The General: Andrei Markov

Photo: Bernard Brault, Lapresse

Photo: Bernard Brault, Lapresse

If you’re a betting man, chances are, you’ve lost your fair share of money so far this season. Nobody could have predicted the starts the Blackhawks, Ducks, Devils, Leafs and Habs have had. I’m sure we all knew that Ovechkin’s Capitals, the Rangers and the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Kings would struggle this much to start the season. Patrick Marleau, Thomas Vanek, Craig Anderson and Saku Koivu came out the gate like the bulls do in Spain. The “back-up” role Roberto Luongo has embraced so far is proof that in the NHL, anything can happen.

The General Andrei Markov started the season as one of those pleasant surprises. Number 79 came storming out in the first 6 games recording 8 points. The Habs powerplay was dynamite with Markov on the point. All 10 of Andrei’s points this season have come on the powerplay. Markov’s last 5 games however have been a different story.

With just 2 points in his last 5 games to go along with a minus 1 rating, it seems as though Markov has come back down to earth. Andrei has been making numerous mistakes lately at both ends of the ice. Bad pinches, poor positional play and missed passes have been traits of Markov’s game as of late. These mistakes have hung Alexei Emelin and Carey Price out to dry on numerous occasions, with more than a few of these odd-man rushes resulting in goals against.

It seems we all pumped Markov’s tires a little too full. No one can argue his early season success, but we all simply cannot look over the solid early play from Raphael Diaz, Tomas Plekanec and Carey Price. Analysts have pointed the Habs quick start to the play of Andrei Markov, but placing all the praise on number 79 is just not accurate. So many other players on the Habs roster deserve high praise as well. Rookies Galchenyuk & Gallagher, tough guy Brandon Prust, solid defense from shot block leader Josh Gorges and hitting leader Alexei Emelin definitely deserve high praise and credit for the Canadiens’ start out of the gate.

Markov played 21 games for Chekhov Vityaz of the KHL during the lockout, recording only 1 goal and 4 assists for 5 points. While some say Andrei was playing to get his knee strengthened and ready for the NHL level, it’s hard to make sense of his low point production in the KHL. Yes Vityaz wasn’t a strong team this year in the KHL, but Markov has already doubled his KHL point total in half the games so far this year in the NHL. Was he playing cautious or scared ? One could argue the fact that he was working on his defensive game, but that doesn’t say why he struggled to produce offensively. Since exploding with 8 points in the opening 6 games, I would suggest that the reason for Andrei’s recent “slump” is nothing more than him coming back to reality.

The General’s age and condition is certainly coming into play. Markov clearly is an elite NHL defenseman but, his best days are behind him. Andrei’s 64 points in the 2008-09 season was the best season in his career, and the year before he recorded a career-high 16 goals. After the first 6 games of this season, Markov showed signs of his old self from 2008-09 but now with PK Subban back in the lineup, Andrei his faded back into the passer on the powerplay.

In my opinion, Michel Therrien needs to shuffle the defense pairings to serve the team better. PK Subban simply is not a 3rd pairing defenseman. Therrien has to realize that Markov needs a more defensive partner, because the only time number 79 is effective, is when he is putting up points. Markov’s struggles pinching, passing and playing without the puck in his own end however, shows the need for a more defensive partner.

PK Subban and Josh Gorges need to be reunited and form the Habs top shut-down pairing. Markov’s offensive style of play would fit well with Francis Bouillon’s soild defensive game. Leaving the 3rd pairing Diaz & Emelin. These two NHL sophomores fit eachother’s styles very well. In my opinion, these pairings would shelter Markov from tougher competition, while not overplaying him. The bottom line is that PK Subban deserves top pairing minutes, and he and Markov are the perfect fit for eachother on the powerplay.

This again is my opinion, but please let me hear what you think. Leave a comment and follow me on twitter @Di_Stefano45

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