In a season of disappointment, brutal truths, and consistent injuries, the Montreal Canadiens have not had much to look forward to, other than the ever so quickly approaching season’s end. But one player who may not want the year to end just yet is young forward Alex Galchenyuk.
Canadiens Galchenyuk On A Tear
The 22-year-old, who has been a natural center since being drafted by the Canadiens, has been in a long struggle with the coaching staff to prove he should stay in the middle. In the first half of 2015-16, he produced decently (taking the whole team’s performance into account during that span) at center, notching 10 goals and 27 points in 44 games. Then began the game of musical chairs with his spot on the roster, going from left wing to center, and even a brief stint at right wing.
Since David Desharnais went down with his injury on February 15th, Galchenyuk has been getting some more chances at center. But it is his play in the past five games that has really turned some heads while centering the top line. He has scored 8 goals during this span, and 6 in the last 3 games. His linemates, captain Max Pacioretty and Sven Andrighetto, have contributed mightily during this run, adding 5 and 3 points, respectively.
While his faceoff numbers since February 15th have not been great, 19 wins and 27 losses for a 41.3% success rate, this is a small sample size and his overall season numbers are better, carrying a 50.1% success. It may be a bit under what passes for a #1 center man in the NHL, but he is still young and learning the ropes. The time for him to make the full time transition is now however.
He has really picked up the offense in the past 8 games, scoring 11 goals and 12 points. In fact, he broke a Canadiens record for most goals in an eight-game span, set by Brian Savage in 1999. He has been involved with almost half of the team’s 23 goals for during the past eight games and is a huge reason for their 4-3-1 record. While that does not exactly look great, compare it to early January or early February and you’ll see how Galchenyuk playing center has been a great benefit to the team.
While the Canadiens are still sitting 21st overall in the league and quite far from a playoff spot, and quite unlikely to make it regardless, Galchenyuk should be staying at center for the remainder of the year. Even if it does cut their chances of losing and acquiring a top pick down, it solidifies the chemistry between Pacioretty and Galchenyuk for next season. Add Brendan Gallagher, currently injured, into the mix, and they might just have a dangerous #1 line for the 2016-17 season.
Keeping him at center will also demote Desharnais back to third line center, where he belongs. It also makes him expendable to being traded, fingers crossed. The Canadiens have Galchenyuk, Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller, Philip Danault, and Torrey Mitchell as the centers, along with Michael McCarron and Brian Flynn as players who can play as center as well.
Needless to say the center position is going to see a logjam for this upcoming year and unless GM Marc Bergevin makes a couple trades at the draft or in the offseason, this will carry on into 2016-17. But one thing is for certain, Canadiens Galchenyuk should be the clear cut decision for #1 center right now and for the future.