Prior to the start of the truncated 2012-2013 season most in the hockey world pegged the chances of the Montreal Canadiens reaching the post-season on 4 specific issues
The Habs chances of success in the 2012-2013 season depended on (in no particular order)
Just to complete this line of thought, and to launch into the current discussion at hand, let’s address the situation for this current season
The Habs chances of success in the 2013-2014 season depend on (in no particular order)
- Carey Price’s performance
- PK Subban’s performance
- The emergence of the young stars – Eller, Galchenyuk, Gallagher
- Being tougher to play against
Can you spot the major difference between the two lists? Other than less of a reliance on Brandon Prust’s contribution this year (although still important as evidenced by #4) it is the glaring absence of mention of Andrei Markov’s health. Surprising? No, I don’t think so.
How Important is Andrei Markov to the Montreal Canadiens?
No one would claim that Markov’s importance to the team is negligible or insignificant. He remains a quarterback on one powerplay unit and he continues to move the puck well out of the defensive zone. However, in both cases so do PK Subban and Raphael Diaz.
Markov is clearly slowed by his string of knee injuries, rehab stints, and age over the past 5 years. His mobility when backing into the defensive zone, and while in pursuit and containment along the defensive boards, is understandably slower than earlier in his career.
Markov has never been a physical defenseman. Like many, his style relies more on his vision and anticipation of the flow of the game. This guides his positioning. However, for the most part he’s 100% effective against 85% of the forwards in the league.
Is Markov the Most Important Defenseman on the Team?
The answer is no. In seasons past, Markov’s performance was critically important to the team’s success. This year I don’t believe the same argument can be made. Obviously a better performing Markov = better performing Montreal Canadiens.
He continues to be a top 3 defenseman on most teams in the NHL. The depth at defense in the club right now, along with PK Subban’s superstar emergence, makes Markov less a linchpin to the team’s chances of success.
Let me pose a question to make a point. How important is PK Subban, and perhaps Alexei Yemelin, to the future of the team relative to Markov? Tinordi, Beaulieu and Bouillon have also been strong early this season.
What if Markov Suffered Another Long Term Injury?
It’s a question I typically don’t like to address. The ‘what ifs’ of potential injuries to players. For the sake of today’s argument, I will.
Prior to the start of this season I wondered whether another major injury to Markov, season ending perhaps, would be as potentially catastrophic as in seasons past. Would it be a death sentence for the team’s chance to reach the post-season?
The answer is no. The emergence of new leaders, new talent, and new promise has lessened the dependence on Andrei Markov. This is a good thing. For the team and for him. It lessens the reliance and pressure on a player who would otherwise be expected to overextend himself.
Markov is very important to the defensive presence of the Canadiens. His contribution remains significant and would equally be so on any team. The point is, the future of the Habs is not as intrinsically linked to his health and contribution on the ice as it has been in the past.