One of the main discussion points this summer has been about Montreal’s depth
down the middle. Primarily, the talk has been about how to best deplete
that depth to eliminate any thought of there being competition for Alex
Galchenyuk to play his natural position. This doesn’t make any sense to
me. Since when did depth at the most important forward position become a
I understand why some want Galchenyuk to move back to centre. The Habs
have lacked a true top centre for a long time and if Galchenyuk pans out, he
could very well fill that long-standing void. There’s also no need to rush
him into that spot though. One of the more important attributes of the
position is the added defensive responsibilities and right now, he’s not really
all that good in his own end. Galchenyuk has also struggled at the faceoff
dot (as many youngsters do) which means the opposition is going to win more
faceoffs and have more puck possession. He also could stand to bulk up if
he’s going to head-to-head against some of the more prominent bigger centres in
Let’s suppose for a moment that despite the above, management decides that
they want Galchenyuk back down the middle. Who should lose their spot to
accommodate the switch?
David Desharnais: As Galchenyuk is pegged to be at the very least a
top-two centre, it’s fair to suggest that he could be on the chopping block.
However, his contract isn’t terrible relative to his production and he seems to
work better than any other centre with Max Pacioretty. Why that’s the case
is unknown but if handcuffing him to your best scorer brings out the best in
Pacioretty, I’d be hesitant to break that up if I’m management.
Tomas Plekanec: Even though he seldom plays with the top offensive
players, it would be hard to make a case that he isn’t the Habs’ top centre.
He handles the top defensive assignments, something that Galchenyuk clearly is
far from ready to do, while there’s a very good chance that Plekanec is at the
very least an alternate captain next year, if not the captain. Though he
seems to be a popular choice to be dealt, removing him from the team will do
more harm than good, even if it expedites Galchenyuk’s development at C.
Lars Eller: If it wasn’t for Rene Bourque, Eller would be the winner
of Montreal’s enigma award. There are times that Eller has been strong
both offensively and defensively and others where he has hardly been noticeable.
That said, his positive postseason performance is cause for hope that he can
become more of an impact player and if the organization feels that way, it’s not
likely they’ll want to move him, a young two-way centre with size.
Manny Malhotra: He just signed and was brought in to fill two primary
roles, faceoffs and penalty killing. He’s not getting moved.
When you look at it, there isn’t an option that jumps out that the Habs could
move to accommodate Galchenyuk. Plekanec and Eller are the two-way
players, Desharnais’ ability to get Pacioretty going increases Montreal’s
reliance on him, while the fourth line isn’t a spot where Galchenyuk will play
The other alternative, and the one I expect is most likely at this point,
will be to try to use one of the centres on the wing from time to time. We
all know that Michel Therrien frequently juggles the lines; sliding Galchenyuk
to the middle and one of the other centres to the wing just opens up that many
more opportunities to mix and match the forward units. Although Eller has
struggled on the wing in the NHL thus far, he’s the most likely candidate to
swap positions periodically. That would allow Galchenyuk to see a bit of
time at centre while having the depth to fall back on if and when he struggles.
And of course there will be injuries, which should give him a few games there as
well instead of being forced to play someone else in a role they’re not suited
for if they trade one of the incumbents.
Personally, I don’t think there’s a pressing need to move Montreal’s top pick
two years ago to his old position. He still has a lot to learn and work on
and it’s easier to do so on the wing before being saddled with the extra
responsibilities that a big minute centre gets. Depth at that position is
a luxury that a lot of teams don’t have and covet. The Habs would be best
served to retain it as long as possible, even if it means that Galchenyuk has to
wait a little while longer before he moves back to the middle. His time
will come but it doesn’t need to be rushed.