Another Setback For Andrei Markov
Andrei Markov will be going under the knife yet again.
In a press conference held by Pierre Gauthier mere moments before this afternoon's game against the Los Angeles Kings, the General Manager of the Montreal Canadiens announced that the Russian defenseman had suffered yet another setback in his road to recovery, and that he will have to have yet another surgery on his right knee.
The arthroscopic surgery will be performed to scope Markov's oft-injured knee and clear it of debris that has been causing swelling. As it was speculated during the week, when Markov did not accompany the team on their trip to San Jose, the defenseman instead redirected to Los Angeles to see a doctor about the issue. The surgery will take place in Florida sometime next week.
This whole mess of a situation means that it is all but guaranteed that Markov will close out the calendar year of 2011 without having played a single game. In fact, to find any images of Markov wearing a red sweater and skates, you'll have to go back all the way to November 13, 2010, in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes, where he suffered the latest of his major injuries.
Despite the fact that this will be the third surgery for Markov on that right knee, Gauthier remained optimistic about Markov's recovery, stating that the strength of the knee and the new ligament were "strong" and "excellent", and that "Mr. Markov" was in "great shape" overall.
This, of course, comes only three months after Gauthier said that Markov's recovery was progressing nicely at the Canadiens' annual golf tournament, and that he didn't expect the defenseman to miss more than a handful of games to start the season. Incidentally, that was also the first of only three occasions where Gauthier would even bother speaking to the media, including today.
At that same golf tournament, Gauthier changed his tune from years prior, where he would proclaim his goal was to compete for the Stanley Cup, claiming that "even making the playoffs would be a challenge." Clearly, the man was on to something back then, even if his view on Markov and his recovery was clearly myopic.
Now, the question that remains is what led to this severe level of mismanagement from from the Habs? Who allowed for the GM to sign a player to a lucrative three-year contract when it was probably clear that he wasn't 100% ready to start the season with the team? Why is it that Habs fans and media members have to nearly break the Internet before the GM addresses situations that clearly need addressing?
As of this writing and before the game against the Los Angeles Kings, the Canadiens sit pretty in 11th place in the East with a 10-11-5 record, six games under .500. They are only a point out of the playoffs, but they've only won three of their last 10 games, and the schedule won't get any easier for the team in December, often dubbed the month of doom for this team, as it is when they usually take their biggest, toughest and longest road trips.
It has already started nearly disastrously for the team, with losses in Anaheim and San Jose this week, and it won't get much better, with another twelve games for the Canadiens this month after today, seven of which will be on the road, including all games after the 17th and through the holidays. We all know how this normally goes. The Habs don't usually fair well in these kinds of road trips, especially when they're severely unhealthy, and this season, they aren't even playing well at home either. Needless to say, expectations for Habs fans should be fairly low heading into this rough month of games.
It's a little mind-boggling that this is the way things have to go down with this team. It takes over three months to get any sort of update on the Canadiens' premiere and second-most important player, after we were promised that he would likely be back near the start of the season. Now, when we finally got to see him lace up his skates and practice with the team on a road trip, Gauthier shuts it all back down and pushes his return back a month.
There's something wrong with how this team handles its business. You can't go a practice or a post-game scrum without someone in the media asking coach Jacques Martin about the status of his best defenseman, and the answer is usually something along the lines of "I can neither confirm nor deny whether Andrei Markov will potentially be on the shortlist of players to consider maybe or maybe not returning to the ice for the next game."
Well, it's not right. It's one thing to have a little bit of organizational discretion -- that's fine, and something the Canadiens are entitled to. But when things turn into a media and twitter circus the way they have, and when the Canadiens put all their marbles into the Andrei Markov bag, only to have things continuously crumble at their feet, it's simply unacteptable.
I've had many conversations with fans this week about why we should feel entitled to an explanation from management regarding Markov or anything else, franky. It's surprising to find fans STILL accepting of this type of mentality, as well as the mediocrity the Canadiens continue to display. All staying quiet does is rile everyone up, create speculation and just an all-around negative attitude surrounding the team.
And beyond that, you have to wonder whether Gauthier is maybe just trying to hide the embarrassment of admitting he made a mistake by sigining Markov to a three-year contract, when it clear as day that the defenseman wasn't ready to play and had likely already suffered a setback in his recovery.
Instead, we were left wondering what made Markov a better sign than Josh Gorges, who only signed a one-year deal. The argument then was that Gorges had to prove himself following his own knee surgery, as the Canadiens were uncertain whether he'd be able to return to form. Now, after two Markov-less months, and with Gorges not only playing exactly how you'd expect him to play defensively, but also on pace for a record season offensively, we're left wondering what this team is going to do when Gorges hits unrestricted free agency next summer, along with P.K. Subban as an RFA, with two years left on Markov's deal and no reason to believe he'll ever be the same player again.
You know, we give a lot of crap to coach Jacques Martin here at The Checking Line, but the truth is that he may be making the best of the hand he's been dealt. The bigger culprit has clearly been Pierre Gauthier, who, after almost a decade with the organization, has more than become the poster boy for the frustrating decision making of this team.
Let's face facts. The Canadiens are more likely to miss the playoffs than find themselves playing hockey in late April at this point. The GM hasn't been able to plug any holes this team has had this season, and things don't look like they're going to get any better. How long until the "ultra competitive" Geoff Molson steps in and realizes that something has to be done before all of this carries over into 2012-13?