PHOENIX — Devin Setoguchi and Mikael Granlund, demoted to sharing a spot on the Wild’s fourth line during practice Sunday, Feb. 3, each pasted on a brave smile and talked about accepting a major step down or — for one of them — being benched for Minnesota’s Monday game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena.
“You can’t really sit and sulk about it and dwell on it,” Setoguchi said. “If I’m in, I’m in. If not, then try to get back in the lineup.”
Granlund, too, tried to shrug off coach Mike Yeo’s decision to insert rookie Charlie Coyle on the Wild’s second line for their game against the Coyotes.
“I know I haven’t played so well lately,” Granlund said. “So I just need to work hard and try to do things better.”
Expectations for both players were high this season, but Granlund is a 20-year-old rookie still adjusting to the North American game in his first season away from Finland.
Setoguchi, 26, was acquired from San Jose with Coyle and a future draft pick for Brent Burns and has played 4-1/2 seasons in the NHL. He arrived in Minnesota with the reputation of a speedster and a sharpshooter who produced 31 goals and 34 assists during the 2008-09 season.
The unfamiliar environs and an ankle injury took a toll on Setoguchi last season when he went 19-17–36 and never really clicked.
He knew it.
So Setoguchi arrived in training camp a bit stronger through the shoulders of his 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame, bringing with him a healthier diet and a motivation to improve.
Taken eighth overall by the Sharks in 2005, he talked about his struggles on Jan. 23 when he said, “You don’t want to let the guys down.”
At that point, he had no goals and one assist. Now, eight games into the season, Setoguchi has no goals and two assists.
Yeo admitted he was sending a message Sunday to both Setoguchi and Granlund.
“It’s tough for those guys to come to the rink and see yourself on the fourth line,” Yeo said, noting that there also will be conversations between him and the players.
Because Granlund likely will be needed at center on one of the power-play units against Phoenix, Setoguchi might be the logical choice to sit. After Friday night’s 3-1 loss at Anaheim, Yeo said changes were necessary even if the collateral damage affects a veteran or a top draft pick.
Setoguchi is tied for 10th on the team with just 10 shots on goal, and the Wild want more.
“We went into the season counting on him to score goals and create offense for us,” Yeo said, “to use his speed and be strong on pucks. Again, he’s not the only one. There are some other people that probably aren’t performing at the level we need them to, and so this is the decision we take going into tomorrow’s game, and we’ll be ready to make new ones after that.”
Setoguchi noted that the competition for top roles never ceases, but this latest move definitely hurt.
“Personally, obviously, I’m disappointed,” he said. “It’s frustrating, but if you’re not producing, if you’re not doing the thing the coach wants, that’s the result of it.”