Daniil Markov was a steal by the Toronto Maple Leafs when they drafted him 223rd overall at the 1995 draft after the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season in which he had played alongside Pavel Bure and Alexander Selivanov on the famed Moscow Spartak team.
He was an okay point producer - 147 points in 538 regular-season NHL games, 14 more in 81 postseason games, and 36 points in 208 regular-season games in Russia, 8 more points in 34 playoff games in the old country - but his main strength was his defensive play and the fact that he was a total team player, willing to drop the gloves against much bigger and stronger opponents and blocking shots in an era where it wasn't a wide-spread practice.
But like many of Pat Quinn's Leafs (I'm thinking of Shayne Corson, Darcy Tucker, Dave Andreychuk, Ed Belfour and Gary Roberts in particular), he had a pack mentality where he felt much tougher than he was because he knew that any of the other 20 brutes playing on his team could step up if he ever got in trouble.
Which is why many mostly remember his time in Toronto for this move:
Sure, it's hard to imagine these days when he's the affable Father Time and the feel-good story of the post-Teemu Selanne years, but Jaromir Jagr was once considered a bit of an egotistical brat, a show-boater, and a bit of a dick; his post-goal salute enraged many, and Markov was one of them. What happened in the video above was that Jagr had tied the game - the series clencher - at the end of the third period and did his salute; the Leafs wanted to make him pay, and Markov made sure the move didn't go unnoticed. (Note to "Danny": if you have to repeat the move three times, the main effect has been lost).
What had to happen next did: the Leafs were eliminated in the next round by the Buffalo Sabres, a sight their fans may get more and more familiar with in the next few years. As we all know, Toronto has a knack for beating the Ottawa Senators up in the postseason and, well, little else. They haven't won the Stanley Cup since 1967 - the final season of the Original Six era, and the NHL's 50th anniversary; the league's gearing up for its 100th, next year.
Markov played with the Leafs for four seasons and did well there, as I've mentioned, but it was in his next two seasons, with the Phoenix Coyotes, that he was a force, one of the best shut-down defenders in the West. He could not repeat the recipe for the rest of his time in North America, suiting up for the Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers, Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings in the next three seasons before returning to Russia, where he would play until 2013-14.
Here he is, wearing the Leafs' late 1990s blue (away) uniform with the 1998-99 patch commemorating the closing of Maple Leaf Gardens (the team moved to the Air Canada Centre mid-season), in a game against the Edmonton Oilers at what was then known as the Skyreach Center:
Markov has won Olympic bronze (2002) and World Championship gold (2008) medals; it was at the 2008 Worlds in Québec that I would have had him sign it in blue sharpie, with his uniform number
(55) tagged at the end. It's a beautiful all-foil card, save for the
fact that it's a Leafs card.