NORRIS POINT No one was more surprised when he was named captain of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan than Brandon Hynes himself.
The shock reverberated even greater when he was stripped of his “C” earlier this month. He was then traded to the Val-d’Or Foreurs on Dec. 11.
“There’s two sides to every story ... the coaching staff and ownership had their own view and I had my own view,” said the 20-year-old Norris Point native, who was swapped to the Titan from the Victoriaville Tigres during the off-season. “At the end of the day, I agreed with them and told them, ‘It’s best if you take it away, I feel like I can be more myself without it.’”
According to Hynes, management’s main gripe was they felt he was concentrating too much on what everyone else on the team was doing and not focusing enough on his own performance.
“Off the ice I was worrying too much about team spirit, team chemistry and how everyone gets along with everybody,” he said. “I was trying to keep everyone on the same page and I guess I got caught up in too many other things.”
The trade, which Hynes requested, had nothing to do with the captaincy issue, he said, though it all began to go down on the same day.
He was called into the office of general manager Leo-Guy Morrissette and assistant general manager Sylvain Couturier and informed he would no longer be captain.
Hynes said he told them he was going to come see them anyway — he was tired of losing and wanted to explore other options around the league for a player in his final year of eligibility.
The Titan are currently 14th overall in the 18-team league, with a 13-20-4-1 record. Hynes was brought in from the Tigres to click with fellow Newfoundlander Zach O’Brien on the top line, but the duo just didn’t display the type of symmetry that was expected, though Hynes did produce 27 points (16G-11A) in 27 games.
“We’re kind of the same player,” Hynes said, noting they were both used to running the offence, but there was only one puck. “It was almost like a clash, but in saying that, when we did play well and played for each other, we benefitted, but that wasn’t every night.”
Hynes said the Titan respected his wishes and asked for a list of teams Hynes was interested in playing for. They found a match with the Foreurs, as Hynes, a 2013 fourth-round pick and an eight-rounder in 2014 were shipped to Val-d’Or in exchange for 20-year-old playmaking centre Michael Beaudry and a 2013 third-round selection.
Hynes is well aware his attitude has been questioned in the past, but maintains this string of events had nothing to do with anything other than hockey.
“I wasn’t the player I was supposed to be because I spent too much time worrying about everything else,” he said. “I’m not afraid to say that.”
He wasn’t entirely satisfied with his role on the Titan, which isn’t uncommon in junior hockey for over-agers desperate to make a positive impact and earn that elusive professional contract.
“I didn’t feel like I was getting the ice-time I deserved,” said Hynes. “I didn’t feel like I was treated like I was treated in Victoriaville. That’s the bottom line.”
All about potential
That’s not a problem back in Quebec with the Foreurs, he said. The team is only a few points ahead of the Titan in the standings, as of Thursday, with a 17-16-0-3 record, but Hynes believes, with a few recent roster moves and the possibility of more before the trade deadline, the potential exists in Val-d’Or for a healthy run at a title.
He feels he was brought in to seal the deal.
“They welcomed me with open arms and said ‘Come help us, we can’t win more than three games in a row, come do what you can do to help us,’” he said. “That’s the feeling I got.”
As if on cue, Hynes scored the tying goal in the third period of his first game with his new club, a power-play goal which helped propel them to a 5-3 victory over the Blainville-Boisbrian Armada on Dec. 14. He registered an assist in a 3-1 loss to the Gatineau Olympiques the very next night.
On Friday night, his third with the club, he recorded two assists in a 6-3 revenge win over Gatineau.
With only months remaining in a QMJHL career that has seen him rack up 184 points (92G-92A) in 160 games, Hynes is well aware the clock is ticking on his chance to win a championship. He is certain his relationship with the Foreurs can be mutually beneficial, in that regard.
“A little extra to win games is all that’s needed ... that belief, that perseverance, when you think you’re down and out, to win a game,” he said.
Emotionally exhausted, especially after parting ways with his billets in Acadie-Bathurst, who he described as being like another set of parents, the Christmas break couldn’t come at a better time for Hynes.
He’ll return home today and attempt to recharge his battery for the stretch run with his new team.
“It will be nice to spend a week home and get away from all the drama or whatever you want to call it,” he said.
“Then I can put my focus on the second half.”