In 1998, the Montreal Canadiens struck gold as they drafted a rather unknown defenceman, Andrei Markov in the sixth round. Markov has since become one of the top defenceman in Habs history. A true rarity in today’s NHL, the Russian has only played for his draft team through his entire 17-year career thus far.
Now 38-years-old, Markov doesn’t look like he’s ready to hang up the skates just yet. The defenceman had 21 points through 31 games this season before going down with a lower-body injury. His absence is being felt in the Canadiens’ defensive unit as they impatiently await his return.
Markov is third overall in points all-time by a Canadiens defenceman with 557, trailing only Larry Robinson and Guy Lapointe. He is also second overall in games played among defencemen with 959. After 17 years of service, “The General” has taught Habs fans a few very important lessons. Here are the top-three.
3: A Little Humour Never Hurts
Even the most serious individuals need a laugh every once in a while. Though Markov definitely isn’t known for cracking jokes, the occasional rib or prank can go a long way in terms of team bonding and player morale. Over his years in Montreal, the Russian has never shied away from playing with the media or his teammates. Much of his humour was often directed towards former Hab, P.K. Subban, though that has obviously stopped since Subban’s departure.
NHL seasons are long and grueling, so the occasional laugh goes a long way to keep things light in an otherwise serious environment.
2: Adaptability Is Key
In order to stay relevant in the NHL for 15-plus years, one must learn to adapt. Markov is a prime example of a player who continues to change with the times to ensure his long-term survival. Though his early game revolved more around speed and skill, his game today has slowed down physically, but not so much statistically.
The defenceman uses his excellent vision and ability to read plays to eliminate much of his unnecessary energy expenditure. This evolution has given him an extremely long shelf-life in the NHL, despite how much the game is changing towards a more fast-paced style of play. The Russian’s years of experience have helped him evolve into a player that can survive even without the fastest first few strides.
The NHL today is a young man’s league, which is why veterans like Markov are showing how adaptability is crucial for long-term success. Many younger players can outskate Markov, but he can outsmart them. This adaptability is a characteristic of a truly special and extremely knowledgeable hockey player.
1: Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Ever the soft-spoken player, Markov never gives the most compelling interviews. He stays rather reserved when it comes to the media and is even seldom heard in the locker room. That said, when he speaks up, people listen…and why wouldn’t they? After 17 years in the NHL, he has seen and heard it all before, which makes his words extremely valuable.
Markov is the type of leader that lets his play do the talking, and it has been that way since his emergence in the league in 2000. Coming in as a young Russian with very little knowledge of the English language, he had to express himself through his on-ice actions. It worked back then, and it has continued to work throughout his lengthy career.
His years of hard work and devoted play have endeared him to the Canadiens’ fanbase, even though many fans have never heard him speak. This goes to show that players without the biggest personalities can still have big impacts on their organizations.
The defenceman’s contributions go much deeper than his 557 points in nearly 1,000 games. After serving as a leader and as a role model to so many of the Canadiens’ younger players over the years, Markov deserves lots of credit. If the Habs are able to pull it together and win it all in the next few seasons, one of, if not the most deserving player on the roster is Markov. A loyal Hab, a true leader and an excellent General, thanks for everything, Marky.
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.