Friday, March 30, 2012

Andrei Markov: 3 Autographed Cards

For the past decade or so, Andrei Markov has been the best - and most consistent - player for the Montréal Canadiens. His savant, instinctive style of play and deft, unbelievable through-3-opponents diagonal passes have made the team's powerplay a force to be reckoned with and a top-5 threat in the league for years. Well, until Carey Price slit his tendon - accidentally, of course - prompting a 2-season streak of freak injuries to occur, and the powerplay to become a joke.

His importance to the team is such that I would have chosen him as team captain after Saku Koivu's departure. He was the best player, he had the longest tenure on the roster, and was coming out of his shell, a long way from the shy introvert of seasons past. He had even shown leadership skills by contesting calls from referees on the ice, and coming into contact with one, and taken to face the press every night.

It would also have been fitting, for such a storied team who played USSR All-Star teams on several occasions to name its first official Russian captain during the Centennial season (Alex Kovalev served as replacement captain in the past few seasons when Koivu went down to injuries).

Speaking of the Centennial, this card from Upper Deck's amazing 2009-10 Artifacts set (card #88) shows Markov wearing the team's home (red) uniform with both commemorative patches on the shoulders: the ''100'' logo on the right shoulder, and the All Star Game logo on the left.
The 2010-11 Artifacts card from UD (card #31) - below, left - also sports the duel patches, while the one on the right, from Panini's 2011-12 Score set (card #255) only has the ''100'' logo on the right shoulder - the picture was taken in the 2009-10 season, when the Habs didn't host the All Star Game (they did so during the 2008-09 season, in February 2009, as the actual 100 year ''date'' commemorated the fact that the team was founded in 1909, split over two seasons because these don't match with calendar years.
I sent Mr. Markov these 3 cards and a fan letter detailing why he was my favourite Hab on February 13th, 2012, and got them all back signed in blue sharpie, with his number (79) added at the end, on March 29th, 2012. Honestly, I didn't think I was getting these back - I thought players with his stature may have been ''too good'' to respond to fan mail. But he did, in 5 weeks' time, during which he also came back to play 8 games so far. And while he looked a little bit rusty in his skating, he retains his position as best passer on the team. And he's acting as a mentor for hard-hitting rookie Alexei Emelin.

With GM Pierre Gauthier gone, I no longer fear Markov will be traded (he's traded away most of my favourite players except Markov, Tomas Plekanec and P.K. Subban) and am confident we'll have a terrific season next year.

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