Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Setoguchi, Frolik raise Jets' skill level

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Devin Setoguchi and Michael Frolik may be nice players, but they have been brought to Winnipeg to fill holes, not prop up the entire tent.

They are complementary pieces. Not foundation elements. But they raise the Jets level of skill and provide balance to a lineup that was very top-heavy last season.

"They give us depth. Depth that will create competition from within, which is good for us," said Jets coach Claude Noel. "That's the biggest addition they bring to us."

Right off the bat, Setoguchi has settled in on the club's second line to add more balanced scoring. Training camp's early lines have Setoguchi on the right side with Evander Kane on the left and Mark Scheifele at centre.

Frolik is pegged to work with Matt Halischuk and Ollie Jokinen to provide a third line that can both check and score.

For the Jets to be a better team than last season, they needed to address a few key areas. First is a better goals against record and second is more balanced scoring.

If any of the Jets top six forwards have become comfortable in their spot they should know Frolik will be banging on the door for expanded minutes all season.

He can be an elite defender and he's shown he can score in the tough areas as well with 10 points in last year's Stanley Cup run as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Setoguchi has a top shot and used it to score a career high 31 goals and 65 points in 2008-09 with the San Jose Sharks.

"They can both contribute offensively. The addition of these players helps us because it gives us depth. We can have four lines," said Noel. "Setoguchi has scored in the past and he can finish. Frolik has shown he can score and he can check. Both will get an opportunity to play different roles."

The 26-year-old Setoguchi is a veteran of six NHL seasons and said the most important thing for him upon joining the Jets was the attitude among the organization and the players.

"Everyone here wants to win. That's the expectation and you can feel it as soon as you get here," said the Alberta native. "Everyone knows this team is young. Any time you change cities as a franchise there's an adjustment but they have definitely climbed. The guys I've talked to have been disappointed with the results here and this is the year they want to make the playoffs."

Known for a big shot but inconsistent effort, Setoguchi doesn't want to talk about his own play.

"I want to play my best," he said. "I'm not going to tell you what I'm going to bring or what goals I've set. My goal is to come in here and play the way I can. To use my speed and get in there and be a gritty player. Shoot the puck and get to the net. Simple things. Winning games for the team. That's my focus."

Setoguchi was traded to the Jets by the Minnesota Wild for a second-round draft pick in the 2014 NHL Draft and is in the last year of a contract that will pay $3.25 million this season. He says he likes the intensity and expectations that come with playing in a market like Winnipeg.

"Everyone likes to play under pressure. To play in big games. Playoff games," he said. "For me, they expect me to score goals and I'm going to try and do my best. If I play my game, goals will come."

A veteran of six seasons in the Western Conference, Winnipeg's home this season, Setoguchi says divisional alignment can't be something the Jets use as an excuse.

"Every team is tough. Doesn't matter if it's in the East or the West. People can say the West will be tough for the Jets but we don't listen to people. We don't listen to media. We like the media but it's what we do as a group that matters," said Setoguchi. "It doesn't matter where you play. If you want to win you have to rise above stuff like that."

While Setoguchi likes the sound of the playoff talk he's hearing in and around the Jets dressing room, he says it won't move the needle. Hard work and day-in, day-out attention to the details get teams to the post-season.

"I've only been here for a little bit. Some guys have been here since Atlanta days and they haven't got in. It's been tough for them. We want to make the playoffs but it doesn't happen halfway through the year," he said. "It's day by day. We can't look ahead. Usually you don't even talk about it until the end of the year."

Frolik was a first-round pick of the Florida Panthers in 2006 and at 25 has won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks before coming to the Jets in a draft-day trade this summer for the 74th and 134th picks in the 2013 draft.

A mix of speed and skill as well as a willingness to play a defensive role give Frolik a versatile package. Dangerous on the penalty kill, Frolik was excellent for the Hawks in their playoff run last spring.

"I can do both roles. In Chicago I played PK and on a checking line and in my first years in Florida I played an offensive role. So I can play both ways," said Frolik, who had a pair of 20-goal seasons with the Panthers. "They brought us here to help the team. Devin is a great scorer with a great shot and he can help with some goals."

A veteran of life in both NHL conferences, Frolik says the West has more parity.

"The West is tight. Every team is good. You have to play every night. It comes right down to the end, to the last game, to see who is going to get in to playoffs," he said.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 14, 2013 0

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Updated on Saturday, September 14, 2013 at 8:23 AM CDT: adds video

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