Thu Sep 15 11:44am EDT
There comes a point with any often-injured player in which the fans' perception turns from "we need him to play 82 games in the worst way" to "if we get him for 40 good ones it's icing on the cake"; when fans just hope the player is in the lineup when it matters most.
Tough to say. When the team rewards him with a 3-year contract worth $17.25 million, the assumption is that it's not for part-time work. Yet his status in the lineup remains in question, following ACL surgery 11 months ago.
Tony Marinaro of Team 990 reported on Wednesday that Markov has suffered a setback from his injury rehab, "diagnosed with water in his knee" and having that knee drained. More to the point, he said the injury occurred through "overtraining." Yikes.
If the season opens without Andrei Markov on the blue line then … well, then the Montreal Canadiens still have a pretty darn good top five. Markov elevates it, for sure, but he played seven games last season and the Habs were seventh in power-play efficiency (19.7 percent).
I would say it would be better if Markov takes his time coming back if it means he is fully healthy. If it's an additional week, a month or even two months of the season missed, so be it. Because Markov's absence used to be a death knell to this team, but that is no longer the case.
It's reached the point where his presence is almost like an enormous bonus, one that takes the Canadiens from mediocre status to the cusp of elite. The last two seasons have shown that the team can at least tread water without Markov, and at best can eliminate an elite squad like the Pittsburgh Penguins from the playoffs without the services of their best defenceman.
A setback for Markov in September is annoying. A Canadiens team without Markov in March and April is a good, but not great contender. His contract adequately compensates him for his level of skill; but maybe "parts of three years" would have been more accurate. Habs fans are just praying they're the most important parts.