Rabid Habs

Waiting For Galchenyuk

Habs' Alex Galchenyuk Photo Credit - Julien Laperriere

Welcome to the Montreal Canadiens, Alex Galchenyuk.

No, this is not a throw back article to late June 2012.

I’m fully aware Alexander Alexandrovich Galchenyuk (yes, that’s his real middle name) has been playing for the Canadiens since the 2013 NHL season. It’s just that – until now – Alex had yet to feel the other side of what it means to play for this team.

It’s shocking, when you think about it. Galchenyuk was drafted higher than any Hab since the Canadiens took Doug Wickenheiser with the first overall pick in the 1980 Draft at the Forum, and yet there was almost zero pressure on Chucky when he first joined the team.

Here was this kid who – had it not been for a knee injury – might very well have been drafted first overall in 2012. He was coming into the pressure cooker Montreal scene after a truly abhorrent season and – for the moment – no one was requiring him to be the saviour.

I can remember discussing this fact – with great astonishment – on the podcast at the time, thinking maybe Montreal fans and media had truly turned a corner.

Nah.

It took a couple seasons and the lack of a true breakout season so far from Galchenyuk, but now we’ve arrived at the point where Chucky is a Hab in every sense.

I’m not sure when it began exactly; the Galchenyuk backlash. Forced to pinpoint a date, I would point to right around the time he turned 21. No longer did we have a 20 year old with piles of potential. Now we had a 21 year old whose expected Big Breakout Season simply wasn’t that.

It’s not that Galchenyuk had a bad season. Truth be told, he actually had a career year in 2014-2015. With 20 goals and 46 points he increased his goal totals by 56% from the previous campaign, and his point totals ratcheted up by 48% versus 2013-2014.

But the playoffs rolled around and the Canadiens regular season offensive woes continued. Fans and media started looking around to see where goals should be coming from. Suddenly Chucky was in the MTL crosshairs.

An underwhelming one-goal (though it was a playoff OT game winner, the second such goal of his fledgling career), 10-point playoff performance didn’t help his case. In a matter of just a few months Galchenyuk went from Mr. Holy-Crap-Can-You-Believe-He’s-Only-20-And-He-Can-Do-That to the much shorter moniker of Mr. Disappointing.

Then Marc Bergevin took to the podium in his season moratorium and wondered to the press whether or not Galchenyuk actually had the stuff to become a top line centre in the NHL. We didn’t react well to that bit of information.

Next came word that he had parted ways with his agents Ian Pulver and much respected hockey legend Igor Larionov, aka The Professor.

It was not exactly an amicable break either. Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette quoted Pulver as saying: “He didn’t fire me, he fired a Hall of Famer.”

Okay then.

One day later Galchenyuk hired super agent Pat Brisson (who also represents the likes of Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar and more) just in time for everyone in La Belle Province to gather around their St. Jean barbecues and wonder aloud together: “What’s the deal with this Galchenyuk kid anyway?”

Just a few days earlier Habs fans had watched as their fellow Original Sixers in Chicago hoisted the Stanley Cup for the third time in just six years. Now lamenting their own team’s shortcomings in the wake of another Cupless season in Montreal, to some it seemed like this kid might be about to mess things up further by wanting to get a little too well paid. Or too much term? No bridge deal? We weren’t really sure who wanted what, actually.

Meanwhile, for many in the media, the split with Larionov was a sign of something else: immaturity. The Professor is almost as well respected as they come in hockey circles. Many scribes and pontificators had seen Larionov’s guiding influence on Galchenyuk as a sign that the kid was going to “do things the right way.” They didn’t like the looks of this new change in representation.

“Ian and I were trying to help him to become a good hockey player but, more importantly, to be a good human being,” Larionov told Hickey. “I would speak to him every day. I think I spent more time talking to him than my wife.”

Larionov added that he tried to convince Galchenyuk to be patient, wait for his opportunities, and they would come. The Professor might have been imparting sage wisdom to the young forward, however, with media and fan patience fading fast, it seems Galchenyuk’s own patience was running a similar pattern.

Did the pressure from the outside cause Galchenyuk to lose patience himself? It’s not hard to imagine the kid sitting at home and hearing how he really needs to step up, and then wanting to scream at everyone: “I just need more playing time!” or “The coach isn’t putting me in a position to succeed!”

It’s also not hard to imagine him taking his frustrations to his representation, asking if they might have a word with the coach, only to be rebuked and told to be patient.

Patience is a virtue, they say. Larionov was trying to make Galchenyuk a better person, he said.

So if Larionov was trying to make Galchenyuk a better person, it can only be assumed that firing Igor means Galchenyuk is pushing back against that “better thyself” approach.

Or at least that’s what the Journal de Montreal thought.

And just like that Galchenyuk had his first tabloid headline in Montreal, and the whole Galchenyuk family was brought in with it.

“Un père qui en mène large: Le père de l’attaquant du Canadien serait la cause du divorce entre son fils et Igor Larionov” read the headline.

According to the Journal de Montreal, Galchenyuk’s father, Alex Galchenyuk Sr,  was behind the rift between Jr. and Larionov. The Russian Super League veteran – according to the report, which cited sources close to the Galchenyuk/Larionov divorce – is a meddler in his son’s career. The Journal de Montreal also mentioned that it would seem the young Galchenyuk is in fact the bread winner for the entire Galchenyuk horde; dad, mom, and even sister Ana.

Ana took to Twitter to deny and decry the report, which she described as the “most ridiculous thing I’ve seen/read.” She also tweeted “I truly hope everything is ok with this persons (sic) family.”

Is that a threat, Ana? It might be a threat.

The most ridiculous thing Ana has ever seen/read also made the leap to compare the Galchenyuk “situation” to that of Dominic Roussel and Jack Johnson, NHLers whose parents hijacked much of their career cash.

No doubt, the Roussel and Johnson experiences are certainly something all NHLers need to be aware of, however, for the Journal to leap to the conclusion while also presenting precisely zero actual evidence that Galchenyuk Sr. is taking his son’s money, is a bit irresponsible.

So welcome to the Montreal Canadiens, for real, Alex! All things considered, you were given a shocking amount of time to find your bearings before we all did that thing we always do.

But you’ve “arrived” now and we’re going to talk about your family. We’re going to make tremendous leaps to conclusions, regardless of how much hard evidence we’re presented with. We’re going to demand you break out, right now.

We’ll probably ignore the fact that if you keep improving at the pace you’ve been improving it is extremely reasonable to expect 25-30 goals from you next season. We will definitely ignore the fact that in a season in which you were just 20 years old for most of it you finished 4th on the team in goals and 7th in total points, while playing significantly less minutes than anyone who bested you.

And for the record, everybody’s favourite Brendan Gallagher had just one more point than his good buddy Chucky in 2014-2015  (ditto for the playoffs).

So just remember, young Alex, you’re really in Montreal now. The same place where Max Pacioretty was also labeled as immature, PK Subban needed to learn his place, and Carey Price was all potential with no payoff.

Igor was probably right when he tried to preach patience, what he may have neglected to mention was that you shouldn’t expect to find anyone else being patient.

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Gab

    July 16, 2015 at 10:23 am

    Yep, he had the full tour now it seems haha. Even his family got a taste of it! Good stuff Zach, glad you’re part of Rabid Habs now and that we’ll be reading more from you. I am looking forward Galchy signing… not too sure if it will be a bridge or long term deal. Maybe a bridge given our current cap space? Not sure where we are at now.

  2. Habsmandes

    July 16, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Is this story ever accurate. In the same vein I hope Chucky doesn’t lose his appetite for playing in Montreal as someone once said for fans here you’re only as good as the last game you played. I think he’s one of our brightest and best young players and have all the confidence he will become one of our best players, if the those flame-out junky fans don’t chase him out of town 1st.