News headline: Alex Galchenyuk among five players to show up for optional practice
Guy Carbonneau, Éric Bélanger and Denis Gauthier on L’Antichambre last night commented that there’s been ‘un déclic’ with respect to Alex’s defensive play, that he’s more involved, doesn’t cheat towards offence as much, works harder in his zone. Yesterday, he had a great defensive effort on an odd-man rush by the Coyotes, and was rewarded a few seconds later when he scored his goal.
They went on that there will need to be ‘un déclic’ as far as his performance in the faceoff circle. Some points they brought up:
1) Faceoff excellence isn’t handed down from heaven, it’s a skill that requires a lot of work and dedication.
2) Alex hasn’t shown that dedication in his preparation so far, and not even during games. Éric Bélanger and Guy Carbonneau, both centremen, agreed that it’s noticeable to them that he’s not focused on faceoffs, that he shows up to the dot unprepared. They said basic things like getting ready, his positioning, right off the drop, he’s not set, and that’s why he’s losing.
3) They said that he does work on this in practices, but he needs more help, and more focus. They specifically said that having Dan Lacroix drop puck for him so he can practice is basically useless, since Mr. Lacroix wasn’t a centreman himself. They said that Kirk Muller needs to work with him, he’s a former centreman who excelled on faceoffs.
4) They noted that for all the coaches’ talk about the importance of faceoffs, what will speak loudest for Alex is that Brendan Gallagher has been taking draws on occasion, bumping him to the wing. That has to sting a little bit. Gally isn’t great at faceoffs, but he’s usually the one called on when the centreman is waved off, over Max Pacioretty. Also, Gally is a rightie, so it might make more sense to have him take draws on his strong side than to have Chucky on his weak side. But let’s hope it hits Alex right in his pride, and that’s why he’s putting in extra time this morning during an optional skate.
More general thoughts about faceoffs:
–Faceoff proficiency improves as players age. This is thought to be due to a player getting more savvy and tricky, but also mainly just getting stronger. Chucky has a bit of an advantage in that latter area, his size and training will serve him well, but he now needs to take lots and lots of faceoffs.
–Manny Malhotra, his one season here, spoke often on 24CH on the Zen of Faceoffs, how every situation, every opponent is different. He said once that in some situations, he’s not so concerned about winning the draw, but more about making sure he doesn’t lose it cleanly. Alex needs to have that battler mentality, that every draw matters.
–Speaking of Manny, he’s now a Development coach with the Canucks. One of the oft-stated goals is that by hiring him, he can pass on some of his faceoff know-how to the Canucks’ players and prospects.
–We often talked about hiring Manny as a coach, but he was always going to head back to Vancouver, that’s where he wanted to live. Maybe there are other specialized coaches we can hire from the Montréal area though, Yannick Pereault is often bandied about. I don’t know if he’s available, I know he’s consulted with some teams, and some players work with him over the summer as a ‘skills coach’.