Monday, 28 May 2012

Alex Galchenyuk is a gym rat? Gimme more of those please!

Some fans debate the importance of a particular draft prospect, namely Alex Galchenyuk, being a gym rat.  One fan makes the very good point that anyone drafted in the first round is either one or becomes one very quickly by dint of their chosen profession. Despite this I agree that it is an important distinction, a tag which when affixed properly helps to evaluate players.

A gym rat is someone who you can’t get rid of at the gym, he’s there everyday, sometimes twice a day, and unfailingly is there because he loves the gym. Other players who go because it’s part of their program, or because their coaches tell them to, usually don’t work out with the same dedication and intensity, take days off, etc.
Same goes for a rink rat. Some guys love hockey and everything about it. They’ll be at every practice, won’t ever miss a game, will join a couple of pickup teams or play drop-in when they can, as opposed to the guys who like hockey but take every day off that they’re entitled to, and sometimes miss a game or practice because they ‘need to study’ or ‘couldn’t get a sitter’.
Going back to the gym rat moniker, we can apply it to P.K. Subban and Mike Cammalleri, but not to guys like Ian Schultz and Ryan White and Guillaume Latendresse and Olivier Archambault. The two former players have their quirks and flaws, but have never been accused of not showing up to camp in shape or sucking wind in the third period.
Guillaume Latendresse was heavily scouted and was promised to a bright future, but physical conditioning was always a problem for him. It’s something that can easily be addressed, yet he chose to ignore this until possibly last summer. There’s no telling how much his career has been set back due to poor physical fitness.
Ryan White and Ian Schultz were both guys who had good junior careers, both with the Calgary Hitmen incidentally, but who both carried too much weight and would need to shed that to make an impression in the pro game. Ryan White was described as having a ‘bad body’ but playing well despite it, with good hockey sense. He fell to the third round in the draft, past guys who were ranked lower than him by Central Scouting like Ben Maxwell and Milan Lucic. I still wonder if his unimpressive physique, on full display at the draft Combine, made him fall a round or so. Once he had to make the jump to the AHL he understood what he needed to do and was a pleasant surprise two seasons ago with his energy and reckless style.
Ian Schultz is the guy who was destined to be known as the ‘throw-in’ in the Jaro Halak-Lars Eller trade, a guy who was out of his league in the AHL. Conditioning was the main issue with him, as observers used to note. Last summer however, he showed up to camp in decent shape, having shed a few pounds and being a little bit stronger, and had a good season. He was singled out by Clément Jodoin, the Bulldogs head coach, as being the most improved player along with Joonas Nattinen.
Olivier Archambault is one of those high-risk, high-reward draft picks, although spending a fourth rounder on him was not a steep cost. He has great skill and scoring talent, but worth ethic and fitness are two question marks among many. Apparently he did nothing to address these issues this season and he again underwhelmed. He needs to wake up and pattern his habits after players like David Desharnais and Martin St. Louis, guys who look like middleweight wrestlers.
So when I read that a player like Alex Galchenyuk is a gym rat, that’s a checkmark in the plus column for me. This is not to say that other players who currently don’t spend the same amount of time in the gym will not ever do so, but since past behaviour is the best indicator of future behaviour, I say Mr. Galchenyuk is a step or two ahead of others in this department. A hockey player who is a gym rat/rink rat is definitely a good thing.

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