A fellow Habs fan asked me the other day, "So, do you think Andrei Markov will get a Norris nomination this year?" Without really thinking about it, my immediate answer was "probably not." Then I started to actually consider why that is.
There's no question the man is the Canadiens' MVP. He's not only leading the team in scoring, he leads in icetime as well. He's completely unflappable in his own end and has actually increased his personal power play production over last year, even as the team's PP ranking has dropped. He can make passes that would put the Fonz to shame. He does creative things with the puck that look like they must be choreographed, because how could a guy do that without planning and practicing it first? To top it all off, he has often proclaimed his affection for Montreal and the team's fans and proved it by signing a four-year contract at a discount price. Without Markov, the Canadiens' defence would be very sketchy indeed. But of course, how valuable a player is to his own team doesn't necessarily mean he's worthy of consideration as the best at his position.
League-wide, he's first among defencemen in assists with fifty, which also ranks him tenth overall in that category. His sixty points puts him second among defencemen, seven behind Mike Green. Since he signed his big contract, he's improved every season in terms of points. This year, he's also playing a more disciplined game, accumulating only 36 minutes in penalties. And he's durable, having missed only five games in the last three years. He's hitting more than he used to, with a total of 57 so far this year, to go along with his 110 blocked shots. He's been a starting all-star the last two seasons, and would have made the team easily even without fan votes.
On the negative side, he leads defencemen in giveaways with 99. But he balances that with an impressive 56 takeaways which is the third-highest number among Ds league-wide. Then again, if you look at the other league leaders in giveaways, Alex Ovechkin is tops with 100, Derek Roy has 90, Mike Green 89, Mike Richards 86 and Evgeni Malkin 80. Offensive-minded players take chances and they give the puck away. In plus/minus he's an unimpressive minus one, although some of that can be attributed to the often abyssmal play of partner Mike Komisarek this year.
Overall, there's nothing on the statistics side of things that says Andrei Markov doesn't deserve to be considered among the top three defencement in the league. Stats aside though, Markov is too unassuming to attract a lot of attention. Zdeno Chara has his monstrous size that makes him noticable, even though he's also a quiet type of guy. Nik Lidstrom has his perennial-winner status to offset his quiet efficiency. Mike Green has the huge goal total. Other guys have other reasons why they attract notice. Markov is just quiet, steady, competent and extremely good at his job. But he doesn't shout it from the rooftops, and so the league doesn't notice.
It's too bad, really, because when you think about it, Markov probably does deserve a Norris nod. But in the end, I'm sure he'd take a Stanley Cup instead. And if he continues his stellar play as the Habs defensive anchor and MVP in the next few years, you never know...