraps by the Wild until now. Setoguchi hasn't used it as an excuse, but because he was behind on his training, Yeo doesn't think Setoguchi came into camp feeling ready.

"And when you don't feel good, it's tough to get it back," Yeo said.

Setoguchi never missed the playoffs with the Sharks. In the past two years, he played into late May, so this offseason -- barring another car striking him inside a chiropractor's office -- Setoguchi will have plenty of time to prepare for next season.

"I hate to look ahead to this summer, but I've been to June now two years in a row and started working out by July," he said. "Now you get May, June, July and August -- an extra two months of training as opposed to playing those three rounds in the playoffs.

''It takes a tear on your body after a while. This is a big summer to get into shape and get where I want to be as far as conditioning level and strength and coming back with a positive attitude.

"We want to win here so bad."

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