Montreal Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk has offensively exploded in March with eight goals in six games and has scored 11 times (five multi-goal games) in his past nine games. His production has been a bright spot in an otherwise ugly season for Montreal and he’s playing like a legitimate number one center that many thought he could be when he was drafted third overall back in 2012.
Head coach Michel Therrien raved that Galchenyuk was “a completely different player,” and said it was “a question of timing,” in regards finally putting him at center after he labored on the wing for so long.
“Absolutely not. The reason is simple. The way he was at the beginning of the season and the way he is right now – he’s a completely different player. You want to give opportunities, and you don’t want to change an athlete’s personality.. it’s one of the reasons we put him on the wing. We gave him a chance to find his game and eventually he wouldn’t be there. It’s often a question of timing, and timing was good as Alex began to perform. But no, I don’t regret waiting. He needed to keep progressing and he’s a youngster who’s progressing.”
What’s hilarious about Therrien’s comments is Galchenyuk isn’t a different player, but he’s finally getting a chance to play with talent in his natural position.
Galchenyuk hasn’t been afforded an opportunity to play every day at center as Therrien wanted to “challenge” him by playing on the wing. He’s flip-flopped from the position playing under Therrien during his short four-year career. Not only has he had to adjust to playing on the wing, so players like David Desharnais could eat up more ice time, but he hasn’t been paired with Montreal’s most skilled players.
Here’s a rundown of his most common linemates via Hockey Analysis. Look who he’s played with and which star he’s barely suited up with.
- 2015-16: Lars Eller (480 mins), Sven Andrighetto (228 mins) – Max Pacioretty (110 mins)
- 2014-15: Brendan Gallagher (680 mins), Tomas Plekanec (661 mins) – Pacioretty (157 mins)
- 2013-2014: Gallagher (345 mins), Plekanec (255 mins) – Pacioretty (18 mins)
- 2012-2013: Gallagher (526 mins), Eller (338 mins) – Pacioretty (16 mins)
Therrien forced a highly-skilled center to play on the wing, blocking his chances of playing with the team’s best goal-scorer. That’s just utterly ridiculous. I wouldn’t go as far to say Therrien sabotaged the Canadiens, but imagine if he did things right from the get-go, instead of taking pride in waiting so long to make such an obvious decision. Galchenyuk obviously wasn’t going to get top-line minutes right away, but he was drafted as offensively skilled player and to see so few ice-time with Pacioretty is ridiculous. It’s a fireable offense.
Despite being handcuffed by his coach, Galchenyuk still has produced, leading his entire draft class in goals (67), assists (83) and points (150) in 262 games.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 14, 2016
Now there’s no way Galchenyuk keeps up his hot streak, but his production isn’t a fluke. It’s simple: You put a player in his natural position and give him elite talent to play with, he’s going to produce more than when he’s playing out of position with non-elite linemates. Sadly, it took Therrien four years to realize this.