Andrei Markov vs His Peers at His Peak

Richard Wolowicz

Bruce Peter did an excellent job detailing Subban's terrific turn as a top notch defenseman in all situations last year. Here I use the same method to see how a former consensus number one defender in Andrei Markov does by the same measurements in his best season, 2007-08.

Part of the discussion on the Subban resigning is whether he's ready to take the reigns as the teams number one defensemen. In particular, he is compared to the recently recovered Andrei Markov, someone Habs fans had no problem calling a number one defender 3 years ago and who seems to have re-emerged into the spotlight with a 2 goal start to his 2013 campaign.

During 2007-08, Markov was at his best and was a driving force for the Habs' finish as the Eastern Conference's top regular season team. He played 24:58 minutes a night (15th in the league) and was 6th in defensemen scoring with 58 points in 82 games. Impressive stuff on the surface, how well does he hold up as an overall number one? First we'll look at how he got used. Totals are rounded to nearest minute.

Playing Time ES Total ES/G PP Total PP/G PK Total PK/G Total Total/G
Minutes Played 1364 16:37 424 5:10 260 3:10 2048 24:58
League Rank 33 67 4 6 32 57 7 15

Markov was one of the heaviest used defensemen in the league on the power play which seems to have prevented him from playing that much in other situations. He's outside the top 60 in per game minutes on ES and barely in their on the PK but ranks near 30 in both for total minutes. The much larger amount of special teams time in 07-08 seems to make in impossible for even the heaviest used defenseman to be a clear top choice in all situations. Still he's clearly getting used everywhere, even with a bias towards power play work.

As with Bruce, I compare Markov against the top 60 defensemen in ice time for ES and the penalty kill as well as the top 45 defensemen. Only defensemen that played 60 games or more were included in the ranks. Markov is getting pretty similar usage to these players in each situation even if his ES and PK amounts are a bit low.

ES Offense Goals Assists Points G/60 A/60 P/60 On Ice SH% On Ice Goals
Stats 5 18 23 .23 .82 1.07 9.88 2.65
League Rank 22 14 10 11 7 6 12 20

Markov does pretty well on the ES personal numbers, 10th in points and 6th in points per minute are elite numbers. His team's offense looks a little low, especially with such a high shooting%. However, he isn't playing behind any elite forwards. The team looks like it could be getting lucky to some extent with such a high finishing rate.

ES Defense Corsi relQoC Pen Dif. ZS% On Ice SV% GA/60 Corsi/60 relCorsi/60
Stats 0.765 0 42.8 .917 2.83 -9.94 -2.0
League Rank 29 9 15 35 51 57 35

These ES Defensive numbers... aren't good. He's playing in an above average difficulty situation, with average top pairing compitition, average goaltending and low zone starts. But he's getting beat. His goals against are higher than his goals for and his possession numbers are in the negative absolutely and relative to his team. This very much looks like the work of a weak top pairing. Not so bad they shouldn't be part of a top 4, but not strong. Komisarek was his main partner that year and his ineptitude is well documented. That may have been a factor. I do know though that the only pairing partner that Markov was positive on possession on for the 2007-09 period is Josh Gorges. Team may be a factor, but Markov isn't outperforming his top teammate in Roman Hamrlik here.

Giving Markov the benefit of the doubt on linemates, which may be warranted giving how good his offensive totals are, we can say that Markov is likely a solid ES offensive defenseman, but not so great he can carry a ES pairing to be an ES force.

Penalty Kill Points P/60 On Ice Sv% Corsi relCorsi GA On/60 Shots on Net/60 Shot Blk%
Stats 3 0.73 0.885 -80.45 13.1 5.85 72.05 33.01
League Rank 3 1 17 45 3 25 50 27

Markov, again is great with the offense., even when it isn't the primary objective. Otherwise, he looks like his team's clear best PP defender given his relCorsi. But that's barely enough to drag the kill towards average here. He seems to be a good but not great penalty killer.

Power Play Goals Assists Points Points/60 On Ice SH% Corsi relCorsi GF/60 Shots on Net/60
Stats 10 22 32 4.42 17.6 84.7 14.2 9.6 76.1
League Rank 1 8 6 7 2 9 9 2 6

Finally we get to the good stuff. Markov dominated on the powerplay, leading in goals, near the top in assists and points and he's 2nd only to his partner Streit in GF by a miniscule amount. He's dominating on the shot clock too, so this looks like sustainably elite play here.

Its here on the powerplay were Markov creates so much value that you'd have to consider him a number one during this year. Markov was on the ice for 63 PP goals that season, his rate is half again higher then that of his team's second pair (Hamrlik Brisbois) that I'd figure Markov and Streit created at least 20 goals over replacement with the man-advantage. That's about 7 points in the standings on the powerplay alone.

I looking at other points in his career, I think this image of Markov holds up. A good but not great top 2/4 player at even strength and the penalty kill who is very strong at offense and reasonably capable at defense. And the god of thunder with the man advantage.

This is exactly what we saw with Markov again last night against Florida. His pairing played the tough minutes role against a Florida's best players (who aren't that great but not creme puffs either) and we can see from Oliver's scoring chances that he was positive but not dominant in that role on even strength. By that measure, his pairing did what a pretty good top 4 pairing would do in that situation and he was the clear leader of said pairing. But boy did he rip them a new one on the power play.

Seeing this makes it particularly frustrating to see Subban off the team now that Markov is back. Having both of them would probably compliment well, with Subban a strong two-way shutdown presence 5 on 5, particularly with Josh Gorges, and a leader on the penalty kill. Which lets Markov slot into his perfect role, the leader of a 2nd pairing on ES and an unholy terror with the man-advantage.

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