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Elite company

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – By the time he decides to hang up his skates for good, Andrei Markov’s name will be forever etched alongside the exalted company of the likes of Maurice Richard, Guy Lafleur, Guy Lapointe and Guy Carbonneau.

At 37 years old, Markov continued his upward trajectory through the ranks of the Montreal Canadiens’ record books in 2015-16. Not only did the veteran defenseman surpass the 40-point plateau for the seventh time in his career, he also did so without missing a single game this season.

Nevertheless, the stoic leader still expected more from himself.

“I didn’t like our team’s results this season, but I believe in this group and I believe we can be much better next season. Sure, I’m happy to have played in every game this year, but it’s hard to be pleased about personal success when the season didn’t go according to plan for our team,” responded the matter-of-fact defenseman, when asked why he wasn’t content with an otherwise statistically-impressive season.

The Russian rearguard’s determination to deflect the spotlight away from his personal success might sound surprising, but fellow blue-liner Nathan Beaulieu expected nothing less from the Habs’ candid leader.

“That response just sums up Marky. I think the season he had was actually pretty impressive, especially considering his age and everything he’s had to go through. I know he’s coming from a team aspect, but to have a season like he did at his age is remarkable,” noted Beaulieu, who lists Markov among his greatest influences since being called up to join the big club for the first time in 2012-13. “Marky has done a lot of great things here, and I’ve personally learned a lot from him during my time in Montreal. The way he played this year, I still think he has another two or three years still left in his tank. It’s been great for me just to be able to watch him play and learn from him on the ice.”

A peek into the pages of the team’s history books reveals that Markov’s name can be found on the same leaderboards as some of the greatest defensemen in NHL history.

This season included a few historic nights for the sixth-round pick from the 1998 NHL Draft. On March 16, 2016, the Habs travelled to Buffalo with the three-time Olympian poised to attain another milestone. By the time the Canadiens left the First Niagara Center at the end of the night with a 3-2 victory, Markov had pulled even with the great Serge Savard for ninth spot on the franchise’s all-time games played leaderboard after suiting up for his 917th career game in bleu-blanc-rouge. Guy Lafleur (961) is the next legend in the veteran blue-liner’s sights, having played only 33 more games than Markov over the course of his Hall-of-Fame career.

With regards to where Markov ranks on a league-wide basis, the Russian rearguard presently holds the 12th longest tenure with a single NHL franchise among all active players.

Less than a month later, the team hit the ice for the regular season finale against the Tampa Bay Lightning on April 9. When Markov collected his first of two assists on the night – his 38th helper of the season – the career Hab actually surpassed the legendary Maurice Richard to take sole possession of eighth place on the Canadiens’ all-time assist leader list.

In terms of where that leaves Markov in the discussion of the best Canadiens of all-time, let’s just say that whenever you bring “The Rocket” into the conversation, you know you’re in select company.

Heading into the off-season, the assistant captain has shown no signs of slowing down as the 2016-17 season approaches. With one year remaining on his current contract, Markov has the chance to keep the custodians of the Canadiens record books busy next season.

Over his 15-year NHL career, Markov has established himself as a staple on the Canadiens power play, currently ranking second on the franchise’s all-time power play points list. He is now just six points shy of passing Larry Robinson to become the most prolific power play quarterback in Canadiens history.

“It’s not easy to score goals in the NHL nowadays. The goalies are too good and the teams are too well-prepared. You have to analyze that and figure out ways to score goals. I think we need to be hungrier out on the ice; hungrier to score goals and hungrier to win games. We need to bring our best every night,” underlined Markov, who officially earned his Canadian citizenship on July 16, 2010.

There is even more promise on the horizon in 2016-17. Should the two-time NHL All-Star manage to reach the 40-point plateau again next season, he will surpass Guy Lapointe for second on the club’s all-time points list for defenseman and will edge out Guy Carbonneau to rank 19th in total points collected by any player in Montreal Canadiens history.

“We have a great coaching staff and management team. I think everybody here is disappointed with this season. We just have to regroup,” concluded the NHL’s active leading scorer among all Russian-born defensemen.

Markov still has another 274 games to go to match Robinson for top spot on the games played list for defenseman, but as Alexei Emelin learned the hard way, Markov surely stands alone atop the list of most terrifying stare down opponents in Canadiens history.

Jared Ostroff is a writer for canadiens.com

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