Monday, October 20, 2008

Norris buzz will start heating up

I don't want to become too much of an alarmist, but the buzz among the Montreal media to push Andrei Markov for the Norris Trophy is already starting to heat up.

I've seen this phenomenon in action once before, and the ultimate result was far more unlikely than Markov at least being a Norris nominee because, in all honesty, it would take an injury to Nicklas Lidstrom for him to even be considered.

The last time the Montreal media became fixated on something like this was in 2001-02, when Jose Theodore was single-handedly leading a pretty mediocre Canadiens team into the playoffs. The buzz began somewhere around the end of February that Theodore's play in goal should make him a Hart Trophy candidate, and it continued to build up steam with every game he put a wall in front of the Canadiens net.

We all know how that one turned out, so you can't really underestimate the power of the fifth estate in Montreal.

At this stage of the season, what Markov is doing on the ice is simply remarkable. He was already, in my opinion, the best power play quarterback in the league because of his uncanny ability to not only keep pucks in at the blue line, but turn those failed clearing attempts into scoring chances.

But so far this season, Markov is showing far more than that because every decision he makes on the ice appears to be the right one.

When asked if his top defenceman is not held in high enough regard around the league, Habs coach Guy Carbonneau first said it depends on who you ask.

"He's a bit reserved and he's not flamboyant. Maybe if his name was Avery he'd get more attention," Carbonneau joked. "But if you look at Nick Lidstrom, at the beginning of his career no one talked about him either."

That's a pretty heavy comparison for a coach to make, but Markov's play on the ice is making that inevitable.

Markov has also shown more confidence in his off-ice duties, becoming more comfortable with reporters as he asserts his position as one of the leaders of the team. In the past, Markov limited a lot of his answers to one word, partly because of his limited grasp of English, but mainly because of his guarded personality.

I remember asking Oleg Petrov once what Markov was like with him off the ice because the two of them often went out to eat together early in Markov's career. Everyone assumed Markov didn't like talking to reporters because of his English, but Petrov quickly corrected that impression.

"I know he doesn't talk to you guys," he said. "But he doesn't talk to me either."

Markov's doing a lot of talking these days with his play on the ice, and it's speaking volumes. He, along with Saku Koivu and the two goalies are the biggest reason why the Canadiens find themselves 5-0-1 despite injuries and sometimes listless play.

Monday night was a perfect example, as the Canadiens sleep walked through much of the game until Markov made a play that only he can make when he whiffed on a shot attempt but still had the wherewithal to find Koivu with a blind drop pass for the game's first goal.

"I don't think anyone in the building expected that pass," Koivu said.

Speaking of the captain, that's three straight games with a goal. Not bad for a guy who showed up with a bum foot having missed the hallowed pre-season golf tournament and was supposedly ready to play a support role this season.

"Every team in the league is dug in the trenches waiting for us this year," Carbonneau said. "Saku just decided this was how he would respond."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but is that not how Koivu has responded every time someone has doubted him his entire career?


Topham said...

You talk about the power of the fifth estate in Montreal. But last year they were pressing for a Calder trophy, a Jack Adams and at points a Hart one too. Ditto Calder for Ryder.

Montreal media got their way once, but since the team has come away with nothing.

And, to be fair to Theodore, he fully deserved that Vezina based on stats, and the Hart he snagged thanks to some extremely weak competition from skaters around the league.

Besides, never mind the Norris. I say let's get that Jennings trophy. It used to be property of Montreal.

CheGordito said...

We all know how that one turned out, so you can't really underestimate the power of the fifth estate in Montreal.

You mean the fourth estate. The Fifth Estate is a TV show.

I'm enjoying the blog!

Arpon Basu said...

Oops, absoluetly right on chegordito. Glad to see someone's watching my back

Anonymous said...

i never get tired of hearing markov praised. thanks : )

Cliffster said...

@ topham

When you say that "and the Hart he snagged thanks to some extremely weak competition from skaters around the league" I think that Jarome Iginla would have some thing to say about that.

Don't forget that Theodore won the Hart Trophy on the tie-breaker, with only three more first-place votes than Iginla