The Montreal Canadiens had a difficult start to the season. Through their first eight games, the team was 1-7-1. Habs fans were in a panic. Panicked Canadiens fans become volatile and look for someone to blame. Alex Galchenyuk became a target for derision amongst the Habs faithful and even some in the media. On top of all the criticism, Galchenyuk’s name was involved in several trade rumors during the off-season. These rumors got fans thinking it might be a good idea to move on from the talented forward. I disagree and this is why the Habs should not trade Alex Galchenyuk.
Why The Habs Shouldn’t Trade Alex Galchenyuk
Galchenyuk’s slow start to the season, coupled with his poor play through the pre-season and even last years playoffs made him an easy target for angry fans. He saw his ice time reduced and an eventual demotion to the fourth line. Through the first eight games, Galchenyuk has just one goal. Fortunately, the Habs (and Galchenyuk) have found their game. In the past six games, the Canadiens are 4-2-0. In those games, Galchenyuk has scored four goals and six points. It seems Galchenyuk and the Canadiens have turned the corner.
He’s Only 23
One thing to keep in mind about Galchenyuk is his age. He is still only 23-years-old. He made the Canadiens as an 18-year-old in 2012, straight from junior, and has been a mainstay with the team ever since. This can be deceiving because he feels like he should be older. Usually, when a player has been in the league for five seasons, people think they are in their late 20’s and more of a finished product. Galchenyuk is still developing. A lot of Habs fans hate hearing that, however. Fans and some media do not have the patience for player development at the NHL level anymore. While this is nothing new in Habs land (see Guy Lafleur), it is becoming increasingly more difficult for young players to get accustomed to the NHL game without being labeled a bust if they don’t hit the ground running.
Galchenyuk never had the opportunity to learn at the AHL level before jumping to the NHL. Despite skipping this developmental step, Galchenyuk has performed very well at the pro level. The issue becomes fans and media always want a bit more. Because Galchenyuk was a high draft pick, the expectation is he should be dominant right away like a Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews. The reality is the NHL is a difficult league to play in. Almost all players need time to adjust and develop. The other reality is that Galchenyuk hasn’t been as bad as some make him out to be.
There is a reason Alex Galchenyuk was drafted third overall. The kid oozes offensive ability and skill. He is one of the Canadiens most skilled forward. On a team that (normally) struggles to generate offense, his ability would be very difficult to replace. Between 2012 to 2016 Galchenyuk’s offensive game had been improving. He was well on his way last season as well. Through 24 games, Galchenyuk had 23 points good for top 10 in NHL scoring. Unfortunately, a knee injury in December de-railed his season. He missed 21 games. When he returned to the lineup he struggled with consistency. In the 61 games played he scored 44 points. That’s a 59 point prorated season, which would have been an improvement on his career-best 30-goal and 56 points in 2015-16. Prior to his injury last season, Galchenyuk was playing at an extremely high level. His relative Corsi for was 52.5% good for third among forwards. When he was on the ice, the Canadiens controlled 54.3% of the scoring chances. He also led the team with 2.26 points per 60 minutes.
Prior to his injury last season, Galchenyuk was playing at an extremely high level. His relative Corsi for was 52.5% good for third among forwards. When he was on the ice, the Canadiens controlled 54.3% of the scoring chances. He also led the team with 2.26 points per 60 minutes. Only now does it look like Galchenyuk is fully recovered from the knee injury from last season and only now is Galchenyuk starting to look like the player we saw in the first half of last season.
Claude Julien Influence
Claude Julien can get the best out of Alex Galchenyuk. This might seem like an odd statement judging by the way this relationship has started. When Julien took over as the Canadiens head coach in February, Galchenyuk was just returning from his knee injury and fell into a funk. Another reason Galchenyuk struggled to find his game after his injury was his usage. Claude Julien bounced Galchenyuk all over the lineup, trying to get him going. Unfortunately, heading into the playoffs he placed the skilled forward on the fourth line. Even to start the season, Galchenyuk has his ice time cut and (again) demoted to the fourth line. So why is any of this good news? Well, it’s not really. But it is good that the Canadiens have a head coach that has hand in developing so very good young players in the NHL.
So why is any of this good news? Well, it’s not really. But it is good that the Canadiens have a head coach that has developed some young talent into very good players in the NHL.
Claude Julie helped build and guide the Boston Bruins to a Stanley Cup in 2010 and a finals appearance in 2011. The core of those teams was developed by Julien. Players like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Tyler Seguin all were developed by Julien and, except for Seguin, all have played their best hockey under Julien. Another player Julien had a hand in developing is David Pastrnak. Pastrnak was a late first round pick (25th) in 2014. Pastrnak seemed a quick study as he made his NHL debut as an 18-year old in the 2014-15 season. In his first 97 games (over two seasons), Pastrnak scored 28 goals and 53 points. In 2016-17 Julien was able to push Pastrnak to career highs. At the time of Julien’s firing, Pastrnak had scored 22 goals on his way to a 36 goal 70 point season.
Take A Breath
The Montreal Canadiens have a spotty past when dealing with struggling young talent. Can Habs fans deal with the team dealing another young player who flourishes somewhere else? They lived through Rod Langway, John LeClair, Eric Desjardins, Ryan McDonagh and even Mike Ribeiro (although circumstances for his departure are unique) leaving. All of these trades failed to yield a decent return, which compounded the frustration. With Galchenyuk being involved in rumors, Marc Bergevin can ill afford to make this kind of mistake.
Alex Galchenyuk has seen his role increased how that he is finding his form back. The Canadiens are going to need him playing at his best to navigate the precarious situation they put themselves in to start the season. While there are arguments to be made about his deployment (centre or wing), the Canadiens would be foolish to give up on him and trade him elsewhere.