As Andrei Markov heads into the final year of his contract in 2016-17, will the Habs look to better manage his minutes? If so, how much will that affect his production? We kick off our annual Fantasy Focus series with a look at the veteran blueliner.
From simply a statistical standpoint, last year wasn’t too shabby for the 37 year old. He finished with his second highest point total since 2008-09 and did so with eight fewer power play points. He also was healthy all year, a rarity on last year’s Canadiens. (In fact, he has missed all of two games the past four years combined.)
However, stats don’t tell the full story with Markov. He really started to show his age as the season progressed and with Michel Therrien not having much faith in Nathan Beaulieu, Markov was asked to play top pairing minutes for most of the season (his ATOI went down just 1:05 from 2014-15). It’s not fair or accurate to say he became a liability out there but his lack of speed was exposed, especially as teams started to attack his side of the ice instead of partner P.K. Subban’s.
Season Stats: 82 GP, 5 goals, 39 assists, 44 points, 38 PIMS, -6 rating, 117 shots, 4 PPG, 0 SHG, 0 GWG, 117 shots, 23:50 ATOI
5 Year Averages
(Because of the lockout-shortened season, we are prorating all of 2012-13’s numbers over a full 82 game season.)
(Markov’s averages are somewhat skewed since he missed the first 69 games of the 2011-12 season.)
As things stand, Markov remains the top left shot defenceman on the depth chart. However, since Shea Weber replaces Subban as the top right shot blueliner, Markov may not be an ideal fit to play with the former Nashville captain. At this stage, Markov is better suited playing with a more mobile defender which would be Jeff Petry in a second pairing role. At this point, I imagine Markov will spend time on both pairings and remain essentially Montreal’s #2 defenceman.
After last season was supposed to be the year that Markov’s minutes were to be cut, now 2016-17 becomes the year where it needs to happen. It’s not likely to happen too much at 5-on-5 and it’s likely that his passes will be teeing up one-timers from Weber with the man advantage. Accordingly, it may be the penalty kill that Markov sees a drop in ice time. It may only be from the top unit to the second one but every little reduction helps. I could also see him getting the odd night off, something that hasn’t been the case much in recent years.
Markov has had or played at a 40+ point pace in each of the last four seasons and as long as he stays healthy, he should be able to do so again in 2016-17. His power play points should get a boost with Kirk Muller back behind the bench and I also think he’ll use his shot a little bit more often instead of deferring to Subban nine times out of ten which is what last season felt like. (Though with Weber’s powerful shot, passing will still be a primary option.) A drop in ice time is likely but given Michel Therrien’s deeply-rooted trust in him, it probably won’t be as much of one as many would like to see.
From a pool perspective, Markov has been in the top 20 in points by a defenceman in each of the last four seasons. While he’s not in the upper echelon of offensive defenders, that level of consistency certainly has its value. In points-based leagues, he should be within the first 20-25 blueliners off the board.
For leagues that have more detailed stats though, his value will take a bit of a dive. Markov’s not a big hitter, nor does he take a lot of penalty minutes. For pools with those categories, slide him down a bit in your rankings. He does, however, block a lot of shots so he can be boosted back a bit for leagues that count blocks.