ST. PAUL – To fans, a player is adjusted to a new team when he scores goals – lots of goals – and fits seamlessly into the line-up. On the ice, nothing has changed but the jersey. But off the ice, the changes are tumultuous, and a little bit scary. Getting traded means exploring a new city, picking a new address, learning the ropes of a new locker room.
The novelty of everything is daunting. Being the new kid on the block is never easy.
Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi were lucky: they had each other to lean on.
“It obviously makes the transition a lot easier when you have a good friend come with you,” Setoguchi said of Heatley, his teammate for two years in San Jose. “We go out to dinner quite a bit and hang out, and we’re really good friends, which is nice.”
Their friendship has grown stronger through an offseason of change. For Setoguchi, his trade to Minnesota – which came merely a day after he signed a multi-year deal with the Sharks – was both surprising and exciting. For Heatley, it was disappointing.
“Well, first, when he got traded away, I was pretty upset,” Heatley said.
Setoguchi, who spent three full seasons with the Sharks and one split season with their American Hockey League affiliate, racked up an impressive 159 points in 267 regular-season games with the big club. He played with the likes of Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, holding his own and proving to be impressive under pressure. During the Sharks’ 2011 run in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Setoguchi buried two game-winning goals, both in overtime.
Heatley was rightfully disappointed about losing such a talented teammate. But it ran deeper than that.
“He’s a really good player, and a really great friend.”
Just ten days after Setoguchi’s trade, Heatley was dealt to Minnesota by San Jose for Martin Havlat. Within that window of time, the Wild had acquired not only a young, clutch forward in Setoguchi, but one of the league’s most gifted goal-scorers. It just so happened to work in the Wild’s favor that Heatley, the four-time all-star who has two fifty-goal seasons under his belt, was a good friend of their newest addition.
“When I found out he was coming, I knew it was going to be even better,” Setoguchi said.
During the offseason, the two faced the challenges of transitioning to an unfamiliar team. Together, they met their new teammates, explored the Twin Cities, and found places to call home. Rather predictably, they ended up a couple blocks away from each other.
“We’re close,” Setoguchi admitted with a laugh. “In the offseason, we’d go out … and just go around the city and look for things to do. It makes it a lot easier when you have a friend with you.”
Their transition came before training camp even began. Now that the season is under way, the on-ice adjustment is visible. Heatley and Setoguchi are two of the Wild’s top scorers.
Though the fans do not see what has helped them in the transition away from the rink, they do see the final product: goals.
Lots of goals.
“I think we’re adjusting very well,” Heatley said with a smile.
Both on and off the ice, they have become a fixture within the Wild organization. Heatley wears an ‘A’ during Minnesota’s road games, and only words of praise have been spoken about Setoguchi’s presence in the locker room.
Though Setoguchi has been moved to the speedy second line and Heatley has remained with captain Mikko Koivu, the two have been productive, regardless of their roles.
“It doesn’t matter who you play with as long as you win the games and you’re playing well out there,” Setoguchi noted.
It’s rather evident the dynamic duo is excited to be in The State of Hockey. It’s visible in their effort during every one of their shifts and their lighthearted teasing of teammates during practice.
There is a palpable energy in the locker room, an aura of a team that not only wins its games, but understands the importance of friendship both on and off the ice.
“We’re apart of something new and something special,” Setoguchi said, glancing over to Heatley.
“It’s a great town, a great place to play hockey, and we have great people around us,” said Heatley in agreement. “And Seto’s a great friend.”