Andrei Markov Fit for a Mentor Role:
Andrei Markov turned 37 in December; he has played for the Canadiens throughout his entire 15 year career. Markov has seen all kinds of Canadiens teams – some good, some…not so good. Though his teammates have changed drastically over the last 15 years, Markov’s role seemed to stay the same. He has always been known for being a responsible defenceman who could put up points if needed. For about a decade, Andrei Markov has been a top-pairing defenceman who has been relied upon heavily by his coaches and teammates, however, at 37 years old, it seems that his role is changing.
The Canadiens are one of the deeper NHL teams on defence (even though their recent record doesn’t prove it), which is a luxury to their coaching staff and management. The Habs have eight NHL caliber defencemen, six of which are under 30 years old. The Canadiens defence core is fairly young, as up and coming defencemen begin to emerge as prominent NHL’ers. Andrei Markov serves as a great role model to these defencemen, considering all of his experience and knowledge. It seems that Markov is at a stage in his career where he can take a step back, change his role on the team, and act more as a mentor to young players like Nathan Beaulieu – rather than remaining a top-pairing defenceman.
Last season, Markov played impressive hockey after receiving a contract extension that many fans questioned. Unfortunately, many forgot about Markov’s strong play, because by the end of the year, he started slowing down. By the time playoffs rolled around, Markov looked burnt out and tired. He wasn’t playing the type of hockey that Habs fans had become accustomed to. Markov isn’t to blame for slowing down, as the NHL season is known to be extremely gruelling for all players, especially veterans.
It won’t be easy for any single player to fill Markov’s shoes, since he has done so much for the Canadiens over the last decade and a half. That said, the Canadiens have a talented pool of young defencemen, with a couple in particular playing impressive hockey lately. Nathan Beaulieu, the Habs’ first round draft pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, has stepped up this season – earning himself some augmented ice-time and even earning himself time on the power-play. Beaulieu is an offensive-minded defenceman who is a great skater. He has also shown his toughness in his first few years in the NHL, which has earned him lots of respect from his teammates.
Along with Beaulieu, Montreal native, Mark Barberio has been impressive since being recalled by the big club. Barberio is proving to be a good, inexpensive off-season signing by Marc Bergevin. The big factor with Beaulieu and Barberio, is that they’re both offensive minded lefties – like Markov. They may not have the experience and knowledge that Markov has, but they have the speed that Markov has slowly lost. If Markov acts as a mentor to these young defencemen (among others), he could help improve their knowledge of the game and consequentially, improve their overall game. The other Canadiens’ defencemen who are under 30 are: Alexei Emelin, Jeff Petry, Greg Pateryn, and P.K. Subban.
#Habs Nathan Beaulieu is becoming the player a lot of us thought and hoped he would. It's great to watch.
— All About The Habs (@AATHabs) December 23, 2015
Markov, who had been consistently playing alongside P.K. Subban for the last couple of seasons, has seen his partner change a few times this year. With his strong play, Nathan Beaulieu briefly earned the right to play with Subban on what was considered the Canadiens’ top defensive pairing. Markov was bumped to play with Jeff Petry on the second pairing. Markov has also seen a change in his ice-time, as he doesn’t log the physically challenging 25+ minutes that he once did anymore. These adjustments are intended to take some of the load off of Markov’s aging shoulders, as the Canadiens hope to preserve his physical condition until the end of the season (at least).
Andrei Markov is still an effective NHL’er, and among all other things, he serves as a role model for the rest of the Canadiens’ defencemen. Markov’s role change presents an opportunity for other Canadiens’ defencemen looking to make an impact. It’s pretty obvious that the Russian is on the back-end of his NHL career, but he still has lots to offer. If the Canadiens look to make a deep playoff run the coming seasons, Markov could be an asset due to his experience, hockey IQ, and leadership qualities. This is all if Markov is still a part of the Canadiens in the coming seasons. Due to a major slide in the standings over the last few months, the Canadiens have fallen out of playoff contention. If the Habs find themselves outside of the playoff picture by the time the trade deadline rolls around (February 29th), they may look to offer up some veterans for trade. Among those that could be offered, is Andrei Markov.
Though Markov is 37, he can still play good hockey when called upon to play appropriate minutes. He could serve as a solid 15-20 minute defenceman, and power-play specialist to a team in need of help on their blueline. Markov would bring his experience, and among other things, veteran on-ice leadership to a team. Though rumours are beginning to speculate about a potential deal involving the defenceman, he has a No-Trade-Clause. This means that Markov could refuse a trade, if that is what he wants. The veteran could want to take a run at the Stanley Cup before hanging up the skates, and leaving the struggling Canadiens would likely put him in a better position to compete for his first cup.
Markov could potentially be dealt by the Canadiens, though the 15-year veteran may not want to leave the only NHL team that he has ever known. If he is dealt, his value wouldn’t be too high – due to his age. That said, Markov has 24 points thus far this season; he is proving that he can still contribute offensively. All things considered, expect GM Bergevin entertain all reasonable offers for his veteran defenceman – as the trade deadline approaches. If Markov stays with the team, look for his minutes to decrease slowly, as he remains in the mentor role to the rest of Canadiens’ defencemen.
I’m a Montreal Canadiens columnist and lifelong Habs fan. Follow me on Twitter (@gregkatz19) for all kinds of hockey talk, and to be up to date on my newest articles. I previously wrote for Too Many Men on the Site, a part of Fansided NHL.