There are few constants on a hockey team in this day and age but Andrei
Markov patrolling Montreal’s blueline is one of them. When he has been
healthy – and he hasn’t missed a game due to injury the last two years – he has
been not only one of the Habs’ top offensive defencemen, but one of the better
ones throughout the league as a whole. Will that continue this coming
season or will his age and the added offensive depth on the back end cause his
numbers to decline?
Many expected that Markov would see his ice time cut after averaging over 24
minutes a night during the lockout-shortened campaign. Instead, the
opposite happened. Michel Therrien used Markov as his go-to player in
pretty much every situation and as a result, the 35 year old set a career high
in ice time per game. Markov responded with his best statistical season in
five years, largely due to the fact that he stayed healthy. The downside
to this is that he looked worn down by the end of the regular season; Therrien
decided to scratch him late in the year simply to get him a bit of rest.
Come playoff time, many were expecting his ice time would be cut given how
tired he looked down the stretch. Again, the opposite happened as Markov’s
ATOI jumped by nearly a full minute and he was used in all situations.
Defensively, he had his good and bad moments while he continued to put up
assists at a strong rate. Markov also suited up for Russia in the Olympics
where, you guessed it, he led their defence corps in ice time. If there
was anything to take away from his season, it’s that he is still capable of
being a top pairing, high usage blueliner (even if he was a bit tired at the
end). That played a large part in him
getting a new three year deal in June.
Season Stats: 81 GP, 7 G, 36 A, 43 PTS, +12 rating, 34 PIMS, 2
PPG, 1 GWG, 131 shots, 25:14 ATOI
(Because of the lockout-shortened season, we are pro-rating all of
2012-13’s numbers over a typical 82-game year.)
(Markov missed considerable time due to injury from 2009-10 through
2011-12 which largely skews these averages.)
Markov has to see less ice time this coming season…right? With Alexei
Emelin being healthy to start the year and the expectation that the third
pairing won’t just be flawed 12-14 minute a night players, there should be a
chance for Therrien to knock a couple of minutes per game off Markov’s ice time.
That said, he is still going to be a go-to guy no matter what. The Habs
have some options when it comes to where to play him. They can either
re-unite him with Subban where he spent a good chunk of time last year or he
could be part of the second pairing alongside newcomer Tom Gilbert. Either
way, he’ll have a mobile puck mover as his partner and that can only be a good
In terms of special teams, Markov should still see plenty of powerplay time.
I do wonder, however, if as the season progresses, they try to reduce his
minutes with the man advantage a bit to keep him fresher for other situations.
If one of Nathan Beaulieu or Magnus Nygren steps up, I could see whichever one
of them is playing supplanting Markov on the top unit, dropping him to the
second. While some would prefer that his time shorthanded get curtailed, I
can’t see that happening. With Douglas Murray (who logged a lot of time on
the PK) and Josh Gorges gone, there’s a decent chance that Markov finds himself
playing more in this situation than the 2:30 a night he logged last year.
Despite being one of Montreal’s most consistent defencemen for many years,
there are quite a few questions when it comes to Markov. Can he stay
healthy; how will his age affect his play and overall ice time; how much
powerplay time will he get? These queries make it challenging to forecast
Markov’s overall production. They do, however, suggest that he could be
primed for a drop in points. I don’t expect the drop to be too substantial
though as Markov will still be a high-usage player and anyone playing alongside
Subban on the powerplay is bound to pick up their fair share in assists.
If you look at the last two years, Markov has been a legitimate #1 fantasy
defenceman. Only ten blueliners have picked up more points than he has
over that span while the lone game Markov missed was for rest and not an injury.
I’m not sure he’s trustworthy as a #1 for this season but he should still be a
solid #2. For leagues that have blocked shots as a stat category, move
Markov up in your rankings as Therrien’s system requires his defencemen to get
in the shooting lanes early and often. For those who weigh goals over
assists, you could drop him down a tad as most of his points come via assists
(but that can be said for many defencemen so I wouldn’t worry about that too
much). Markov is a must-draft in all fantasy formats and should be off the
board within the first 7-10 rounds depending on the size of your league.