Why Andrei Markov Can Be a Force for the Montreal Canadiens Next Season

Nicholas GossCorrespondent INovember 21, 2012

VANCOUVER, CANADA - MARCH 10: Andrei Markov #79 of the Montreal Canadiens skates with the puck during NHL action against the Vancouver Canucks on March 10, 2012 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Rich Lam/Getty Images

When the new NHL season begins and the lockout is behind us, Andrei Markov will be expected to play an important role on a Montreal Canadiens blue line that struggled last season.

The veteran defenseman was only able to play in 13 games last year and seven the season before that due to injuries, and his absence created a void on the Canadiens' blue line that the team wasn't able to fill.

When he's healthy and able to play on a consistent basis, there aren't many defensemen who are more productive offensively than Markov.

The Russian star has scored 46 points or more in every season since the 2004-05 lockout in which he's played 65 or more games. In addition to his powerful shot from the point, Markov can also move the puck well and quarterback the power play.

For the Canadiens to have success and compete for a playoff spot in a Northeast Division that includes several high-scoring teams with top-tier goaltenders, they need Markov in the lineup on a regular basis.

Not only will Markov be a tremendous boost to the Canadiens offense, he will also make a major impact defensively.

He has good size (6'0" and 201 lbs.) and is one of the most physical players on the Montreal roster. The Canadiens didn't play with enough truculence and toughness last season, and the return of Markov will definitely change that.

He's the only shutdown defenseman that the Canadiens have and can be relied on to play 20-plus minutes against the opposing team's best forwards each game.

Even though they dealt with injuries to goaltender Carey Price and several defensemen last season, the Canadiens were in the top half of the league in GAA, so with Markov healthy, they could be a tough team to score against this year.

Another area of the game that Markov helps the Canadiens in is leadership. As an alternate captain, he has no problem being in a leadership role, and when he's on the ice, Montreal is well-organized. His veteran presence is also important late in games because he handles high-pressure situations very well.

Markov's two-way ability and leadership will have a positive impact on the Canadiens during the 2012-13 season.

His health is vitally important to the team's success because if he can play in 75 percent or more of the team's games, Montreal will be much improved and could earn one of the last few playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.