From the very beginning I was never particularly high on the Alex Galchenyuk portion of the Phil Kessel trade. I thought the idea of him showing up in Pittsburgh, skating next to one of the top centers, and then automatically putting up big numbers was nothing more than wishful thinking.
Other than James Neal there really has not been a winger that has been traded to the Penguins and seen a drastic upward shift in their production. Even Chris Kunitz (a former 60-point scorer in Anaheim), Patric Hornqvist (a 30-goal scorer in Nashville), Pascal Dupuis (who once finished second in scoring on a trapping Wild team) and Kessel himself performed at a level that was at least reasonably close to what they did outside of Pittsburgh. There just has not been that much of a boost for a lot of these wingers that come from another team. Beyond that, after seven years and nearly 500 games in the NHL we should have had a pretty good idea as to what Galchenyuk is as a player.
Because of that, as well as his contract situation, he always seemed like a potential one-and-done player in Pittsburgh that would play out the remaining year of his contract and move on. The key player in the trade from a Penguins perspective always seemed to be — at least in my view — Pierre-Oliver Joseph, the young defenseman that is currently playing in the American Hockey League for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
With that being said I never really expected Galchenyuk to struggle as much as he has.
I figured the Penguins would get the 20-goal, 50-point player that would struggle away from the puck and flash moments of brilliance with it.
What they have received through his first 14 games is a player that has struggled away from the puck — and sometimes with it — that has yet to score his first goal as a member of the team.
Is it too early to start worrying if this is simply going to be a failed experiment that they should try to move on from as quickly as possible?
The biggest reason I am hesitant to completely write off the Galchenyuk experience is because I do not like to overreact to slumps from talented and traditionally productive players. I have written about this several times in the past, but production — at least as it relates to goals and points — is not consistent over an 82-game season. The season is full of hot streaks and cold streaks, even for the very best players. When one of those streaks happens early in the season we tend to put more weight on it than we do if it happens in the middle of the year.
If a player scores 14 goals through their first 30 games, then follows that up by going 15 games with only one goal, we do not usually panic about that 15-game stretch because they still have good overall numbers for the season and we feel good about. But when that cold streak happens at the start when they have nothing else to cover it up it is easy to just assume it is going to be a completely empty season for the player.
That is not usually the case.
If a player shows you that they are capable of a certain level of production, you should expect them to get back to that level by the end of the season no matter how they start it. And I am not quite ready to say that Galchenyuk has completely lost his ability to score goals, because that is really what all of his lack of production comes down to.
When it comes to his ability as a playmaker, there are still some positives there.
With seven assists in his first 14 games he has at least shown some ability to create offense and set up his linemates. That would be around a 40-point assist pace over 82 games which is right around where you should expect Galchenyuk to be at. The drop in offense is entirely related to his goal total and it is hard to argue that there is not some element of bad luck to the goose egg he has put on the board.
The chances have been there.
He has had some near misses.
Even a couple of goals — something he could easily have at this point — probably changes the entire outlook of his season to date.
While his shot volume has tailed off a bit over the past couple of weeks, his overall shots-per-game numbers are close to his normal career levels. The pucks just simply are not going in the net for him.
One important thing to keep in mind is looking back at how long it took one of the Penguins’ other big offseason acquisitions — Dominik Kahun — to get going.
Through the first 10 games Kahun was as invisible as any player on the team and could not seem to buy a goal or a point. Slowly but surely he started to generate more chances, he started to gain more confidence, and now he has been one of the Penguins’ best players for the past few weeks. Now, Kahun probably does more to drive play and contribute defensively when he does not have the puck than Galchenyuk does, but the key point is a slow start did not define his season or the player he was going to be, and he was able to play his way out of it.
That potential is still there for Galchenyuk and it can all start to change with just one shot that finally goes his way and finds the back of the net.