Wednesday, January 20, 2010

One on One: Phil Cornet

Tuesday night on The Pipeline Show I had a chance to catch up with Rouyn-Noranda Huskies forward Philippe Cornet. The QMJHL team has been in the news as of late, first because of their aggressive trade deadline acquisitions that has positioned the club to be a potential contender for the league title. The other newsworthy item featuring the Huskies as of late has been the suspension of forward Patrice Cormier after his dangerous and blatant elbow against Mikael Tam of the Quebec Remparts.

cornet, a prospect of the Edmonton Oilers, talked about joining the Huskies after three years in Rimouski, his failure to crack Canada's WJC roster, the changes to Rouyn-Noranda's roster and what the impact of his friend's actions may have on his team's chances this Spring.

I began our conversation by simply getting confirmation on how he pronounces his last name. Like everyone else I'd ever heard, I'd always said "Cor-nay" but a recent conversation with Sam Cosentino during our WJC preview show presented the possibility that we were messing it up. So I asked and although he insists that he really doesn't care either way, he admitted that he himself pronounces the 't' making it "Cor-Net".

From there we moved on to more important things like how he's adjusted to living in Western Quebec as opposed to the coastal locale of Rimouski. Cornet was traded to Rouyn-Noranda in the off-season ending three years as a member of the Oceanic.
"It's not always easy after you've spent that much time with one team to have to start all over with a new one," Cornet said, "I think the fact that I am closer to home, just one hour from home for me, has made it a bit easier. A lot of the players on this team I knew from before coming here so that also made it easier for me."
Cornet went on to describe the differences between the two towns in regards to being hockey markets and I also asked him if there are similarities between last year's Memorial Cup hosts and his current squad.
"We're a bit similar; we have big bodies up front and a big defence. we have a lot of depth with our forwards and we picked up another goalie at the deadline. I think we have 3 lines that can score goals."
On a personal level, Cornet is having a career year. i asked him if the numbers he has been puttng up this year were basically what he expected he would be capable of doing as a 4th year veteran of the league.
"Yes, I think it is what I expected at the beginning of the year. I started off faster than I'd thought but I had maybe a small slow spot near Christmas time and now it's coming back to where it was. Hopefully I can keep it up for the rest of the year and add more points to my stats."
Despite the addition of several new players, the Huskies haven't experienced a period of adjustment where they might have struggeld at first while new guys found their place on the team. Cornet chalks that up to the character of the players brought in.
"The guy that André Tourigny brought in were all captains or assistants on their former teams and even the goalie [Nicolas Champion], they are not trouble makers so they fit into the team. A guy like [Patrice] Cormier was captain for Team Canada and for Rimouski so the guys they have brought in were all leaders and they all bring something good to the team."
Cornet's former linemantes in Rimouski were both brought over via trade with the Oceanic. Cormier and Jordan Caron.
"When I was traded last year we didn't think that we'd ever play together again so when I heard the trades were done I called [Cormier] and I think all three of us had a smile on our face."
Unfortunately no one is smiling when they think of Patrice Cormier these days. HIs elbow last weekend has earned him an indefinite suspension while the QMJHL decides what penalty to levy his way. In the meantime, Cormier's teammates are left to answer the questions (at least, those allowed to be asked and answered by the QMJHL). I asked Cornet, knowing Cormier for as long as he has, if he was surprised to have seen his friend do what he did.
"Yeah, for sure it surprised me but... Cormier is not that type of player, he's not mean at all. For sure he regrets a lot and in the past days he's not been talking a lot to people, he's feeling pretty bad. Like most people that know Cormier, I know that was not his type of play and that it was more... for sure it was an accident. I think that the way [Tam] fell didn't help. I've been with Patrice for three years and I know that he's feeling really bad and those aren't the things he likes to do and wish that didn't happen."
Considering the fact that Cormier was one of the big additions at the deadline, if he's suspended for a long period of time as most expect, his absence could really hurt Rouyn-Noranda's playoff hopes.
"It would for sure be an extremely big loss. We traded a lot for him, a lot of draft picks and some good players for next year that are going to Rimouski and he's just played 3 games with us. We've lost his experience with the WJC and the Memorial Cup last year, a lot of leadership, a lot of toughness on the ice, he can score goals so it would be a big piece of our puzzle that would be missing. At the same time, we can't give up just because we lose a player like that. We still have a lot of good players to be a great team and we just have to step up and do more. we have to replace him even if it will be harder without him, we still have the ability to reach the Memorial Cup."
Cornet's season has been highlighted by appearances at the Subway Super Series and the World Junior camp for Canada. Although he didn't make the team, Cornet admits the experience made getting the invite worth it all in the end.
"for sure I was happy to get there but my objective was to make the team. I didn't play my best hockey at the camp - I could have done better and I should have done better but now when I look back, I'm just happy to have reached the camp because a lot of good players don't even get a chance to participate in the final camp."
Even though he wasn't on the final roster, Cornet says he found ways to watch the tournament like most other hockey fans in Canada.
"No seriously, even though I didn't make the team I was still watching and cheering for Canada because of guys like Caron and Cormier, guys from Quebec and even [Jordan] Eberle plus my coach here was the assistant coach there. I watched all of the the games including the final and I hoped right to the end that they would have won the gold."
And because he mentioned Eberle, I asked the question that a lot of Oilers fans have - How much is he looking ahead to next year when he could find himself playing on a line with his Saskatchewan buddy.
"I'm looking at the Oilers every morning when I open RDS or TSN, I look hoping that they've won more games. Next year I'm just looking to have a better camp than this year. I think my first camp was good, my second one was better and hopefully I can and hopefully I can find a spot over the next couple of years maybe."

I wrapped up the conversation by just asking point blank whether or not he felt Rouyn-Noranda had enough left going for it to be a legitimate contender for the QMJHL Championship this year. I let you listen to what he said to that and you can hear the entire interview in his own words by clicking HERE.

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