Fresh off signing a Professional Tryout Agreement with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Devin Setoguchi joined Brady & Walker to discuss his new opportunity in Toronto, respect for Mike Babcock, battle for sobriety, and reflect on some of the pitfalls throughout his career.
Andrew Walker: You’re in California, you’re getting ready for the season, and it’s been a busy summer for you. Congratulations on the wedding. You’re a married guy now. Does that change your outlook on life a little bit?
Devin Setoguchi: Not really. I think there’s a lot of things that have changed about me over these last four or five months, but it’s definitely nice. My wife has been in med school for the last five years – seven years, sorry – and she’s finally done and now we’re married. It’s going to be nice to have her around wherever I’m at this season. It definitely helps me be more stable and live a healthier lifestyle, that’s for sure.
Walker: Tell me about the opportunity here in Toronto with the Maple Leafs. I know I talked to you last summer a little bit. You had a couple of options. Did you have more than one option here? What works with Toronto and trying to earn a spot here?
Setoguchi: I was in a tough position this year. I ended up going to rehab in April. Going there, around the league my rep the last couple of years, and my word, has not really meant much. I had gotten to the point where I had pretty much diminished any kind of merit in the League. No one really believed what I was saying. I still have a lot to prove this year. I feel thankful that Toronto was able to give me the PTO. I had talked to Lou last summer. For me, it was just really one of my only few options I had. I played under a guy named Todd McLellan in San Jose, who ran a lot of structure, ran a tight group of guys, very professional in what they did. I know, for a fact, I’m sure he’s learned it from a guy like Mike Babcock. It really was something that came down to – they’re trying to do something there and turn that team into a great franchise. Not that it isn’t already, but that’s someone that I’d basically like to be a part of and push for moving forward.
Walker: You’re a real good hockey player. You put up 65 points in San Jose. You scored 20 three times, you scored 30 once. You’re still a young guy. There’s a good hockey player in there. Was it a lot of success too early, was it taking it for granted, was it a certain lifestyle? Where did you find you ran into trouble a little bit?
Setoguchi: I’d say it’s everything. It’s everything. Lifestyle – definitely one of them. You’re a young kid making three and a half million dollars, coming from not much… things can get a little out of hand. You can get really conceited, and cocky, and overconfident in what you do. Your attitude is basically not where it should be. That was something that hit me. Then, obviously, along the way I got into bad decisions. Hanging around the wrong people; it’s something where I took the wrong turn, and once I took the wrong turn and knew it, I was in denial of it and it was everyone else’s problem. For me, I’m just so thankful I get this chance. I know it’s not going to be easy; it’s going to be tough. My expectations going into camp – all the odds are stacked against me, I get a chance, and I’m just really excited. I really hope that things work out.
Walker: I always think it’s interesting to measure where we are in life sometimes from year to year. A year ago, you had a pretty decent opportunity with the Calgary Flames. They ended up being one of the stories of the season. Your 2014-15 year did not go at all how you hoped it would. You only played 31 games. Describe your headspace now compared to one season ago. How night and day is it?
Setoguchi: It’s night and day. First off, I have to say thanks to Calgary anyway. They gave me a chance. I told them going into camp that I was straight, I was going to stay sober for the year and not drink. That lasted all of a couple weeks. There’s a lot of things that went on there that were all me and my problems. I didn’t really take advantage of an opportunity with a team like Calgary. That was tough for me because I had a lot of expectations. I had a good summer of training but not quite as good as I have had this summer. I just went in there and had a crappy attitude. It was the coach’s fault, and then it was the guys’ I was playing with fault. Once I got sent down, it was everybody else’s fault. It was never my fault, and that’s when things turned bad. There was a lot of things in my head that I just needed to clear up; personal problems. I’m far beyond that and I’m so thankful to the League for letting me go into the program and come out and still move forward. I’ve still got a lot of work to do. It starts with this camp and getting a great start there.
Walker: I was going to ask you – when you feel you get a fresh start, when you’re as motivated as you are, how different does your offseason look? You train differently, obviously, at 28 than you did at 18, but are there new wrinkles, is there a new routine? Where are you at?
Setoguchi: There’s a lot of new things. The game now is so fast. Compared to when I broke into the League, you had to be big and strong, and that was it. Pronger was going to push you in the corner and beat the crap out of you. It was guys like that. Now, it’s fast. Everyone can skate. If you’re not in shape, and you’re not quick, and you can’t sustain that energy level, you’re not going to be able to play at the pace you need to be able to play at. So that’s kind of what I’ve been trying to focus on the most. My weight has been an issue over the last four years. I’m under 200 pounds. I haven’t been under 200 pounds in probably nine years. So that feels good; to get on a scale in the morning and finally be under 200 pounds and look lean and feel great. That just makes me feel good about myself as well.
Walker: You mentioned you had talked to Lou Lamoriello in New Jersey, and that was last offseason. Who was the driving force behind this? How did this opportunity in Toronto come about? Was it more you? Was it those previous dealings with Lou? How did it happen?
Setoguchi: I think it was a mix between my agent getting a hold of those guys. Like I said, there wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity for me. The amount of times that I have consistently let people down, there wasn’t too many takers on giving me a chance this year. I think Toronto was one that was really entertaining the idea and had known I had went through the program and knew I had been doing well so far. They really stuck their necks out for me. That’s something that has really pushed me to not let them down and just give it my all that I have in my one last crack at getting back and doing what I can to keep playing the game that I love to play so much.