After struggling with injuries for parts of four years, Andrei Markov finally got over the hump and played a full season, albeit a shortened one. He also played 21 KHL games before the season began, and despite producing goals and points just like the old Andrei Markov, he caught a lot of flack towards the end of the year.
The problem was that Markov's cumulative injuries to his knees have slowed him down a bit, and as he's gotten older his defensive game has begun to erode. His instincts are still there and he'll make smart plays all the time, but he's so focused on offense that he often leaves his defense partner out to dry, and Alexei Emelin wasn't exactly the best person to do that to.
Another problem with Markov last year was his usage, as Michel Therrien seemed to think that he had 2007-08 Markov, and played him more than P.K. Subban. That shouldn't happen this year, but what can we expect from the aging veteran?
In the following graph, the blue line is Markov's even-strength Fenwick percentage from 2007 to 2013, the red line is his team's even-strength Fenwick percentage without him on the ice, and the green line is Markov's offensive-zone start percentage, giving us insight into his usage and role. All statistics are at even strength, and all are rolling 10-game averages. What this means is that aside from the first 10 points in the graph, every point represents a 10-game sample, giving us a better grasp of trends.
With all that information on one graph, it can look a little messy and be tough to decipher, so I've included trend lines for each statistic. To understand the trend lines, blue turns into black, red turns into yellow, and green turns into purple. The x-axis is simply the games to represent time, and the y-axis is the percentage in decimal form, and the placement of the y-axis is the beginning of the 2013 season.
We can see from this graph that Markov hasn't ever been a very strong Fenwick player, although his 2008-09 season was very solid. Because of this, Markov's performance in 2013 was actually a huge improvement. Part of that was getting much easier zone starts, but it's important to remember that even with those zone starts, Markov was playing against the other team's best players for most of the season.
What's interesting to me about this though, is that even with Subban on the roster, the gap in performance between the rest of the team with Markov not on the ice and Markov himself is actually getting smaller over time. That's a pretty solid sign that he can continue to be an effective even strength player, especially if he gets less ice time this year than last.
It's probably unreasonable to expect Markov to do much more than hang around 50% Fenwick this coming season, unless he's paired with Subban, but his offense should be there as usual. What will go down is his goal scoring. Last season he scored at nearly a 20-goal pace, shooting at nearly 13% as a defenseman. That's not going to last, and you probably shouldn't expect more than 10 goals in total over an 82-game season, with around 45 points.
You may ask why I think Markov's point totals will go down so much, well, the Habs will probably get fewer powerplay opportunities next year, and the powerplay connected at a very high rate last year too. Depending on that for production will lead to a drop.