When asked at the team's Brossard training facility today whether or not he would be interested in wearing the "C" in Montreal, Markov surprised everyone when he said, "Nobody’s asked me that. If they ask me that, I’m going to think about it."
Uhh, wait a second. Nobody's asked you? How is that possible? As the team's best player, it's longest-serving player, it's heart and soul and backbone all rolled into one, no one thought to ask Andrei Markov if he would be interested in the Habs captaincy? How can this be?
So, seeing as no asked him, he was asked by us stupid reporters if he would be the least bit interested in taking on the heavy burden of serving as the team's 28th captain, seeing as he would be the most obvious candidate for the job.
"Yeah, I think so," he said. "Obviously it’s a big responsibility. It’s not easy to be a captain in this city."
So am I the only one wondering why exactly Markov wasn't named captain sometime in July, shortly after Saku Koivu officially signed with the Anaheim Ducks? Is there any reason why he wouldn't be considered an appropriate choice? And don't start talking to me about Markov's quiet nature. Joe Sakic was not one known for his gift of gab, either with teammates or reporters, and no one would suggest he was a poor captain because he took care of his leadership responsibilities where it counts - on the ice.
Hell, the GM of the team was a strong silent type, but Bob Gainey's hold on the Canadiens during his time as captain was unquestioned.
And when it comes to dealing with reporters, I can tell you that Markov has embraced that part of the job over the past couple of years. On Wednesday, for instance, the Habs didn't practice and instead held some off ice workouts. The Canadiens PR staff made four players available to the approximately 20 media members on hand: Georges Laraque, Mike Cammalleri, Benoit Pouliot and Markov. Not only did Markov tolerate us, he hung around and welcomed wave after wave of reporters for about 20 minutes.
He's a different breed of athlete when it comes to dealing with the media because he doesn't simply throw out stock answers learned in media school during training camp. He actually thinks about the question posed to him and answers it.
But really, I feel the media responsibilities of the captain are overblown by the media, because we have a tendency to believe we're far more important than we actually are. Just look at what I wrote about Markov's graciousness today. He spent 20 minutes talking to reporters, and that was an eternity. Most of the time, interviews take about five minutes, and you're done. No big deal. Admittedly, I could see how doing that every day might get annoying, but to the point where you would turn down the captaincy of the Montreal Canadiens? I don't think so.
The most important people when it comes to picking a captain are not the members of the media, but rather the members of the team. And in that regard, if Cammalleri is to be believed, Markov's choice as captain would be a slam dunk in the Habs room.
“His leadership capabilities are evident whether or not he has a letter on his chest," said Cammalleri, who might not make such a bad choice himself. "He definitely leads by example and his play is inspiring for anybody on this team.”
Early in the season, it was reported that Markov had turned down the captaincy, something he denied at the time and continues to deny today. I just wanted to make sure I heard him correctly and that he wasn't joking when he said he would be interested in the job, and when given a chance to speak without a thousand microphones in his face, Markov said something that convinced me he is captain material.
"Right now it's not that important to pick a captain," he said. "Right now, what's important is our game. We need to play better and move up the standings."
If that's not captain material, what is?
Though Markov's revelation stole the show on a very quiet day in Brossard today, I was actually there hoping I would get to speak to Tomas Plekanec regarding Gainey's comments on his impending free agency and the ability of the team to sign him. Plekanec, through the Habs PR department, declined the offer to discuss his contract. Still, I managed to write something about his free agent status anyway, which is a skill you learn after a few years on this job. You can read what I wrote here, but what I couldn't write on a mainstream forum was my interpretation of what Gainey told reporters amid the security of downtown Washington D.C. Tuesday night.
When discussing the ability to fit Plekanec under the cap, Gainey had this to say: "We see the cap in terms of hard numbers, but things shift, whether it’s the cap going up or the cap going down, whether it’s a player leaving through a different fashion that opens up space or acquiring a player that closes up space. It’s a shifting target."
Did you see that, or am I the only one? That bit about "leaving through a different fashion" sounded, to my ears at least, like "leaving via buyout." Because let's be honest, Gainey will have to be very creative to find a way to get both Plekanec and Carey Price under contract while filling out the rest of the roster as well.
I don't think it's a stretch at this point to assume that Georges Laraque will fall prey to the buyout hatchet, but who else? If you're guessing Hall Gill, I would say you're guessing wrong because his value as a penalty-kill specialist is pretty valuable. It would have to be someone that could be considered expendable and who makes a significant amount of money, and the one person who fits that bill would be Roman Hamrlik.
With one year left on his contract once this season comes to a close, Hamrlik could actually be traded. But I doubt too many teams out there are seeking a 36-year-old defenceman, no matter how capable, making $5.5 million. If he were to be bought out, it would knock roughly $3.7 million off of Montreal's cap figure for next year, which wouldn't cover all of Plekanec's contract but probably enough to make sure both he and Price would fit.
Question is, what will the Habs blue line look like without Hamrlik there? Probably a lot better than the front line would without Plekanec.