Montreal Canadiens coach Claude Julien has moved Alex Galchenyuk back to the left wing. Over the course of his first 5 years in the NHL, Galchenyuk has bounced back and forth between left wing and center, hoping to find the right position in order to ensure that he reaches his full potential with the Habs. After putting up a solid performance against the Carolina Hurricanes in his first game back on the wing, it would not surprise anyone if Galchenyuk continues to play left wing for the time being.
Despite the 4-1 loss, Galchenyuk found success early on in the game, playing on a line with Andrew Shaw and Artturi Lehkonen. He snapped a 3 game pointless streak and a nine-game goalless drought, tucking it home passed a sliding Eddie Lack after a great pass from Andrew Shaw on a two on one. In addition, Galchenyuk put up a 52.94% Corsi on the night, good for 3rd among Habs forwards, and generated several good scoring chances throughout the game.
If Galchenyuk does continue as a left winger, the Habs will head into the playoffs with one of the top LW groups in the league, with Galchenyuk, Max Pacioretty, and Paul Byron leading the way in the top 9. Unfortunately, the improvement at left wing also means a downgrade at Center, as it will leave a gaping hole in the Habs lineup down the middle. The Habs center core will consist of Phillip Danault, Andrew Shaw, Tomas Plekanec, and one of Mike McCarron, Torrey Mitchell, or Steve Ott. Even if Plekanec manages to restore his usual play, that is still a very weak center core, especially for a team hoping to contend in the playoffs.
Looking back at the last three Stanley cup winning rosters, each team has been very strong down the middle. The LA Kings had a center core of Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Jarret Stoll, and Mike Richards in 2014. In the following year, The Chicago Blackhawks put together a just as good, if not better center core, with Jonathan Toews, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards, Marcus Kruger, and sometimes Andrew Shaw. In last year’s playoffs, the Pittsburgh Penguins put together the best center group of the bunch, as it consisted of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Nick Bonino, and Matt Cullen.
All three of those teams have significantly better center cores than the Montreal Canadiens if Alex Galchenyuk moves to the wing. Although the Habs will still not be as strong down the middle as any of those three teams even if Galchenyuk is kept at center, but having a stronger group of centers will significantly benefit the Habs come playoffs time. As the saying goes, you win the game down the middle. If the Habs hope to contend for the Stanley Cup, it should be in their best interest to keep Alex Galchenyuk at center for the time being.
Image Source: NHL