Rabid Habs

Boisvert: Galchenyuk Back in the Spotlight

After a 3-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, it’s only fitting that the most positive vibes are coming from the team’s best individual performance. It’s hard to keep harping on this team’s shortcomings. When we see a good performance (win, loss, or otherwise), it should be pointed out.

Picking up five points in his last seven games, Alex Galchenyuk’s play has drawn some complimentary comments from head coach Claude Julien. The Habs’ coach praised Galchenyuk’s play on a night where not much went right for the Canadiens. On the surface, there seem to be two very positive statements here. Galchenyuk played well and the team might use him at centre again; so where’s the story?

“Galchenyuk Came to Play Tonight”

He certainly did. Scoring the Habs’ only goal of the game, Galchenyuk was on a mission from the start of the game. If you enjoy playing the blame game (I do not), you could take a reserved approach to Galchenyuk’s night by saying that the game winning goal was scored while he was in the penalty box. While it wasn’t exactly a good call, I could see any coach getting upset about giving the other team a powerplay.

Instead, Julien took the high road with Galchenyuk and acknowledged something important: with a player like Galchenyuk, you need to take the whole package for what its worth. He’s going to take penalties and he’s going to disappoint defensively from time to time. If you can get by all that, the upside is far too high to play outside the top-six, maybe even the top-three.

“We’ve Got Him on the Wing, but it Doesn’t Mean We’ll Never See him at Centre Again”

Let’s go back. Back to the summer. At the Habs annual golf tournament, Julien took questions from the media in what is essentially the beginning of training camp in Montreal. Jonathan Drouin has been acquired and Marc Bergevin is making no bones about how his forwards will line up.

The player drafted to be a centre will be on the wing and the player drafted to play the wing will be a centre. While the team seemed reluctant to change their plan, they always left the door open for changes. At the same golf tournament, both Julien and Bergevin said that no one’s position is set in stone and that Galchenyuk could play any one of the three forward positions.

Wednesday night’s press conference was the first time since that golf tournament where the thought of Galchenyuk playing centre has had legs. “Until further notice” might come sooner rather than later.

“… If we have the need.”

Need.

Maybe I’ve read this incorrectly. Maybe something was lost in translation.

I’m going to work from the assumption that nothing was lost in translation and that this means exactly what I think this means.

This is my blog, after all.

When the Canadiens depth at centre is being considered, the word “need” is necessary; the word “if” is misleading. Depending on who you ask, the Canadiens have had a need down the middle for twenty years (I think Saku Koivu filled that need, but some disagree. To each their own).

That “need” was supposed to be filled in 2012 when Marc Bergevin cashed in on one of the worst finishes in franchise history by drafting the big number-one centre.

That “need” re-emerged when Galchenyuk was moved back to the wing by Michel Therrien.

That “need” persisted when Julien took over behind the bench and kept Galchenyuk on the wing.

That “need” was believed to be solved when Jonathan Drouin was acquired for the team’s only blue-chip prospect in Mikhail Sergachev (a player in another position where the Canadiens lack depth).

That “need” is on the verge of reappearing with Drouin not having instant success at centre.

It would be frustrating to see the team fill that “need” with a player that has been on the roster the whole time. But that’s a hypothetical future that we’ve yet to realize and we may never realize.

What we can deduce is this: it seems as though the team is content with how the centre ice position rolls out, and that is all sorts of unacceptable.

But I should practice what I preach. Galchenyuk’s recent success should be celebrated, and any reshuffling of lines and positions should be celebrated as an attempt to fix what’s broken. The drama that is this iteration of the Canadiens has yet to play out entirely.

My only concern is that act three of this play goes about as well as acts one and two.

Follow Ian on Twitter @BoisvertIan and follow @RabidHabs for more updates! 

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