When the Montreal Canadiens take to the ice this season, someone other than Saku Koivu will be wearing the "C" for the first time in nine seasons. It will be an unusual sight for fans, as Koivu has been the face of the franchise throughout his captaincy. But change is inevitable in the world of hockey, and a new leader must be chosen.
That leader should be Andrei Markov.
Since entering the league in the 2000-2001 season, Markov has quietly become one of the best defenseman in the NHL.
The two-time all-star has been increasing his point totals almost every season since joining the Canadiens, and when he had a career year of 58 points in 2007-2008, many cast this off as a fluke due to the Habs's dominant power play that year.
But Markov went out and proved those doubters wrong.
Even with a putrid power play that wasn't even a shadow of its former self, Markov went out there and had another career year, posting 64 points. Had he not fallen to injury near the end of the season, he would have surely reached the 70-point mark.
A native of Voskresensk, Russia, Markov plays a very quiet game, and his patience with the puck is simply amazing. He almost never makes a bad play, and if he does, he is solid enough defensively to clean up the mess. He is also a force on the power play, his main assets being his excellent vision and his rocket of a slap shot.
Markov's cool demeanor and seemingly untouchable calmness would be a great example for the rest of the team to follow. Although he is quiet and doesn't speak English that well, the Russian's play will do all the talking for him.
While many of the Montreal faithful will clamor for Maxim Lapierre to be the next captain, Lapierre's inexperience is the only thing that will keep him from getting the "C." Also, it would be unfair for Markov, who has been part of the Canadien's organization since 1998. He has also been the team's best player for the past four seasons.
Although Markov plays a quiet, yet effective game, he breaks the old stereotype that Russians play without passion. He plays an inspired game, and even though he doesn't let his emotions get the best of him, he will step up and defend his teammates when he has to.
It's finally time Markov got his due, and he is just beginning to get recognition throughout the league as an elite defenseman.
He is up there with Lidstrom, Boyle, Green, and Niedermayer as the league's Tier one defensemen. So why not give this guy the captaincy, and finally have the best player on the team also be the leader of the team. Starting this fall, the Canadien's will have a new face to the franchise.
Let the Markov regime begin!