Players get PTOs (or Professional Tryouts) for a number of different reasons. Sometimes, they’re given to players who might potentially provide AHL depth (see: Paul Bissonnette). Sometimes, you’ll see one for players who haven’t made a splash in the NHL but have some potential (see: Lucas Lessio). Sometimes, you just are short on goalies (see: Tom McCollum). Most often though, it’s a “show me” offer: one last shot for a veteran who’s had a long career and might have something left in the tank. Those guys usually get sent home if they don’t make the team. And they usually don’t make the team.
So Devin Setoguchi was a nice story, and nothing more. After a few very productive seasons in San Jose, including a 31-goal campaign in 2008-09 and an overtime goal I’d rather forget in 2010-11, his path went off course. He was all right for the Minnesota Wild (with a lockout stint for the Ontario Reign, of all teams), but as his play declined and he moved onto Winnipeg, a longtime drinking problem worsened. The Hockey News has a terrific interview explaining the full story, but here’s a piece:
He’d go out with the younger guys on the team occasionally, but they didn’t drink, so he’d just have dinner with them, drink, and then they’d drive him home.
More often than not, however, Setoguchi drank alone. That added to a growing depression, which led to even more drinking. By his count, he missed three different meetings with the Jets because of it. He often headed to the bar in the casino across the street from the MTS Centre, Winnipeg’s home rink. Later, he learned the casino, like the team, was owned by True North Sports and Entertainment. Word likely got back to the Jets. “But at that point,” Setoguchi said, “I didn’t really care.”
Alcohol wasn’t his only problem. Over the years, there were times he abused Ambien, a prescription drug that helps players sleep after games. In Winnipeg, he was offered cocaine and did not turn it down. “I did a lot there where I would stay up all night till 6 in the morning, 7 in the morning, do a little bit, go to morning skate, go home, sleep for six hours and get up to play,” Setoguchi said. “I’m surprised sometimes I didn’t have a heart attack. Three or four months of that.”
Setoguchi then moved on to Calgary, but a promise to stay sober quickly went unkept, and he was sent to the AHL. A hernia led to further alcohol abuse, which led to Setoguchi, at long last, calling the director of the NHL’s substance abuse program to get help. Setoguchi went to rehab in Malibu and has been sober since. Setoguchi got a PTO in Toronto last season, but he didn’t make the cut, and after a season in Switzerland, he was running time to return to the NHL. But former Sharks teammate Rob Blake, LA’s current assistant GM, gave him a shot, and he got to play the preseason, skate with Anze Kopitar, and score in front of the fans at Staples. Again, a nice story.
Except Marian Gaborik got hurt, and Tanner Pearson got suspended, and suddenly, the story isn’t over. With the expected demotion of Michael Mersch and Adrian Kempe to the AHL, Setoguchi has made the Kings’ Opening Night roster. With a dearth of wingers who can handle a top-six scoring role, Seto’s gonna get a shot, and a contract to boot.
The Kings have signed Devin Setoguchi to a two-way contract. Don't have financial information as of right now.— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) October 11, 2016
Team source: Setoguchi earning NHL/AHL minimums as "an opportunity ... to re-establish his NHL career and prove he belongs here every day."— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) October 11, 2016
Setoguchi’s former teammates and colleagues in San Jose are thrilled, and in a nice bit of synergy, his first game back in the NHL will be at the Sharks’ home arena.
Congrats to my buddy Devin Setoguchi. was a long road but he did what he needed to do to get back! proud of him! #legkick— jason demers (@jasondemers5) October 11, 2016
Good luck after Wednesday Seto! Devin Setoguchi beats long odds, makes Kings' opening night roster https://t.co/fGhbqQ3ctF via @ocregister— Randy Hahn (@sharkvoice) October 10, 2016
Happy for you Seto!#SJSharks #LAKings https://t.co/l6LiULhXjz— Brodie Brazil (@brodiebrazilCSN) October 11, 2016
It remains to be seen whether Setoguchi is simply a stopgap until Pearson returns, or until Gaborik returns. (The last player to make the Kings on a PTO was Trent Hunter, who played 38 games in 2011-12 before being sent down to Ontario.) Regardless, Setoguchi is gonna get paid to play hockey in Southern California, and that’s pretty remarkable considering where he’s been.