Commentary

The Thin Blue Line: Replacing Markov

Updated: November 17, 2010, 5:46 PM ET
By Victoria Matiash | Special to ESPN.com

To exploit one of Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra's oft-quoted expressions, it's like deja vu all over again.

At the very start of the 2009-'10 season, Andrei Markov suffered a lacerated ankle and was scheduled to sit on the shelf for three months (he returned a titch early). To plug the hole on the blue line, the Montreal Canadiens enlisted the help of Marc-Andre Bergeron. The 30-year-old power-play specialist filled in nicely, collecting 34 points in 60 games, including a whopping 22 with the man advantage.

Which brings us to the here and now. With Markov out for the rest of the regular season with a badly injured knee, the Canadiens may contact the free agent Bergeron once again. Speaking to La Presse Montreal over the weekend, Bergeron's agent, Paul Corbeil, implied he hadn't heard from the Habs yet, but wouldn't be surprised if the team communicated with him in the near future. Bergeron, himself, is still recovering from his own serious knee injury, but should be ready to skate sometime in December.

Of course, there are some differences between this case and last season's situation: primarily, the presence of P.K. Subban. With Markov inactive, the youngster will be counted on even more heavily to contribute offensively at even strength and on special teams. But the Habs still need more help and there's no reason they wouldn't turn to a familiar (and inexpensive) face.

However, should the Canadiens take another direction, there's still plenty of other interest in Bergeron. The Anaheim Ducks and Tampa Bay Lightning are among teams rumored to be keen on the defenseman once he's fit to play. So, one way or the other, Bergeron is set to become a fantasy asset again in the not-too-distant future. He's available in the overwhelming majority of ESPN.com leagues at present, but you may not want to wait too long.

Rising and Falling

Top 75 Defensemen

Note: Victoria Matiash's top 75 defensemen are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. ESPN standard stats include goals, assists, power-play points, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Mike Green, Was (1)
2. Dan Boyle, SJ (4)
3. Duncan Keith, Chi (2)
4. Zdeno Chara, Bos (3)
5. Chris Pronger, Phi (5)
6. Christian Ehrhoff, Van (6)
7. Drew Doughty, LA (7)
8. Nicklas Lidstrom, Det (9)
9. Sergei Gonchar, Ott (10)
10. Tobias Enstrom, Atl (13)
11. Lubomir Visnovsky, Ana (12)
12. James Wisniewski, NYI (11)
13. Dustin Byfuglien, Atl (19)
14. Alex Goligoski, Pit (14)
15. Bryan McCabe, Fla (16)
16. Kimmo Timonen, Phi (17)
17. Ryan Whitney, Edm (20)
18. Tomas Kaberle, Tor (15)
19. Shea Weber, Nsh (18)
20. Stephane Robidas, Dal (21)
21. Alexander Edler, Van (22)
22. Jack Johnson, LA (25)
23. Joni Pitkanen, Car (23)
24. Kris Letang, Pit (29)
25. John-Michael Liles, Col (31)
26. Erik Johnson, StL (24)
27. Jay Bouwmeester, Cgy (27)
28. Niklas Kronwall, Det (28)
29. P.K. Subban, Mon (34)
30. Anton Stralman, Cls (26)
31. Ed Jovanovski, Pho (30)
32. Marek Zidlicky, Min (33)
33. Dennis Wideman, Fla (35)
34. Michael Del Zotto, NYR (32)
35. Brian Rafalski, Det (39)
36. Joe Corvo, Car (36)
37. Brent Burns, Min (37)
38. Brian Campbell, Chi (42)
39. Mark Giordano, Cgy (41)
40. Pavel Kubina, TB (38)
41. Brent Seabrook, Chi (46)
42. Kurtis Foster, Edm (43)
43. Keith Yandle, Pho (48)
44. John Carlson, Was (44)
45. Victor Hedman, TB (40)
46. Tyler Myers, Buf (47)
47. Paul Martin, Pit (45)
48. Carlo Colaiacovo, StL (64)
49. Erik Karlsson, Ott (60)
50. Roman Hamrlik, Mon (61)
51. Dennis Seidenberg, Bos (50)
52. Cody Franson, Nsh (56)
53. Matt Carle, Phi (51)
54. Ryan Suter, Nsh (54)
55. Zach Bogosian, Atl (49)
56. Dion Phaneuf, Tor (58)
57. Filip Kuba, Ott (68)
58. Jordan Leopold, Buf (62)
59. Kevin Bieksa, Van (53)
60. Alex Pietrangelo, StL (52)
61. Francois Beauchemin, Tor (55)
62. Ian White, Cgy (57)
63. Michal Rozsival, NYR (59)
64. Brett Clark, TB (69)
65. Jason Demers, SJ (65)
66. Adrian Aucoin, Pho (66)
67. Cam Fowler, Ana (67)
68. Matt Taormina, NJ (63)
69. Toni Lydman, Ana (NR)
70. Andy Greene, NJ (70)
71. Jaroslav Spacek, Mon (NR)
72. Jamie McBain, Car (72)
73. Anton Babchuk, Car (73)
74. Marc-Andre Bergeron, FA (NR)
75. Daniel Girardi, NYR (75)

Carlo Colaiacovo, Blues (up 16 spots): Oh, if only he could stay healthy! After missing seven games with a concussion, Carlo Colaiacovo returned with a rosy-cheeked vengeance on Monday by scoring a goal and an assist against the Colorado Avalanche. The most productive defenseman on the St. Louis Blues' roster, Colaiacovo commands more minutes with the extra skater than any other member of the blue line. The 27-year-old would be a top-30 fantasy asset if he wasn't so easily hurt.

Tomas Kaberle, Maple Leafs (down three spots): Don't blame Tomas Kaberle for this season's ordinary fantasy performance; it's not his fault. Tuesday's explosion for five goals against the Nashville Predators being the glaring exception (read: fluke), the Maple Leafs haven't scored much as a unit and own a stinking 2.35 goals-per-game average. Regardless of how capable he is, there's only so much a puck-moving defenseman like Kaberle can do when there isn't the scoring talent up front.

However, Kaberle remains in the top 20 because the immediate future isn't all doom and gloom; Kris Versteeg is starting to get comfortable, playing the point on the team's top power-play unit, and Dion Phaneuf is due back shortly (see below: injury notes). Or, in the best fantasy scenario, there's still the chance Kaberle could be traded to a contender before we hit the dead of winter.

Brent Seabrook, Blackhawks (up five spots): Usurping pal Duncan Keith on the Blackhawks' top power-play unit, if only temporarily, Brent Seabrook merits a slight boost in value. Three of four recent points were earned with the extra skater. One of the better all-around defensemen in the league, Seabrook is on pace for his most productive season yet, averaging a point every second game. His ice-time average of over 25 minutes doesn't hurt either.

Key injury notes:

Dion Phaneuf may start skating as early as next week. Phaneuf sustained a deep laceration to his leg on Nov. 2 that required surgery; he was originally scheduled to be out 4-6 weeks. The outside wound has apparently healed quite nicely and the inside "bits" are on the mend as well.

New Jersey Devils' defenseman Matt Taormina will miss Thursday's game with a not-too-serious ankle injury. Consider Taormina day-to-day.

Potent Pairings

Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom, Thrashers: As lethal a duo as you'll get on the blue line, Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom are not slowing down. With 16 and 15 points respectively, Byfuglien and Enstrom have been more productive than many fantasy favorites at the forward position -- including Jonathan Toews, Phil Kessel, Matt Duchene and Marian Hossa. If your fantasy roster has an excess of talented center men and wingers, why not offer a trade for either Byfuglien or Enstrom? You want to make the most of every active position, and this could be one way of doing so.

Power-Play Performers

Sharing power-play minutes with Sergei Gonchar and Filip Kuba, Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators has smartened up considerably since the start of the season. The 20-year-old Swede still has a tendency to make boneheaded decisions and take undisciplined penalties, but that's all part of the learning process. With just one point to show for his first six games, Karlsson has found his groove since, and has 10 points in his past 12 contests -- including five with the man advantage. The young blueliner is still available for the taking in a few ESPN.com leagues.

Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey expert for ESPN.com