REGINA – If something needs to be said, Jeffrey Truchon-Viel doesn’t mind opening his mouth to address any situation.
The Acadie-Bathurst Titan captain only has one stipulation.
“I believe that actions speak louder than words. Leading by example is a big part for me,” he said. “That’s how you earn your respect, too, in the room.
“You can say a lot in the room, but if you don’t back it up it’s not gonna matter. The guys in the room won’t believe you after that. When you say something, you’ve just gotta do it.”
No problems there through two games of the Memorial Cup tournament.
Truchon-Viel is the tournament’s leading scorer with seven points, helping his Titan to a perfect 2-0 record. They can gain a direct bye to the final with a win over the Hamilton Bulldogs on Tuesday night.
In addition to his offensive production, Truchon-Viel’s contributions have come in a variety of ways.
He matches up against the opposition’s best lines, plays the penalty kill and is the net-front presence on the power play.
And he’s factored into some key moments in Titan victories. The over-age winger set up the tying goal against Swift Current and was on the lip of the crease creating havoc when Liam Murphy netted the winner in overtime.
He was one of the players trusted by coach Mario Pouliot in the final minute to protect a furious Regina comeback.
“He’s a warrior. When the game is on the line, he’s always there. He wants to be there,” Pouliot said. “And he’s able to score goals, to make plays, to block shots. Honestly, he’s rewarded for all the dirty jobs he’s doing.
“His impact for us is tremendous. It’s huge.”
What Truchon-Viel has done so far in Regina has come as no surprise to the Titan.
He followed up a 62-point regular season with 23 points in 20 post-season games. Five of his 14 playoff goals were game-winners, too. He earned MVP honours as the Titan claimed the QMJHL title.
It was a post-season to remember for Truchon-Viel. The cherry on top was signing with the San Jose Sharks as a free agent earlier this month.
“He really deserved it,” said winger Antoine Morand, Truchon-Viel’s teammate for the past three seasons. “He proved that hard work pays off. You see it in the tournament.”
The past few months have represented the best hockey Truchon-Viel has played.
Pouliot isn’t surprised based on how far Truchon-Viel has come since they both arrived in Bathurst, N.B., almost four years ago.
Truchon-Viel’s training and nutrition habits weren’t becoming of a junior hockey player. Pouliot said he lacked stamina and struggled to get past the 30-second mark in shifts, and Truchon-Viel said he was “immature.” He’s slowly figured out how to better prepare himself for games.
Truchon-Viel said he cut chips out of his diet last off-season and switched his trainer to Tampa Bay Lightning strength and conditioning coach Mark Lambert. Pouliot said he started to notice a difference midway through last season.
The results have been tangible.
“I grew up a lot last year and this year, too,” Truchon-Viel said. “That’s why I can play a lot of minutes now.”
Pouliot said Truchon-Viel has also improved his skill and positioning on the ice. But, he adds, the strength of his captain’s game is that he’s a “pure power forward.”
That type of game has led to four straight seasons of at least 100 penalty minutes and he occasionally crosses the line. Truchon-Viel was suspended twice this season – both for four games – once for a high hit and the other for charging.
When he’s on the ice, it’s usually not pleasant for the opponents. His check on Swift Current star Tyler Steenbergen knocked him out of their game and, so far, the tournament as well.
“I play against top lines and a lot of skill guys. I like to bring a lot of physicality against them,” the six-foot-one, 202-pound forward said. “A lot of them don’t like it.
“I think that’s what I’m most proud of – getting in their head or getting under their skin. That’s a big part of my job.”
Just having a chance to contend for a Memorial Cup championship is something Truchon-Viel doesn’t take for granted.
Traded to Acadie-Bathurst from the Sherbrooke Phoenix after the 2013-14 season, he’s one of the Titan’s longest-serving players.
His first two years with the Titan were lean ones. The franchise was bereft of prospects and draft picks when a group of investors – including Philadelphia Flyers centre Sean Couturier – purchased the team in 2013.
The Titan finished last and then second from the bottom in the Maritimes Division as attendance waned in the CHL’s smallest market.
But last season – Truchon-Viel’s first as captain – the worm started to turn. They finished third in the division and won their first playoff series since 2008.
Backed by Truchon-Viel’s leadership, offensive contributions from Morand, and the emergence of NHL Draft-eligible defenceman Noah Dobson, GM Sylvain Couturier – Sean’s dad – was in buy mode.
High-profile players like Asselin, Philadelphia first-rounder German Rubtsov, St. Louis goalie prospect Evan Fitzpatrick, scorer Mitchell Balmas and offensive defenceman Olivier Galipeau were brought in throughout the year.
The payoff was their first championship since 1999.
“Honestly, it was hard to see,” he said. “The first year we had 17 wins. It was tough, but we always believed in the plan Sly and Mario put for the team.
“We knew it would be tough for the first couple of years, but I think it paid off a lot. I’m really proud of the team and the managing group.”
Now the Titan are in the running to win the Memorial Cup. A win Tuesday would go a long way to helping them get there.
There’s little doubt who will be motivating them the rest of the way – both on the ice and in the dressing room.
“He’s our captain. He’s the leader of the team,” Morand said. “He can motivate every player on the team. On the ice, off the ice, he’s the guy we look up to and follow.
“He’s a guy who can lead with his words, but he can follow his words. He’s not the guy who talks and doesn’t do it. He proves it every time he’s on the ice. We want to follow him.”