Doug Harvey is not only a Montreal Canadiens great, he is a hockey legend, and a pioneer of the puck-moving defenseman style of play. Last night, Andrei Markov passed him for sole possession of third place in scoring among all-time Habs defensemen. It is an impressive feat that puts him in some very prestigious company.
Drafted at 162nd overall in 1998, many thanks must go to the multitude of times that other teams passed on Markov, who presumably slid so low due to the 'Russian factor.' The Habs themselves selected five players ahead of him that year. They are, in order: Eric Chouinard, Mike Ribeiro, Francois Beauchemin, Andre Bashkirov, and Gordie Dwyer. They did pick up Michael Ryder later on in the eighth round, but the crown jewel of '98 is clearly The General.
He has some of the best hockey sense of anyone in the game. He put some of it on display Wednesday night when he faked a slap shot and slid the puck by a sprawling opponent to his partner P.K. Subban. His shot could not be contained, and P.A. Parenteau banged home the rebound to give Andrei Markov career point number 448.
He's definitely not done looking for milestones this season either. Sitting at 99 career goals, he'll likely want to hang on to the puck the next time he scores. He's currently the longest-tenured member of the organization, he's a leader in the room despite his quiet, stone-faced demeanour, and he also knows how to celebrate.
He has never been the biggest, fastest, or strongest player who patrols the blue line, but makes up for that in earnest with his hockey sense. If hockey sense could be quantified by a number, Markov would be among the league leaders.
When he went down with a second knee injury in as many seasons in 2011-12, it was unclear as to how much longer he would be playing in the NHL. Knee injuries are scary for any professional athlete, and to have such problems as a recurring issue often spells the end of a career. Markov has come back to his usual self, as his 43 points last season are just below his career average over an 82-game span.
Without knowing how many more seasons are left in his career, it would be somewhat safe to say third place on the Habs all-time list is as high as he'll climb. Regardless of where he finishes, eclipsing a mark set by a great like Doug Harvey is a huge credit, and he now sits between Harvey and Guy Lapointe on the all time list. The only guy above that is Larry Robinson, with a seemingly untouchable Habs record of 883 points. In other words, Andrei Markov is in very, very impressive company.
Three are members of the Hall of Fame, two have their jerseys retired by the Canadiens, and the third will see his raised to the Bell Centre rafters in a few short days. It may be too early to talk of such honours for Markov, but he's currently sitting among heroes of Montreal hockey.
Here's to Andrei Markov. I have been watching him play hockey since I was 10 years old, and I truly hope I have the privilege of watching him finish his career with the Montreal Canadiens.