Andrei Markov’s over usage by Michel Therrien became a big story for the Habs, especially in the postseason where he was clearly worn down. Next season, how much should he be playing in order to prevent that from happening again?
Brian La Rose: I’m not as sold on the ability for Nathan Beaulieu to step onto the top pairing and Alexei Emelin isn’t capable of doing so either so like it or not, Markov is going to still play significant minutes in terms of 5-on-5 play. So for them to cut his workload, they would be wise to scale back his special teams time.
I’d start by looking at his TOI on the penalty kill, playing time that typically is much harder on defencemen than at even strength. Markov averaged 2:30 per night last season and with the likes of Petry, Subban, Emelin, and Pateryn, the Habs could roll a couple of decent units without as much wear and tear on Markov. If they could knock a minute and a half per game off that total, that would make a big difference.
Markov also played 3:14 per contest with the man advantage. If the plan is to have Beaulieu become more of an offensive threat, he needs to play more on the PP. Between him and Petry, Markov’s PP ice time could reasonably drop to two minutes a night.
After those drops in special teams time, Markov’s minutes would come out around 22 per game which for me is ideal. It would allow him to stay with Subban at 5-on-5 to help insulate Beaulieu and Emelin while less time shorthanded alone will save a lot of bumps and bruises. It’s not a huge drop in ice time (and knowing how much Michel Therrien loves him, the cut won’t be all that drastic) but it should be enough to help keep him in better condition come playoff time.
Alex Létourneau: I can’t think of a more spectacularly negative turnaround in recent memory in an established player than that of Markov during last year’s post season. The answer clearly isn’t should ice time be reduced, it’s by how much should it be reduced. With two years left on his contract, the Canadiens are likely praying it was just mismanagement of ice time during the regular season, because if that’s all he has left to offer, that contract is going to draw the ire of many fans and pundits. There’s a lot of depth with Montreal’s blue line, so maybe Bergevin’s thinking rotation with his defencemen. The signing of Petry will take the load off Markov during the season and you’d have to assume Beaulieu will get more ice time, unless he regresses.
So, again, it’s not should the Canadiens reduce his ice time, it’s a question by how much will it be reduced and will he play a full 82 games, or be given some nights off here and there. He played roughly 30 shifts a game at a shade under 25 minutes a game last season. I would be comfortable shaving five minutes off that time and seeing what comes out of it. There’s no reason he should have the 13th most minutes played in the NHL, like he did last year. I think he still has quite a bit to offer, but it would have to be in a reduced capacity to get the best out of him.
Paul MacLeod: It was obvious that Markov was worn out by the playoffs this past season. Given that he played 24-25 minutes per game on average the last two years he should be cut down to no more than 20 minutes per night as they utilize our depth on defence to keep Markov fresh for the playoffs.
Craig Scharien: Markov’s performance in the postseason has been discussed at length; clearly the 36 year old was out of gas and his play demonstrated that. This was somewhat surprising as he had an excellent regular season during which he put up 50 points, good for 11th among NHL defencemen. It is clear that he is still a very effective player, not to mention a tremendous leader on the club, but the key will need to manage his minutes in the upcoming season.
The Jeff Petry signing and emergence of Nathan Beaulieu certainly help in this regard. They give Montreal an excellent second pairing to roll out, thus taking some of the pressure off Markov and Subban. Of course, the one thing they don’t want to do is place a reduction in PK’s minutes – he’s a stud and seems to play better the more he is on the ice. So whether it’s moving Beaulieu up at times to ease some of Markov’s responsibilities or perhaps putting Petry on the first PP unit with Subban – with PK playing on the left so he can get his shot off in the middle of the ice – the Habs will have to find balance and the closer Markov gets to the 20 minute per game mark the better.