There’s a specific reason why I waited a little bit to address the comments Alain Vigneault made about J.T. Miller yesterday. First, there was a ton of over reaction from the majority of the fan base, and we wanted to let that subside. Second, I wanted to let the comments settle in before I addressed them. If you missed the comments, AV called out Miller’s work ethic and commitment:
“He just hasn’t earned the right to be at this level on a regular basis,” Vigneault said, hours before the Rangers-Avalanche match. “He needs to show more commitment on the ice and off. Until he does that, he hasn’t earned the right.”
“J.T. has to figure it out, and hopefully he will,” Vigneault said. “When he does, we’re going to have a good player. If he doesn’t, he will be a good minor league player.”
Let’s not sugar coat this, these words are a clear message to the former first round pick. You have to work hard on and off the ice to succeed at this level. It’s a lesson that all kids must learn. But that’s just it, a lesson.
Miller has been called up five times after starting the season with the club, and sent down after all six stints with the team. Around these parts, he’s been dubbed the yo-yo. But it’s not about giving the kid ice time, he’s proven he can’t play without the puck yet. His play with the puck is pretty decent, sporting a 51% Corsi-For (-2.3% CF% relative) over 59% offensive zone starts. It’s not great, but it’s certainly not terrible.
His problem has been his play without the puck. He misses assignments, he gets caught out of position, and he generally looks lost on the ice when he’s without the puck. In this regard, AV is right. He needs to show more in all three zones in order to be an effective NHLer.
Don’t these problems sound very familiar? They should. They were Chris Kreider’s problems in his first full pro season last year.
There’s a specific reason why Kreider is mentioned here. He’s the darling child of the fan base this year following his breakout season. All seems to be forgotten. It wasn’t about “being used properly.” It wasn’t about “getting ice time.” It was about his play without the puck. It always was. This was no different from the position Miller is currently in.
But yet, the comments from AV seemed to strike a nerve. People started calling Miller a bust, which is just silly. Miller turned 21 years old less than a month ago. When was the last time someone who was under 25 was a certified bust? The correct answer here is no one. Players need time to develop. Miller is no different.
AV was simply giving Miller some tough love. The kid has the tools to be an NHLer, and everyone knows it. He’s shown flashes of brilliance, but he needs to string it all together into some consistent three-zone hockey. Until he does that, he will continue to be the yo-yo. But this kid is far from a bust. Let’s at least wait until his entry-level deal expires after next season, ok?