The Carolina Hurricanes have high expectations for themselves heading into the 2021-22 Stanley Cup Playoffs. A major force behind their confidence is Vincent Trocheck, their fiery second-line center.
Trocheck is a big part of the Canes’ present but, as a waiting UFA, his role in their future is cloudy.
How does he feel about potentially going to market for the first time in his career? Are the rods asleep this season? Is agitation an art form?
He caught up Daily face-to-face this week to discuss these topics and more.
DAILY CONFRONTATION: When we last spoke, you reflected on coming back too soon from a fractured fibula a few seasons ago and how last season you finally felt like yourself. How do you feel physically today, more than three years after the injury?
VINCENT TROCHECK: I feel good. I feel like I’m 100%. I was able to stay healthy, thankfully, this year, and everything is fine.
DFO: You surpassed your career hit record this season.
TROCHECK: I did not know.
DFO: You have 181 hits in 77 games. Your previous career high was 164 in 82 games. Was it a conscious goal to play more of a physical game this year? But you’ve always been quite physical.
TROCHECK: It’s been my style of play throughout my career. I like to play physical. It involves me more in the game. It’s the way we play hockey, the style of hockey, it’s a bit more aggressive, so maybe it has something to do with that.
DFO: Is this something that was prepared by coach Rod Brind’Amour?
TROCHECK: It’s just the style of play we have. Obviously, Roddy created this style. It’s aggressive. It’s just the way our style compels you to play.
DFO: You and Brad Marchand made headlines earlier this season with your tweets about each other that spread across social media. Is it one of your goals to try to put yourself in the shoes of the teams? The fact that you’re throwing punches at each other, is that a sign that it’s working? If guys shoot you on Instagram, does that mean you’re successful?
TROCHECK: I don’t think far from the ice that I really want to put under guys’ skin. On the ice, yes, there are games where I try to get under guys’ skin, to get inside someone’s head. If I push them to take a penalty or take them away from their game a little, it’s positive. I’m not trying to make guys hate me off the ice, but that’s part of my style on the ice as well.
DFO: Is there an art to agitating opponents?
TROCHECK: I do not think so. I think it’s just my personality (laughs).
DFO: Some agitators have taken it to the next level. Like Steve Ott, for example, used to learn other languages so he could tweet his opponents in their own language. Do you have stuff like that?
TROCHECK: I respect that. I tried to learn different languages. I could not. I tried to learn a little French when I was in Florida. I was trying to learn it so I could talk to Jonathan Huberdeau. But never to tweet anyone.
DFO: This year you played a lot with Andrei Svechnikov as a left winger after it was usually Nino Niederreiter last season. How is it to play with Svechnikov? How has this changed the way you play?
TROCHECK: He was great. Obviously, he is extremely talented. He has a ton of talent. But at the same time, he works extremely hard. He has a physical style of play like me too, so we have chemistry in that sense. It was fun to play with. I appreciate. He is extremely dynamic, so he makes things a little easier for me sometimes. Having him on the forecheck being physical is good. It fits our style.
DFO: If you look at the leaderboard right now. You’ve been near the top of the subway so often lately, year after year, that I wonder if people take that for granted. Have you ever felt like the league or people in general are sleeping on the Hurricanes as contenders?
TROCHECK: I think lately it seems that way. But we don’t focus on the outside noise, on the media and how they think we play. Every year the media has opinions and predictions about what is to come. Anyone can beat anyone. So all of that doesn’t matter once you get into the playoffs.
DFO: Do you have a goal in mind as to what a “successful” year looks like for the Hurricanes? Is it to win two rounds? Win three? Win the cup? What is the target?
TROCHECK: Well, the target is the Stanley Cup. I don’t think anyone sees a second- or third-round exit as a positive. There are no moral wins once you get to the playoffs. You are here to win a Stanley Cup. That’s why everyone plays in the NHL. This is what we dream of growing up.
DFO: You’re from Pittsburgh and grew up a Penguins fan. Have you thought about the possibility of meeting them in the playoffs this year in this Metro bracket? Would it be very special to play against the Penguins?
TROCHECK: I don’t think it would be any different playing against someone else. It’s just different confrontations. For me, just being from Pittsburgh doesn’t make much difference.
DFO: So there’s no embarrassment or awareness that you’re playing against your childhood team?
TROCHECK: It would be cool to have lots of family there during the road playoffs. But other than that, I’ve played against them probably 20 times in my career at this point, maybe more, so I’ve moved past that original feeling of playing against my hometown team.
DFO: You’re gearing up to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in your career this summer. Is it scary? Exciting? Have you ever thought a lot?
TROCHECK: No, I haven’t given it much thought. It’s hard to contemplate that when you still have the season at hand and you’re part of a fighting team that has a chance to win the Stanley Cup. You focus all your attention on it.
DFO: Can that be a motivator, though? Given that the results of this season can obviously affect what happens in the future?
TROCHECK: Yeah, it can be, but at the same time, there’s never been a season where, like, I don’t mind if I don’t score or do this or that. Every year you try to score and contribute as much as you can. Motivationally, that’s always the goal. Maybe a little more pressure (as a UFA), but other than that you just try to get by and play hockey.
DFO: You were quoted this season saying you hope to be back in Carolina. Are you ready to double that? Is it still where you are right now, or is it too early to tell?
TROCHECK: That’s always the goal, to be there. I love being a Hurricane and having a chance to win every year is what you want to be. So I hope we can figure something out.
DFO: As we move away from the peak of COVID-19 lockdowns and play in bubbles and such: have you been able to explore the Raleigh area more this season and get to know the community better?
TROCHECK: Yeah. After COVID, you were able to do more things, go out a bit more for dinner and see the city. All the guys have been able to get out of the house more, which is good.
DFO: You have two children. How old?
TROCHECK: Three and 19 months.
DFO: What is the hardest thing about fatherhood for you so far?
TROCHECK: I would say that the most difficult thing is to make them listen (laughs). But on a deeper level, you want them to be a certain way, and you want them to be good people, and that’s hard. I know with my eldest it’s hard to make him understand that he has a younger sister and he’s supposed to protect her and do the right thing, be a good role model, not push her around and make sure he’s fair with her. He’s so young to understand all this. This is the most difficult thing for him at three years old.
DFO: What is your favorite thing about being a dad?
TROCHECK: Everything about it was fun for me. My son is obsessed with hockey, obsessed with the Hurricanes, and it’s non-stop for him every day. As soon as he wakes up at bedtime, he wants to play hockey all day. Likes to come to games, likes to watch games, talk about hockey. He knows all the NHL mascots. Seeing him and how much he loves the game is pretty cool to me. And the fact that he could watch me while I’m still playing and winning on a good team was a lot of fun for me.
DFO: When you can see the sport through your child as a fan, the eyes of a fan, does that awaken another part of you where you can appreciate the game in that way? The example being the mascots. Can you put yourself in your son’s shoes and enjoy hockey at this level?
TROCHECK: It definitely puts things into perspective a bit more. Seeing him at such a young age and how much he loves the game brings back memories of being a kid, when all that really mattered was playing and having fun.