Devin Setoguchi: Was San Jose Sharks Trade Worth It?
I didn't watch the NHL draft.
Yesterday, I watched the NBA draft, because the Warriors had the No. 11 pick and I was incredibly anxious about what they'd do with it. There was also heavy speculation that they would make a move during the draft.
As it turned out, the Sharks teamed up with the Minnesota Wild to make headlines greater than the No. 1 pick himself and probably the biggest blockbuster trade this offseason so far.
The Sharks sent Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle and their first-round pick to Minnesota for Brent Burns. Both fanbases are excited, to say the least.
However, this was not necessarily a "both teams get better" move. Both the Sharks and the Wild took tremendous risks, trading seemingly vital cogs for hopefully perfect pieces.
Sharks' Best-Case Scenario
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The Sharks went into last season's conference finals gravely overmatched on the back end by Chicago and were disposed of in four quick games. This year, they entered the conference finals believing they had enough on the blue line.
They had enough to make it a series this time, as they were one phantom icing call away from a potential Game 6, but they didn't have enough to get past Vancouver, whose D-men dominated the series.
With the addition of Brent Burns, San Jose now has a legitimate top-two blueliner to play alongside the dangerous Dan Boyle, a duo that can almost go toe-to-toe with Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook or Alex Edler-Christian Ehrhoff (or Drew Doughty-Jack Johnson, seeing as the Mike Richards-having-Kings are looking like Cup contenders).
In creating this new top pairing, Douglas Murray gets pushed down to the second pairing, where his defensive style of play will complement own-zone rock Marc-Edouard Vlasic, giving the Sharks a much more effective top four.
With an all-around top pairing and a defensive second pairing, the Sharks should worry primarily about offense with their bottom two, and any combination of Jason Demers, Ian White and Justin Braun should be effective in this role.
Burns transforms the entire blue line and brings so much to this team that was lacking before. He gives the Sharks speed on the back end. He's a guy who can be put out there to generate offense but can also be the shutdown guy. He's the best two-way D-man that San Jose has had in ages.
If Dany Heatley gets his game back, the Sharks will not lose anything on their top line, as Heater will be re-inserted into Seto's spot alongside Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe would then need a new linemate, possibly Joe Pavelski or Torrey Mitchell.
The Sharks' third line would be weakened, but the cap room to add a Chris Drury is there, and a slightly weaker third line as the ultimate price of acquiring Brent Burns is pretty minimal.
Wild's Best-Case Scenario
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The Wild went through last season with two excellent forwards and a bunch of mediocre ones. Even though Martin Havlat and Mikko Koivu played great hockey for most of the season, there was no real fear factor in facing any of Minnesota's lines. With Setoguchi teaming up with Havlat and Koivu, the Wild suddenly have a legitimately frightening top line.
Both Havlat and Koivu are masters with the puck, but creating is a more natural gift of theirs than scoring. Seto defines natural goal-scorer, and having a guy who can find the back of the net like him will make the two Wild vets that much more dangerous.
Setoguchi can shoot the puck very effectively, with a killer wrist shot and less consistent yet deadly one-timer. However, his greatest offensive skill is his refusal to be denied. Nothing comes too easy for Seto, but when he decides to put his head down and go to work, he simply dominates down low.
Setoguchi is already incredibly gifted physically, so when he enters his zone, he can take over games.
Like Burns' effect on San Jose's blue line, Seto will push Andrew Brunette down to the second line and cause a chain reaction, making Minnesota's overall forward depth one man stronger on each line.
The addition of Charlie Coyle is also a huge one. The young power forward has the potential to join Minnesota's top six someday, and netting two dominant scorers for one dominant defenseman has to be worth it for the Wild.
There is no getting around the hole that Brent Burns leaves, but the gaping hole on the blue line has allowed Minnesota to seal the gaping hole on its top line, add two or three long-term fixtures to its offense and add all this value for a guy who only had one year left on his contract.
Sharks' Worst-Case Scenario
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Barring injury, Brent Burns will transform San Jose's blue line, no two ways about it. The real question is, what did they truly give up?
If Dany Heatley can't get his old game back (a possibility that is realer than we'd like to think), then what has been the league's biggest, baddest group of forwards will suddenly be a major question mark.
Without Setoguchi, Heatley or Ryane Clowe needs to step up to the top line, and whoever doesn't will have much more pressure on him to produce on the second line. This also may force Joe Pavelski back into the top six, and while he's more than capable, it will be a regression, considering one big step San Jose made in the 2010-11 season was improving its third line scoring through Logan Couture pushing Pavelski down.
The Sharks also look less prepared for long-term dominance. A group of 26-and-younger forwards that featured Setoguchi, Pavelski, Couture, Mitchell and Coyle gave the Sharks a seemingly dominant future core.
Now, all that remains are two centermen and a center/wing that isn't anywhere near the scorer needed in a top-six winger. Brent Burns has to help net the Sharks a Stanley Cup quickly, because a once equally bright future now looks like an inevitable decline.
Finally, how quickly must Burns do it? He only has one year left on his contract, and he's going to get paid big time next offseason. If the Sharks don't commit a significant amount of their cap room to keeping Burns around long-term, then they just traded away a potential franchise fixture for a Stanley Cup or bust season.
Wild's Worst-Case Scenario
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Scoring is what the Wild need, and they got multiple guys who could provide it for years. "Could" being the key word.
Devin Setoguchi's career year came in '08-'09, when he put up 31 goals and 34 assists. One would think the then-22-year-old was headed to a career full of 30-plus-goal seasons, but he's yet to put up more than 22 goals or 19 assists in two seasons since.
The potential is clearly there, as Seto will get hot for stretches and light the lamp as convincingly as the Jarome Iginlas and Teemu Selannes of the world, but he'll also disappear for long stretches.
As for Coyle, the young man has not even cracked the NHL. He is a great young player (as is Seto) and has a ton of potential, but for every 25 or 30 young guys with potential do you end up with a Brent Burns-like NHL talent. The Wild may have mortgaged their blue line for a career-long streaky goal-scorer and nothing else.
And just because Minnesota needs scoring doesn't mean it didn't also need Burns. Burns played four more minutes than any other Wild D-man and had twice as many takeaways than any of his peers, and his team still allowed the most shots in the NHL.
Without Burns, the pressure on Niklas Backstrom will be even higher, and the Wild could become as defensively challenged as they were offensively challenged.
To top it off, Burns was third on the WIld in points, goals and assists and first in PP goals. Setoguchi may improve the offense, but the loss of Burns' production from the blue line (his 46 points top Seto's 41) could offset the gains.