If someone had told you this summer that at the 24-25 games mark, 37 year old Andrei Markov would be sixth in NHL scoring amongst defensemen, tied with Duncan Keith at 17 points each, and ahead of guys like P.K. Subban, Ryan Suter, Roman Josi, Dustin Byfuglien, Mike Green and Shayne Gostisbehere (amongst others), what would you have said? Every year it seems, fans are expecting Markov to slow down and while his foot speed is not what it used to be – predominantly because of his multiple knee injuries – he keeps on ticking.
Markov is what we call in hockey, a homegrown talent. In his 16th season with the Habs – would have been 17 had it not been of the 2004-2005 cancelled season due to the lockout – as a Russian born and raised prospect, the Canadiens drafted him in the sixth round, 162nd overall, in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. What few people know is that at the time, Markov was playing centre and was just switching to playing defense with the Dynamo Moscow. Imagine the talent it takes to have that kind of impact and career to be amongst the best with guys who have been player that position their entire hockey career!
Markov loves Montreal. He loves playing hockey in Montreal in spite of being a very reserved individual. Back in July 2010, he received his Canadian citizenship, taking the oath of citizenship to become a true Canadian. More and more people have learned to appreciate, over the years, his dry sense of humour. Just recently, when questioned about his age, he was telling Le Journal de Montreal’s reporter J-F Chaumont that people are worrying more about his age than he and his wife.
Markov’s biggest skill has always been his vision of the ice and while he may have lost a step or two with his skating ability, he still sees passing lanes like no one else on the team, and few others in the NHL. He’s a very intelligent hockey player or as we like to call it, he has a high hockey IQ. He understand the game. Players like Sheldon Souray and Mike Komisarek have greatly benefited from Markov both on the ice and financially. As long as he doesn’t lose that, he should be able to keep on playing.
Many fans are wondering what Markov’s next contract should be. That’s a change in many cases as most believed that this being the last year of his current contract, retirement was likely the next step for The General. But with a season like he’s having, few now doubt that he still has things to offer to this organisation. He still is the team’s top left-handed defenseman, Nathan Beaulieu being unable to take advantage of his opportunity to play with Shea Weber.
To think that the game against the Los Angeles Kings, on December 4th, is Markov’s 953rd regular season’s game in his career, he is rapidly closing in on the 1,000 game mark and one would think that he’ll want to reach that plateau.
Personally, I’d like for Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin and Markov to take a page out of the Ken Holland and Nicklas Lidstrom book by signing conditional one-year deals until they both feel it’s time to hang up the skates. Lidstrom’s last couple of contracts with the Red Wings were one-year deals. He and Holland had a mutual understanding that this was the way to go and the former multiple winner of the Norris Trophy would end his career in the Detroit uniform. I see no reason why a similar understanding couldn’t be worked out between Bergevin and Markov. The value? I’ll let the player (or his agent) and the GM deal with that.
One thing most Habs’ fans do want though, is to see Markov end his NHL career in the red, white and blue and while I haven’t always been his biggest fan, I definitely am one of those people today. Go Habs Go!