Looking ahead: Andrei Markov
After opting out of his chance to test the free agent waters last summer by signing a lucrative four-year deal with the Canadiens, Markov was faced with unprecedented pressure last season. The skilled defenseman didn’t disappoint, vaulting himself into the class of the NHL’s elite blue-liners.
As the numbers began to pile up for the Russian defenseman in 2007-08, word began to spread of his vast talent. By midseason, Markov’s star had arrived with the 29-year-old not only being voted an All-Star starter by fans, but also doing so in spectacular fashion. With a total of 316,136 votes, only the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby boasted a higher total on the Eastern Conference side. After scoring a goal in his All-Star debut, Markov will now be looking to become the first Habs defenseman to play in consecutive All-Star games since Larry Robinson did so in 1988 and 1989.
By reaching career highs in both goals (16) and points (58), Markov enjoyed the most explosive season by a Canadiens full-time blue-liner since Chris Chelios piled up 58 assists and 73 points back in 1988-89. The native of Voskresensk, Russia will now be gunning to become the first Canadiens rearguard to post four straight 40-plus seasons since Robinson managed the feat for 14 seasons from 1974-75 to 1987-88.
Despite having logged a team-high and career-best 24:58 last year, all signs point to Markov’s already heavy workload increasing this season, just as it has since 2002-03.
The Hockey News has also hopped on the Markov bandwagon of late, ranking him at No. 31 on their list of the Top 50 players in the NHL heading into the 2008-09 season, with Andrei being the only Canadiens player to make their cut.
Already the quarterback of the league’s top power-play for two years running, Markov may be just starting his rise through the NHL’s defensive ranks.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com
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