MONTREAL – Much like fine wine, some things just get better and better with age. That’s certainly been the case with Andrei Markov.
At 36 years old, the Russian defenseman will begin the second year of a three-year contract in 2015-16, which will also mark his 15th season in the NHL ranks, all spent with the Canadiens. Needless to say, he’d like the upcoming campaign to be as memorable as the last.
On November 2, 2014, the veteran rearguard joined Doug Harvey in third place among the Canadiens' all-time point leaders on defense, before surpassing the Hall-of-Famer three days later by picking up an assist against the Buffalo Sabres. It’s improbable that Markov will take over second spot on the list next season, as the Russian still sits 80 points back of Guy Lapointe. Nevertheless, Markov has much to be proud of. He’s amassed 492 points in 846 career games, including 50 points in 2014-15 alone.
At Markov’s age, racking up 50 points isn’t something you take for granted. Interestingly enough, it’s his third-highest point-haul since the start of his NHL career, having put up 58 points in 2007-08 and 64 points in 2008-09. This past season, 23 of Markov’s points came on plays in which P.K. Subban also factored in on the scoresheet, tops among any two defenders league-wide. Markov finished 11th in the league in points among defensemen last year, and only one player older than him, Mark Streit, finished inside the Top 10 in that category. Streit collected two more points than Markov to stand 10th in points.
If the Canadiens’ No. 79 is a man of few words – even more so when asked to discuss his performance on any given night – his defense partner didn’t shy away from letting people know just how good Markov really is when he made team history last November.
“Those accomplishments will have their place in the record books for a very long time. Being in the Top 3 as a defenseman on any list of leaders is a big achievement, especially with one of the most prestigious teams in professional sports. He’s special. I admire him,” shared Subban, who credits Markov with teaching him a lot over the years, while also praising his leadership, wisdom and incredible work ethic. “I’m trying to follow his lead as much as possible. I hope I can hit those same marks one day. He really wants to win. He really does. He has a passion for the game and he wants the team to have success. That’s one of the qualities that true leaders possess.”
While Markov clearly enjoyed a stellar season, his comments at the Canadiens’ end-of-season media opportunity didn’t necessarily reflect that.
“Am I satisfied? Yes and no,” offered Markov. “I trained all summer to get better for the season. I’m not looking for excuses right now. I probably need to play better, especially in the playoffs. I’m not happy with the way I played in the playoffs, but I can’t do anything about it now. I can only learn and get ready for next season.”
One of four players sporting an “A” in 2014-15 – along with Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and Subban – Markov has always been a quiet leader in the Canadiens’ dressing room, preferring to lead by example. While general manager Marc Bergevin is steadily spearheading a youth movement in Montreal, Markov will continue to be a good mentor for youngsters like Nathan Beaulieu and Greg Pateryn, just like he’s been for Subban for years.
“We need to work harder,” stressed Markov. “We have a lot of young guys who can be better next season, and they will be. We have to stay positive and look forward. You always have to believe in your team. We’re headed in the right direction. We were good during the regular season, but not so much in the playoffs. That’s life. That’s sports. We’re looking forward and we’re going to work even harder. ”
That being said, what do the Canadiens need to improve upon come October?
“I think we need to improve in many areas. We need to get better offensively. We have to get better defensively,” concluded Markov. “You always have to keep improving.”
That’s something Markov understands more so than most.
Élise Robillard is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.
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