Andrei Markov made a bit of Montréal Canadiens history tonight as he tied Guy Lapointe for second for points by a defenseman in franchise history. That's nearly 110 years of history, folks.
He is without a doubt the most underrated NHL player of his generation, having never finished higher than sixth in Norris Trophy voting despite being one of the five best passers in the game (with Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza, Mike Ribeiro and Sidney Crosby) for most of that stretch.
By playing alongside him, Sheldon Souray, Mark Streit, Mike Komisarek and P.K. Subban all had career years that led to signing huge contracts, each with Norris consideration (Subban actually won); Streit did a decent, honest job captaining the New York Islanders upon leaving the Habs, and Subban is a superstar and likely will remain one for the next decade, but Souray and Komisarek could never live up to the expectations their contracts promised - mainly because they priced themselves out of playing with Markov, but also because there wasn't anyone like him where they went.
The General went through a dark period in December 2015 when he split with long-time partner Natalia Streckova, and his play was affected for a month or two, leading many talk radio callers to voice their opinion that he should be traded; they're no longer saying that this year, as he's back to his usual dominating, smart self on the ice, even helping Shea Weber look better than he has in years.
Unfortunately, Streckova died of cancer earlier this year, forcing Markov to travel to Russia to repatriate his twin five-year-old sons during the team's bye week last month.
It remains to be seen how many top-level seasons the 38-year-old has left in him - realistically, he should start slowing down next year and perhaps retire at 40, as a #3-5 defender, following the 2018-19 season. On any other team, he'd see his jersey number raised to the rafters the following October, but the Habs have nearly-impossible standards to meet before one gets that privilege: individual hardware, a Stanley Cup AND a Hall Of Fame nod seem to be the minimum-required elements for that honour. Markov, Team Russia's captain, winner of World Championship gold (2008) and bronze (2005 and 2007) medals and World Juniors silver (1998) and bronze (1997) is not the type to cry his way onto a Norris like Drew Doughty did last year.
He's the consummate team player, always putting the team's success above his own; in that regard, what's missing on his mantle isn't a Norris but a Stanley Cup and Olympic gold. His odds are about the same for each - I'll put them at 10:1 - but you want a guy who's worked so hard at his craft and even harder for it not to show to get his dues. I hope he does.
Here he is wearing the Habs' classic white (now-away) uniform on card #MTL-AM from Upper Deck's 2011-12 Black Diamond set and Double Diamond Jerseys sub-set, sporting his usual alternate captain's "A":