Is Markov still part of the now for Montreal?
By: Michael DiStefano
It’s no secret that Andrei Markov and the Montreal Canadiens would like to strike a deal and reunite for one last go at Lord Stanley’s mug. Markov has been a member of the Canadiens for 17 years, making him the longest tenured player on the team. Markov has been through the organizations ups and downs over that time, including two trips to the Eastern Conference finals. After all the defensive retooling this offseason Montreal lacks a left-handed puck-moving defenseman like Markov, but he may no longer fit the culture anymore.
Markov will turn 39 in December and has noticeably regressed as a top pairing defenseman, but still posses the smarts to keep playing at the NHL level. Last season the Montreal defender played 62 games and scored six goals with 30 assists and was strong on the power-play next to Shea Weber.
Montreal’s power-play operated at a 19.6 per cent last season and the Habs have already lost one vital member of their man-advantage team in Alexander Radulov. The loss of Markov as well could be worrisome for the 13th ranked power-play. Between the two players they combined for 28 points with the man advantage and with the loss of one Russian power-play specialist, the Canadiens can’t afford to lose another. Markov led the Canadiens in power-play assists and was fifth on the team in power-play points and second among defenseman behind Weber. The ex-predator captain has an absolute cannon from the point but needs a partner to pass him the puck and Markov is one of the best options the Canadiens have that fits the mold, and his 11 power-play assists last season proves it.
Markov’s ability to move the puck and make the strong first pass is indisputable. According to ownthepuck hero charts the Russian defenseman owns a 10/10 rating for first assist, which alludes to his vision and offensive playmaking abilities from the backend. The next best Canadiens defender who supports a noteworthy first assist rating is Jeff Petry with a 6/10. Thus, the departure of Markov could prove to be costly for Montreal offensively. However, the offseason additions to the blue line show’s Montreal plans to instil a new identity anyway.
The additions of Montreal’s new left-handed defenders David Schlemko and Karl Alzner infer that the Canadiens’ defensive model will have a whole new look next season. The newly minted Habs defenders are more defensive minded than offensive, and that seems to be the new identity of the Canadiens blue line. According to ownthepuck, Schlemko and Alzner’s shot suppression rating is higher than all three defenseman that departed from Montreal this offseason. Thus, the Canadiens backend will try to suppress as many shot attempts and scoring chances against rather than relying on puck movers. But again, the issue with these additions is Montreal’s 15th ranked offence will take a toll by eliminating the players who moves the puck down the ice like Markov.
It seems like the culture is shifting behind the scenes in Montreal and it is resulting to on-ice changes as well. Since the 2015-2016 collapse, Jeff Petry is the lone defender remaining from that team. A major overhaul on the blue line is occurring in Montreal and whether or not Markov will be part of the future remains to be seen despite the lack of puck moving defensemen on their roster.