Despite the fact that the Canadiens opened up their season on a positive note, getting a clutch performance in goal from Carey Price and a last minute overtime goal from Josh Gorges to defeat the arch nemesis Toronto Maple Leafs last night, there is nothing but doom and gloom in the city of Montreal today.

After a seemingly innocuous collision with goaltender Carey Price, the Habs #1 defenseman, and arguably the best player on their roster limped off the ice following the tangle up. Well, it turns out it was not such a harmless collision after all as it was revealed today that Andrei Markov suffered a torn tendon in his ankle, will have to have surgery to repair said tendon, and will be out until after the Olympic break.

The news is an absolutely devastating for the Habs. Predicted to be a bubble playoff team, the Habs’ chances of making the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs just took a huge hit. Markov quarterbacks their powerplay, by far their leading scorer from the back end, their best puck-moving defenseman, and the key to jump-starting their offense, and he plays in all crucial situations. In others words, he cannot be replaced.

Now, no doubt GM Bob Gainey, coach Jacques Martin and the players will feed media and fans the usual stuff about how injuries are part of the game, and everybody will have to be a little bit better to overcome the loss of their best player. However, those are just empty words – Markov’s absence leaves a gaping hole on the blueline and in the locker room, and there is no getting around that.

So what is the solution? If the team can hold it together for the first month of the season there is no reason for Gainey to press the panic button. However, if the team shows signs it can’t properly function without Markov then Gainey will have no choice but try to improve the situation via the trade route. A terrible month of October might very well be the difference between the club making the playoffs, or missing the post-season for the second straight season, an event that would have fans in the city of Montreal howling for blood.

However it plays out there can be no denying that Montreal just became an easier team to play against, and goaltender Carey Price, who looked so good in the opening game against Toronto, is going to have to be just as good going forward to give his team a chance to win without their star.