2016-17 Canadiens Season Review: The ageless Andrei Markov
The General reviewed his troops, surveyed the opposition, and continued to cement his spot in Canadiens history.
When Andrei Markov first signed his 3-year 5.75 million dollar contract before the 2014-15 season, the term was the biggest cause for raised eyebrows, and I will admit that there’s a little nagging thought in the back of my head every year that says “is this the year he declines?”
That voice was particularly loud this year, as Markov finished training camp without a concrete place on the 1st pairing of a defense corps still reverberating from the aftershocks of the Subban trade.
Faced with all this, Markov went out and had a Markovian season. His 6 goals and 30 assists over 62 games are pretty much in line with his post-lockout seasonal averages. This year, among the 5 defensemen who played the entire season in Montreal (Markov, Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, Nathan Beaulieu, and Alexei Emelin), Markov ranked 1st in SF% and GF%, 2nd in CF%, and 3rd in SCF%.
As noted before, Markov started the season next to Greg Pateryn. That lasted all of one game before Markov was moved alongside Petry. This pairing fueled much of the offensive outburst of November, and continued to enjoy success until Markov’s injury on December 17th, 2016. When he returned, Markov found himself next to Nikita Nesterov for five games before being reunited with Petry to close off the Michel Therrien era. Markov-Petry 2.0 did not enjoy quite as much success, so Claude Julien put his best LD with his best RD, and Markov finished the year next to Weber.
The Markov-Petry and Markov-Weber pairings were nothing short of dominant, putting up statistics rivaling some of the best defense pairings in the league.
In addition, Markov boosted his pairing-mates, and offered consistent play in a Canadiens’ season that was anything but.
The (Four? Five? Six?) Million Dollar Question
A season that began with Nathan Beaulieu under consideration as the heir apparent ended with Andrei Markov as the definitive and undisputed best LD on the Canadiens’ roster. It also ended with Markov an unrestricted free agent.
His performance this season was a clear declaration of his value to the Canadiens roster, and that value is magnified by the possible full-time professional debut of Mikhail Sergachev next season. The savvy General has clearly earned a measure of the benefit of the doubt in regards to his ability to defy Father Time. Yet Markov is 38 years old and playing in a league that, with a few notable exceptions, punishes a lack of foot speed.
Finding market comparables for Markov is a difficult proposition - His 0.59 P/G this year was 15th among defensemen, and there were only two other players over the age of 35 in the top 100: Zdeno Chara, and Mark Streit.
As such, his only real comparable is himself, and any new contract will have to use his expiring deal of 3 years, 5.75 million per year as a baseline. Whatever terms are eventually agreed to - either here or elsewhere - it’s likely that term will be a bigger issue than the actual cap hit.
The General is line for a promotion
At this point in time, Andrei Markov is the Montreal Canadiens’ best left defenseman, and given Beaulieu’s stagnation and Sergachev’s greenness, this is unlikely to change in the immediate future. Re-signing the General should be an urgent priority for Marc Bergevin.
Markov may not be fleet of foot or a physical presence, but his hockey sense, general awareness, and playmaking are still elite, and have been for years. Markov could even be instrumental in improving a long-moribund power play if he is positioned at the top of an umbrella as the set-up man for the Shea Weber. The Habs have been long reluctant to employ this alignment due to the risk of shorthanded breakaways, but trusting Markov to make the right play in the face of an over-committing forward is a risk worth taking, given that he is arguably the smartest player on the team.
Grade Markov’s season