Galchenyuk Ready To Take the Next Step

GalchenyukReady

It hasn’t always been rose for Alex Galchenyuk since his final year of junior hockey which saw him miss most of the season due to a knee injury. Many feel like had it not been for this set back, he might have gone to the Edmonton Oilers, who picked his teammate Nail Yakupov first overall at the 2012 NHL Draft. Instead, the Canadiens decided to take a gamble on him at number three in that draft, a decision that seems to be paying off big time for Marc Bergevin‘s team.

Instead of sending him back to junior, the Habs chose to keep him with the big club at the tender age of 19, preferring to control his utilisation and slowly teaching him the ropes of the NHL, while having him closer to their own medical team in the even of set-backs. For his development, head coach Michel Therrien decided to play him on left wing instead of putting some added pressure by playing him at the much tougher centre position in the NHL, against some of the best.

While Galchenyuk has shown some flashes of brilliance though his first three years, he has been struggling with consistency and words of off-ice issues started popping up here and there. This should come as no surprise as Montreal being the fan crazy city that it is, you fill a kid’s pockets with money and they are the most popular people in town, puck bunnies and all being all over those kids… just ask Carey Price!

It got to the point where we even touched on the topic on this very blog, at a time when Galchenyuk’s much publicised relationship with Chanel Leszczynski hit an all-time low after she was arrested in a domestic-violence case after a night of partying alongside teammate Devante Smith-Pelly (and some people wonder why he was traded). The next day, he met with Bergevin after practice and they made things crystal clear.

To Galchenyuk’s credit, that was the turning point of his season. Not that he was having a bad season by any mean, but he started getting on fire soon after that meeting. Prior to that wake-up call, Galchenyuk had managed 10 goals and 27 points in 43 games played but he exploded with twice the goals’ production (20) and added another 29 points in his next 39 games. Unlike what some want to make you believe, his hot streak started well before being moved to centre after David Desharnais got injured. Galchenyuk had racked up four goals and seven points in the seven games prior to Desharnais’ injury.

As well know, the top scorer of all players drafted in 2012 finished the season with 30 goals and 56 points in his third year in the NHL.

Hungry for more

Looking at some of the photos and videos that he posted on his Instagram account, it sure looks like Galchenyuk understands the importance of maturing and growing up if he wants to take the next step in his career. He is training hard, very hard this summer and seems focused and determined to have a great season, a contract year for him.

Some say that seeing P.K. Subban being traded served as a warning to Galchenyuk. I prefer to think that his wake-up call happened in mid-January when he met with Bergevin and finally dumped his bimbo girlfriend to focus on hockey. Time will tell if that’s the case, but I’m feeling pretty good about Galchenyuk and his future with the Montreal Canadiens.

 

The Enigma That is Alex Galchenyuk

Galchenyuk

When he was selected third overall at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, many in the hockey world thought that had it not been for a knee injury which saw him miss most of the 2011-2012 season with the Sarnia Sting, Alex Galchenyuk would have challenged Nail Yakupov as the top prospect in that draft. Since being drafted, he has accumulated more points than his former teammate… but is that enough to be celebrating if you’re the Habs’ brass?

Although they chose to keep him in the NHL instead of returning him to his junior team, the Canadiens took their time with the young prospect, preferring developing him on the wing as opposed to overwhelming him at centre with the NHL responsibilities that come with playing that key position. He has made strides every season since, while recording a career best 20 goals and 46 points last season.

So this year, head coach Michel Therrien decided that the 21 year-old American was ready to take the next step as a NHL centre. The fact that he has recently returned to the wing is not indicative of Galchenyuk’s play but rather because of the team’s lack of quality depth on the wing for the scoring lines, as he and Lars Eller spent some time at that position.

I know that many fans like to cry wolf against Therrien and his use of Galchenyuk but no matter what they want to make us believe, Therrien is no idiot. Galchenyuk is showing flashes of his brilliance but he is rather inconsistent. He is still learning and he should continue to improve as maturity kicks in… that is if he can put some order in his lifestyle off the ice.

Often, off-ice issues with NHL players are staying away from mainstream media but it hasn’t been the case recently with Galchenyuk. The story about his outing with teammate Devante Smith-Pelly having resulted in assault charges against the young player’s girlfriend (who shall remain nameless in this article as she doesn’t deserve the exposure) has left nobody indifferent. Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens’ lawyers even felt the need to have a meeting with Galchenyuk and his lawyer to dot the i’s and cross the t’s as to what’s expected.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to have paid off as a report came out a few days ago to the effect that he was out in the bars with some teammates and got into a fight in public with that girlfriend of his, and it escalated to the point where P.K. Subban took him out of the bar…

WHAT TO EXPECT

No one is denying that Galchenyuk has talent, and lots of it. What some people are starting to question is his ability to take recommendations, understand the severity and consequences of his decision making off the ice, and realizing that ultimately, it is affecting his on-ice career. He and only he has to make that realization and grow up, as did Carey Price when he was younger. Some can and will do it, others never do (see Zack Kassian).

Galchenyuk has what it takes to become an excellent first line centre. He can skate, he can shoot the puck, he can stick handle in a phone booth. Does he have what it takes between the ears? Only time will tell.

The good news however is that according to Elliott Friedman, teams have been calling Bergevin asking him if, by any chance, Galchenyuk was available, and they were told no, he isn’t. Don’t make him change his mind Chucky and grow up… for the sake of your fans, the team but mostly, for your own sake.