Can Habs Afford to Let Markov Play at 2012 WC?

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Written by Habsterix, AllHabs.net

Ask any parent and they will tell you that while you love your children, the toughest decisions are often the ones that will, in the short term, hurt their feelings the most. But those parents will all recognize that those tough decisions are for the better of their children. Managing a hockey team does, in many ways, resemble raising a family as the decisions made have a drastic impact on the future of the players and the team, sometimes at the risk of hurting feelings.

PENTICTON, BC. — This past summer, Habs’ GM Pierre Gauthier stuck his neck out and made a decision that could very well end up costing him his job at the end of this season when he signed soon to be UFA defenseman Andrei Markov to a three year, $17.25 million contract. Gauthier was under the impression, from talking to team doctors, that Markov would be ready in time for the beginning of the season or soon thereafter, in spite of his two major knee reconstruction surgeries.

With less than 20 per cent of the season remaining, the All-Star defenseman, who had only taken part in seven games last year and 45 the season before, has yet to suit-up for the Canadiens this season. Taking a precious $5.75 million on the cap hit while not knowing when he would be back are factors that tied Gauthier’s hands to find a replacement when the team was still in the hunt for a playoffs’ spot and could very well end up costing him his position this summer.

With the team all but mathematically out of any playoffs’ hopes, it looks as though Markov is close to being ready to make his much anticipated comeback. As this date approaches, all eyes will be on the Canadiens’ best defenseman — it is crucial for management to see him perform in order to know what to expect for next year and make plans for this summer. After almost two full seasons off the ice and with very little regular training, will he be able to regain the same level of play people remember and expect of him? How will his knee react and how tentative will Markov be when faced with the physical day to day grinding down the stretch?

PHOTO: REUTERS

Still, many fans and media in Montreal are left wondering about Markov’s true motivation to come back at this time. Many remember when, in February 2010, the Canadiens had a very important back to back two-game series against the Philadelphia Flyers, and Markov was injured and could not play. The Habs lost those two games by a combined score of 9-4 and people recall vividly the picture of Markov on the ice the next morning with Team Russia in preparation for the Vancouver Olympics.

Is it remotely possible that Markov could return and want to take part into the upcoming IIHF World Championships? One does not need to claim being a rumour mongerr to know that if given the chance, Markov would take it. If I’m the Canadiens’ owner and management team though, I can see that train wreck coming from miles ahead and I’m gearing myself for a tough decision… which might hurt Markov at other places but his knee. Oh there is no denying the importance, for a player from overseas, to represent his country. But the Canadiens have over 17 million reasons to be cautious with their prized defenseman.

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

En français: Est-ce que les Canadiens peuvent laisser Markov jouer pour la Russie?

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J.D. Lagrange
J.D. is a Senior writer for All Habs as well as Associate-Editor for the French version Le Magazine All Habs, while one of three Administrators of the fan forum Les Fantômes du Forum. He has created the handle Habsterix as a fictional character for the sole purpose of the internet. It is based on the cartoon Asterix of Gaule and his magic potion is his passion for the Montreal Canadiens. How old is he? His close friends will tell you that he’s so old, his back goes out more than he does! He was born when Béliveau lifted the Cup and remembers the days when seeing the Habs winning was not a wish, it was an expectation. For him, writing is a hobby, not a profession. Having moved to beautiful British Columbia in 1992 from his home town of Sherbrooke, Quebec, he started writing mostly in French to keep up his grammar, until non-bilingual BC friends pushed him into starting his own English Blog. His wife will say that he can be stubborn, but she will be the first to recognise that he has great sense of humour. He is always happy to share with you readers his point of views on different topics, and while it is expected that people won’t always agree, respect of opinions and of others is his mission statement. || J.D. est Rédacteur-Adjoint sur Le Magazine All Habs et il est un Rédacteur Principal sur le site anglophone All Habs, tout en étant un des trois Administrateurs du forum de discussion Les Fantômes du Forum. Il a créé le pseudonyme Habstérix comme caractère fictif pour l’internet. Celui-ci est basé sur Astérix de Gaule et sa potion magique est sa passion pour les Canadiens de Montréal. Lorsqu’il est né, Jean Béliveau soulevait la Coupe Stanley et il se rappelle des jours où gagner n’était pas un espoir, mais une attente. Pour lui, écrire est un passe-temps, pas une profession. Ayant déménagé dans la superbe Colombie-Britannique en 1992 en provenance de sa ville natale de Sherbrooke, Québec, il a commencé à écrire en français pour garder sa grammaire, jusqu’à ce que ses amis anglophones ne réussissent à le convaincre d’avoir son blog en anglais. Son épouse vous dira qu’il est têtu, mais elle sera la première à reconnaître son grand sens de l’humour. Il est toujours fier de partager avec vous, lecteurs et lectrices, ses points de vue sur différents sujets, et quoi que les gens ne s’entendent pas toujours sur ceux-ci, le respect des opinions et des autres est son énoncé de mission.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Then there’s the other side of the coin:

    Can the Habs afford waiting until training camp to find out if The Knee can withstand competitive action?

    Late summer UFA signing and in-season trade have proided the CaKa solution with the results that we now know.

    That contract cannot be voided so the question has nothing to do with salary to be paid but on which resources can the Habs rely on come September. One would think the team would like to find out as soon as possible if The Knee passes the test.

  2. Great read,

    I think that Markov playing in WC is inevitable, unless Habs refuse him. The guy hasn’t played 10 games in the last 2 years, and when talking about returning to play even 1 game he gets all teary eyed. I think playing him in WC would really test his knee and silence critics.

    At worst? He plays in WC and gets injured again, which will just prove the point that his contract was yet another big mistake on Gauthier’s part, and that he may no longer be reliable as the top D on this team due to his fragility.

    All that to say I don’t think Markov playing in WC is a bad thing, just a risk that we will end up having to take with him.

    If WC is out of the question, what if he is selected for the Olympics in Sochi? Still a ways a way but it will eventually come up if Markov can return to half the player he was pre-injury.

  3. The February 2010 events didn’t bother me one bit.

    I have no problem with Markov playing in the WC if he is 100% healthy. The mental battle of rehab he has gone through the past two years worry me more than his knee, honestly. He NEEDS to play.

    As for Gauthier, he has done much more fire-able things than signing Markov to a 3 year contract, and that is why he should lose his job, not this.

  4. While I can definitely see the potential positive in seeing Markov play for Team Russia, I truly feel that the negative outweighs the positive in this case.

    Just the opinion of a poor ol’ fan boy here, but I much, much prefer seeing Markov play under the scrutiny and control of the team that pays his $17M than losing that control. The risk is just too high.

    By all means, I’m anxious to see Markov on the ice once again but only with the Canadiens deciding of his ice time, the match-ups he will be facing and the game situations he’ll be put into, while always under the constant follow-up from team doctors. In other words, in a controlled environment. It wouldn’t be the case at the IIHF World Championships. There is just too much on the line. The Habs would have too much to lose and not enough to gain.

Comments are closed.