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Jonathan Drouin and Alex Galchenyuk the centre of attention as Habs open training camp

Another year, another debate in the middle of the Canadiens’ top line.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Montreal Canadiens Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

A few days ago, in my TimeHop (an application that brings back old posts and tweets from that day in past years) I got an article from this very website about how Michel Therrien announced that Alex Galchenyuk would play centre for the Montreal Canadiens.

That was from September 10, 2015. I assume that everything went well and everybody went on to finally end the debate that was waging on since Galchenyuk made his NHL debut after the 2012-13 NHL Lockout.

Wait, what’s that? Oh. Oh, no....

Back during the dynasty years of the Canadiens, you could tell when the season ended because the Stanley Cup parade would go “along the usual route.” Now you know a new season has started when the debates surrounding Galchenyuk’s position start. You could set a clock to it.

The headlines after yesterday’s media availability at the Canadiens golf tournament — the unofficial start of the new hockey season — announced that it will be the newly acquired Jonathan Drouin, and not Galchenyuk, who will start the pre-season at centre.

The initial instinct is to think this is the Habs playing the famous mystery box game.

“Alex Galchenyuk at centre is Alex Galchenyuk at centre... Jonathan Drouin at centre can be anything! He can even be Alex Galchenyuk!”

This isn’t going to be an in-depth analysis of Galchenyuk’s play at centre nor Drouin’s ability to play that position. But after all the false starts the Canadiens have had with the former, one shouldn’t jump to too many conclusions before the Canadiens have had an official on-ice session.

The fact is, whether Galchenyuk or Drouin play centre, left wing, right wing, or are slotted next to Shea Weber, this is the time to try things. Last year, the Canadiens tried Weber and Jeff Petry as a pairing during practice in training camp. People freaked out. It never saw the light of day.

No matter what the Canadiens lineup looks like on September 18 against the Bruins, it will likely be very different by the end of the season.

Drouin may end up being fine at centre, and if that’s the case, fantastic. The experiment may not work out, and that’s fine too. Because I’d rather this happen in the pre-season and first 15 games of the regular season than to try this closer to the playoffs.

The same thing goes for Galchenyuk on the wing. This is the time to experiment; to find the right combinations.

This is Claude Julien’s first training camp with this roster, and he said that it’s a long season and that what is being used now can change by game 82.

Marc Bergevin has been down this road before, and so has Alex Galchenyuk. We have been down this road before.

Sure there’s a lot at stake here because Drouin is Bergevin’s highest-profile acquisition and Galchenyuk was his highest-profile draft pick. But the relationship between the two doesn’t have to be combative.

Galchenyuk could easily end up on Drouin’s wing. Drouin could end up on Galchenyuk’s. These two will probably be compared to each other throughout their careers in Montreal and perhaps even beyond that. And we could argue the pros and cons of the Canadiens making the optics of this be an either-or scenario.

This debate has morphed into an emotional one for fans, media, and analysts because of the history.

The Habs have wanted, needed, a number-one centre for years. Fans thought they had one in Galchenyuk but they feel he never got a real chance (or that he has shown well in the chances he did receive). Now Drouin is on the scene; the local hero, acquired for a prized piece in Mikhail Sergachev, who immediately gets a long-term deal and a trial at centre.

The juxtaposition is clear to see, especially given Drouin's lack of repetitions at centre as a professional. That doesn't mean Drouin will fail, but it's an interesting dynamic that was compounded by Galchenyuk getting a second bridge contract.

But, as we've seen with Galchenyuk start the season at centre and at wing, Paul Byron sitting out in favour of Alex Semin, and Phillip Danault starting last year on the fourth line, things can change from where they are the beginning of the season.

Now is the time to experiment, and we should know better than to treat the opening day lineup like it’s written in stone.