The Moncton Wildcats are only ten games into the 2019-2020 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season, but Head Coach John Torchetti’s message is loud and clear.
“We want to try to play playoff mentality hockey all the time. We try to play the same way every night, sometimes our guys don’t like that,” confessed Torchetti.
There’s no hiding the fact that the Wildcats organization have plans to go all in this season and vie for a President Cup and a Memorial Cup.
Torchetti is trying to keep trade targets, high expectations and championship aspirations in check.
“I’m not even worried about Christmas, it’s a long way away,” admitted the former NHL bench boss referring to the QMJHL Trade Period.
“We will be able to know what we want by then, but we are looking at what we have to improve on and giving guys chances to see that certain players will fill in those spots.”
“We just have to keep working on getting better and getting players better at their game moving forward,” Torchetti added.
So what type of player or players are the Cats targeting when the time comes to add?
“If you are bringing in new players, character is everything,” explained Torchetti.
Torchetti isn’t concerned about potential issues arising with team chemistry.
“That should be an easy transition, you don’t want to bring in a player just because he’s a goal scorer, or certain piece you need, but if he doesn’t fit in the character spot we aren’t going to bring him in.”
Torchetti’s experience in the American Hockey League will also prove very invaluable when the team decides to pull the trigger on potential trades.
“I’ve dealt with it before, I don’t think that was ever an issue,” confessed Torchetti.
“When the big team didn’t make the playoffs, they would send down four or five guys. Those guys would come down to the American league in the same type of situation.”
“Different scenarios for different teams, for some of the guys that are here, that’s what they have been told from the beginning of the Training Camp, let’s get really dialled in here and work for your positions and keep getting better or someone else is going to take your job.”
Blatantly honest or the brutal reality of major junior hockey, there’s no doubting the Moncton Wildcats intentions this season.
They just want to win.
Torchetti believes that the competitive nature within the team has been present since he arrived last January.
“That’s how we are, because we are always looking,” Torchetti said of potentially adding new players to roster.
“There are names that come across our desks, like free agents from the Ontario league, but that can happen at any point.”
“It doesn’t matter if you’re one of the top teams or bottom teams you are always trying to improve you team.”
“If someone else is going to give you a better chance to win, then you are going to do that,” stressed Torchetti.
How would the potential addition of players to the Cats roster affect the team and specific player’s roles?
“I don’t see how the role is going to change, we try to get the team to play the same way.”
“I know we have some skilled guys, but they have to play the same way, just like a 3rd line guy does, that’s the bottom line.”
It’s all about trust, consistency and execution, that’s how you win in the playoffs.
“I don’t want to be a team that says oh we need a goal, so we have to play a certain way, we try to play the same way every night,” Torchetti said.
“For the NHL Drafted players that we have, they have to understand that they have to be a two-way player,” Torchetti added.
So how excited is the long time coach at the prospect of the Wildcats having potential run at a championship?
“We are still a couple of players away from where we want to be,” Torchetti said.
“We need to get our team back playing the right way. I think when we got Pelletier and Khovanov back, that we thought we were going to be ok and just leave it up to the big guys to play the game.”
“I think those guys coming back from NHL Camps think it’s going to be a little easier and they will learn their way through it. I’m sure every team goes through that,” explained Torchetti.
The Cats were faced with two unexpected events early this season that have certainly changed the complexion of the team.
“We got lucky,” Torchetti said of Jeremy McKenna’s return to the lineup.
“We didn’t even see that coming at all.”
“We didn’t even have that in our plans,” admitted the veteran coach.
Torchetti believes McKenna’s return will be felt on and off the ice.
“That’s a big bonus for us because Jeremy has experience and he’s going to be a great leader.”
“He’s already went through that process, what happened with that process and what he needs to improve on now, so he is really buying into all those little parts of the game to make him better. That’s going to be great for the young kids to be around to see that everyday,” Torchetti added.
“Losing Aspirot was something that we didn’t see either, we just didn’t see that one coming at all.”
“We didn’t see Jeremy coming back or see Jonathan leaving. So that’s two different ends of the spectrum, it’s a huge one up front, but it’s a big one on the back,” explained Torchetti.
Aspirot logged close to twenty-five minutes a game and provided a physical presence as well as playing in every situation for Torchetti.
“Jonathan was physical during the Baie-Comeau playoff series and was a big part of our playoff success.”
“Other guys have to step up, but we aren’t as physical as we would like to be on the backend, so certain guys have to bring their games up in that area.”
Torchetti is very confident with his staff and how they are going to implement their plan of attack when the time comes.
“Overall, we just need to keep improving, I don’t think we are at the top teams yet, but we may have to work a different area harder to get better at it to improve and to get to that level with those top teams, then make our improvements what we need moving forward as a staff.”
“We have a good staff here with decision making on what we need to bring to help us to have an opportunity to win.”
The recent addition of Boston Bruins Prospect Axel Andersson will no doubt solidify the Wildcats backend moving forward.
“It’s tremendous, he’s a guy that’s going to probably play twenty-five minutes a night. Axel’s a good puck mover, good at joining the rush, a good decision maker and a good skater.”
“It just improves your team overall everywhere, because Axel’s skating gets us out of trouble, his passing makes us better passing team and we become better poised with the puck.”
The QMJHL Playoffs are months away, but the excitement surrounding the Moncton Wildcats and championship aspirations are growing. Nevertheless, John Torchetti’s message remains very clear.
“We aren’t worried about that.”
“We are just worrying about improving as a team everyday, just keep getting better as a team. Get our wins, but make sure we are doing it the right way,” stressed Torchetti.
“We want playoff mentality every night, that’s the message that we try to get across, I don’t really change too much, I don’t worry about the end result.”
“Everybody wants to win, that’s the bottom line, but we don’t stress championships and all that, we just stress playoff hockey and being able to win a seven game series that’s how we have to play.”