There were a lot of questions about Andrei Markov coming into the season. Was the player we saw last season the player we would get this year? Was his lack of production in Russia during the lockout a concern? Markov alleviated most of those concerns right away by picking teams apart on the powerplay to begin the year, but there were still questions about his even strength play.
For the most part, Markov has been stellar. He's played the competition that Subban should be playing, which is a problem for the 34 year old Russian. Because of this, his possession numbers while the score is close are very poor in comparison to the team, although he picks it up during other situations.
His possession numbers were above team average to begin the year, and his Corsi still is, but his Fenwick has been struggling to stick around 50% for awhile now as you can see with rolling 10 game averages:
Markov's biggest weakness though, is chances against. He allows the most chances against among defensemen in all three situations, which is likely a result of a combination of playing competition that he shouldn't be playing, and his risky pinches to produce offense.
Markov has been burned by this as well, with the lowest even strength on-ice save percentage of all Canadiens defensemen, which I'm pretty sure is a result of the number of chances he's giving up.
Even with the highest risk/reward ratio among Habs defensemen on the PK, he's been the worst defender to get ice time there, and he's received the second most.
But we can't focus solely on the negatives. Even while allowing a lot of scoring chances and getting below average save percentage behind him, Markov is even on the season in True +/-.
Markov's bread and butter has always been on the powerplay, where he is a force of nature. Compared to last season's powerplay, Markov is producing nearly 2 points per 60 minutes more than the best any Habs player could manage, yet he still ranks third among Habs defensemen in points per 60. I have to wonder how much of this is due to teams focusing on taking away Markov's time and space after he tore teams to shreds over the first few games.
What you get in Markov is a high risk, high reward player.
Markov's elite hockey sense and scoring talent allow him to cover for any defensive inefficiences, and now that Therrien seems to be transitioning Gorges and Subban into the tough minutes role that Markov and Emelin have held for the first half of the season, we should see an improvement from Markov in areas that are suffering now.
Markov is being played as a number 1 defenseman, and a player without Markov's offensive talent with these same underlying statistics would likely be a below average for their position player, but considering the offense he has brought to the table, and that his overall possession is actually above the team average, I don't think you can say he's below average.
Markov gets an average grade for performing a role that he really shouldn't be forced to do.
First half grade: 7/10