Back in early December, Alex Galchenyuk got a brief call-up with the Colorado Avalanche.
Emphasis on the word “brief.”
It lasted four games, and did not go well, especially on the defensive side of the puck.
Don’t believe me? Just ask his coach.
“The first time we called him up, it wasn’t great defensively,” Jared Bednar said earlier this week on Galchenyuk. “Foot speed, you know, it’s probably not top tier in the league, so he has to work at it. The defending details, I’d say, were what kept him from staying with us the first time.”
Although Galchenyuk was sent down after Friday’s win over Arizona, there was a noticeable difference in the player Bednar saw three months earlier.
“This time, though, he’s been rock solid defensively for us,” Bednar said. “He’s been chipping in a little bit, creating some offensive chances. I would say (those are) the biggest improvements he’s been working on down there with ‘Crow’.”
The “Crow” Bednar is referring to is Colorado Eagles head coach Greg Cronin. A player can only improve if they really want too, but a really good coach can help get them there. Cronin has done that with a lot of young players, and the veteran Galchenyuk has enjoyed his time with the Eagles coach.
“It’s been great,” Galchenyuk said of working with Cronin. “He definitely helped my game a lot and gave me a lot of different angles of knowledge about the game, and certain details. I definitely appreciate the time he put in me, and he’s a great coach.”
It’s been a very different year for Galchenyuk.
The former 3rd overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft came into training camp with the Avalanche on a PTO. After playing for five different organizations in the previous three seasons, he was running out of opportunities. An injury in training camp temporarily killed his chances of getting a contract with Colorado, but the Eagles brought him in once he was healthy, and he never looked back. In late November, the Avalanche did give him that one-year contract, allowing them the ability to call him up, if needed.
When things get a little tough, you learn a little bit about yourself. Galchenyuk is no different.
“Yeah, for sure,” Galchenyuk told me when I asked if he has learned a lot about himself the last few months. “At the same time, me personally, I don’t try to think too much on the details like ‘PTO’ or this or that. Come in, show up, do the best you can, and keep growing your game and keep being productive.”
The hard work has paid off. With 33 points in 33 games with the Eagles, he’s become a big part of their team, and will play a major role as they push for a long playoff run. And with the way the season has gone for the Avalanche, they just may need him again.
The player fans initially saw back in December? Galchenyuk doesn’t even recognize him anymore.
“I’ve been putting in a lot of work in between,” he said. “Last one (call-up) was a while ago. I don’t even go there.”