Here We Go Again: Markov Suffers Setback in Rehab
We were all wondering not if, but really when it was going to happen. By the looks of it, our fears have become realities, and likely much sooner than anyone had anticipated.
According to Hockey Inside/Out (via Tony Marinaro), Andrei Markov has suffered a setback in the rehabilitation of his knee. Word is that a few weeks back (likely long after Markov signed a new three-year contract with the Canadiens), Markov was diagnosed with water in his knee, the end result of training too hard, and had to have it drained while in the US. Moreover, at the annual Canadiens' golf tournament -- where Markov was sheltered from the media -- Pierre Gauthier himself revealed that the defenseman would not be ready to start the season (if said season began today), and that he's "hopeful" that he'll be ready to go by the season's opener. The end result -- Markov will have to rehab his knee yet again before he can be cleared to play.
Gauthier on the subject of the Russian defenseman and his troubled rehabilitation:
"It's always a risk when you sign older players, first, and it's a bigger risk when you sign older players who have had injuries. But you evaluate that as a calculated risk, and you also evaluate what your options are. In the case of Mr. Markov, he's such a professional, such a hard working person. One of the things that was interesting about his knee is he had absolutely no collateral damage. The ACL was torn a second time, but in a lot of cases with knee injuries there's something else that's gone wrong, like an MCL or some cartilage. In his case it was strictly one band that was ruptured. So we feel pretty good about his prognosis."
We won't begin to question Gauthier's knowledge about knee ligaments, but you can almost feel his uncertain tone while reading the above quote. It only took seven games last season for Markov to re-injure his knee, and that after missing an entire month rehabbing the first injury. Even if Markov is ready to go shortly after the season opener, that risk will once again overshadow his play.
So, what does this mean for the injury-prone defenseman and the Canadiens?
It means that the Habs will likely have to start another year without Markov on their blueline. It also means the Russian defenseman will now have to work even harder to earn the trust of not only the fans, but also management and the team itself, following two surgeries to his right knee in the past three years to repair torn ACL ligaments. On twitter, Marinaro even went as far to say that tensions were very high among the Habs brass following the news, and understandably so after spending $17 million on an injured player.
We all knew that when Markov signed his new contract, he probably wasn't 100% ready to return to action. The deal had been contested by a few fans and people in the media, citing that three years was probably too long a term and $5.75 million a year was probably too much money to go along with it. Personally, I was okay with the deal. Markov is currently in the most tumultuous period of his career, and while few teams would have likely offered him that term or amount, that stability was a symbol of respect for what the defenseman had accomplished with the Canadiens, and what he's obviously still capable of accomplishing while healthy. So, call it a gesture of goodwill for Markov's years of service with the team; one that clearly wasn't present in Josh Gorges' contract negotiations.
The problem, of course, is that Markov isn't healthy, and he may never be the player he once was again.
But under the assumption that he would start the season 100% ready and recovered from his multiple injuries, the risk was one worth taking. The question is whether the Canadiens were right in making that assumption, or whether Markov and his agent -- the notorious Don Meehan -- robbed the Habs blind. Now, the team is stuck with a player who just can't seem to stay out of the infirmary, not to mention a glaring open spot on their back-end which will likely once again cause major problems with how this team does their business. The team let loose two capable top four defensemen thinking Markov would be back.
Last year, when Markov and Josh Gorges were out with knee injuries, Jacques Martin had to make up for those losses by having the entire team play a sheltered defensive style. The result was fewer goals scored, many more one-goal games, and a plethora of pulled gray hairs lining the stands of the Bell Centre. Thankfully, the Habs' veterans stepped up and made up for these two key absences, and P.K. Subban neglected all the pressure and had one of the best rookie seasons this team had ever seen. If you need any more proof of how well the defense performed without Markov, just read my off-season defense rankings.
Assuming that these rumors are true, and that there is doubt cast upon Markov's ability to be ready for the October 6th opener against the Leafs, the questions now rest with the current troupe of defensemen. Roman Hamrlik and James Wisniewski are gone. Hal Gill and Jaro Spacek are a year older and limited in what they're capable of on the ice. The same issues people had with Markov and his health are prevalent with Josh Gorges. P.K. Subban will have to dodge that dreaded sophomore slump the entire year. And only the heavens know what might happen with Alexsei Yemelin.
The Canadiens have yet to comment on the issue, but we'll likely know more by week's end, when the team has their yearly medical tests. But there is already word that Markov's season -- yet alone his ability to start the year with the team -- is now in jeopardy. Fans everywhere can only roll their eyes in disbelief as the team will now have to face the possibility that they will go yet another season without the defenseman they relied to so heavily upon in years past.
Partial Source: Arpon Basu, CTV.com