When a player the calibre of Max Pacioretty goes down, there is no replacing him. Over the last four years, only Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos have scored more goals per minute played than Max Pacioretty's 1.47 per 60 minutes. This season, Pacioretty has been involved in 34.5% of the Montreal Canadiens' 194 goals. There are very few players who can produce offense in all situations like Max Pacioretty can.
Beyond offense, Pacioretty has also been a defensive stalwart for the Canadiens all year long, logging heavy minutes on the penalty kill, and carrying the defensive load on the top line.
Now that Pacioretty is out, the Habs' left wing depth looks like that of a lottery team, with Alex Galchenyuk, Jacob de la Rose, and Brandon Prust. Devante Smith-Pelly has been shifted to the left in order to fill out the lines, but it remains to be seen how well that works.
While Pacioretty is out, and we have no idea how long that will be, one player specifically has to step up beyond what he's done so far in his career, and that's Alex Galchenyuk. Prust and de la Rose have their strengths as players, but scoring isn't among them. Alex Galchenyuk will now be facing the top checkers in the league on a consistent basis, and he'll have to find a way to produce.
Since the trade deadline, Galchenyuk is producing just 0.99 points per 60 minutes at even strength (below Dale Weise), and has zero goals at even strength. Including the powerplay, Galchenyuk has produced just 1.41 points per 60 minutes played (still below Weise), and ranks eighth on the team. This simply isn't good enough.
There are good reasons for Galchenyuk's lack of production, the team hasn't been playing well, he's better suited to center than the wing, and it's legitimately hard to produce in Michel Therrien's system, but none of that should result in Galchenyuk producing at this low of a rate. He has to be better.
Galchenyuk has to find a way to be dynamic, and he should get all the opportunity in the world to do so. The question is whether the new top line of Galchenyuk with Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher can carry the team offensively with little support, because this team has nowhere near the scoring depth they had the last two years.