NHL agent causes stir with tweet about Galchenyuk and Julien

MONTREAL— A tumultuous week for Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk added a new twist Thursday when certified NHLPA hockey agent Dan Milstein alleged that Montreal coach Claude Julien has a problem with Russian hockey players.

“Alex Galchenyuk isn’t a problem but coach is. Has never successfully coached Russian. Took midseason most-Russian club. All but one Russian gone,” said Milstein on Twitter.

The tweets have since been deleted.

Milstein was referring to the Canadiens summer departures of Alexei Emelin (to Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft), Mikhail Sergachev (via trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning), and Alex Radulov and Andrei Markov (via free agency).

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When reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Milstein apologized for commenting on another agent’s player (Galchenyuk is represented by Pat Brisson), but stood by his claim Julien has difficulty with Russian players.

“These are my observations,” Milstein told Sportsnet. “I represent several Russian players, and I know Alex is not one of them and I’m out of line for commenting because I don’t represent him. But I’m just stating the facts.

“I have nothing but respect for [Canadiens general manager] Marc Bergevin. But it seems obvious the coach doesn’t like Russians.”

Milstein represents many Russian-born players including former Canadien Nikita Nesterov, Nikita Zaitsev, Pavel Datsyuk and Artemi Panarin.

Brisson told Sportsnet Milstein should focus on his own clients.

“He should worry about his own business and by the way should stay close to it,” he said.

Another one of Milstein’s clients is Alex Khokhlachev, who was drafted by the Boston Bruins 40th overall in 2011 and played just nine games under Julien over four seasons despite putting up point totals of 57, 43 and 68 in consecutive seasons with the AHL’s Providence Bruins. Khokhlachev has since returned to the KHL.

“I cannot speak for Khokhlachev,” said Milstein. “These are not his observations.”

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Galchenyuk, the Canadiens first-round pick in the 2012 draft (third overall), is a native of Milwaukee, Wis. He is an American citizen of Belarussian descent. He has two goals and zero assists in nine games this season. Galchenyuk was among the top five scorers in the NHL last season through 25 games before suffering a knee injury against the Los Angeles Kings.

His inconsistent play since has been an ongoing topic of conversation in Montreal and was addressed by Bergevin on Wednesday.

“Yes [there is frustration] because you see the talent,” said Bergevin. “You see what he’s capable of doing, and again, I’m watching Alex and I hope what happened last night [scoring a goal against Florida and playing well] is the beginning. Sometimes I see a young player that’s looking for answers. He’s not coming to us. But he’s looking somewhere else for answers instead of taking it upon himself. When you stop and you talk to (him) about it, he understands. So he’s aware of it.

“I’ve said it before, sometimes you think you’re working, but you might not be working as hard as you can. The only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary. So you have to work and the result will become success.”

Earlier in the week, former Canadiens player and coach Mario Tremblay told a local radio station Galchenyuk had been to rehab twice and has “off-ice problems.”

On Wednesday Bergevin said he was not in a position to comment on the report given the confidential nature of the league’s substance abuse program.

“It’s strictly confidential,” he explained. “You could have one guy, 10 guys, I don’t know. It’s confidential. I can’t even talk about it. It’s strictly confidential. So I don’t have any comment to make on that.”