Alain Vigneault gives J.T. Miller some tough love

April 4, 2014, by

It’s just tough love.

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?

Categories : Players


  1. Rangers Fan in Boston says:

    Big thumbs up for this post. Thanks for reiterating that he’s young, has room for improvement, and will be back to the NHL.

    Sometimes we lose sight that these players are young, and need time in some cases. Hopefully he took AV’s words the way they were intended and will be mainstay next year.

  2. Rangers Rock says:

    I expected such and always told my friends he does not like the youngsters just like Kreider and Miller. Ok experts show us examples of playing out of position.

    • Chris A says:

      I know, AV must HATE Krieder. That’s probably why he refused to take him off the top line even when that line wasn’t producing.

      Face it, JT has an attitude issue, and that’s ok. One of the red flags on the kid pre-draft was that he had an enormous ego. He even put that ego on display by announcing to the world that he was going to force his way into the Ranger roster in his post draft interviews. After that he blew off his scholarship at UND to go play Major Juniors. Again, all of this is ok, he’s only just turned 21, he can grow out of this. Hopefully he will mature and turn into the player we as fans and the organization expect him to be.

    • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

      When Kreider earned his spot, he played every day until his injury. If you know how the Rangers play and for the most part all NHL teams now. You’d see that he goes in deep and gets caught when he should be up with his check.
      He looks lost when his linemates are attempting to cycle the puck. Not good at support in the offensive or neutral zone and his play in the D zone leaves much to be desired. I like the kid. He skates hard and plays hard but if he’s out of position he’s a liability. How is that AV’s fault? Torts gave him a shot and sent him back after 26 games too. Talent has no age. If they help the team, they play. Miller did nothing to warrent an every day NHL job yet.

  3. joe719 says:

    I kinda’ suspected there had to be more than just some defensive lapses for them treating him like a yo-yo. I just hope it works out. I really am afraid that this could be another Marc Savard situation(or R. Middleton, for the oldsters out there) where he prospers in another organization. What was it they said about Savard here: ‘He needs to learn how to act in a professional lockeroom?’ or something to that effect? He “got it” with Boston and played well until the injury. Hes young, theres still time; you just hope that mgmt.s minds haven’t already been made up.

    • Dave says:

      To be fair, Savard admitted to being a douche until he got to Boston. He always had that talent though.

  4. SalMerc says:

    There is tough-love and there is expressing that through the media. I thought the Torts days were done. If JT needs to adjust, then why wasn’t it done behind closed doors with Slats? If it was, then why tell the media? I believe the kid gets one shot next year and (before that) is dangled out there for trade bait. Everything AV said may indeed be true, but maybe a 21 y/o needs a path, with goals and things to actually work on (called a plan). Let’s hope the tongue-lashing did have a plan for success attached.

    • HARLEMBLUES says:

      Every time he came up he was told behind closed doors and he just didn’t get it.AV felt at this point by going public J.T. may fully understand.Torts days are over.AV has given guys time to work out their problems without throwing them under the bus.How many people were calling for Pouliot and Pyatt to be sat.He gave both ice time,pouliot came around and Pyatt was let go.Kreider just needed to play thru his mistakes and learn from them.One mistake Torts would banish him to the end of the bench with no supper.J.T. is still young hope he learns from this.

      • Bob says:

        Translation: if Torts said this it would be the dog house, banishment, throwing guys under he bus, but because it’s AV…eh tough love.

        Maybe, just maybe all coaches play this card when nothing else works. Maybe Torts was just as right to call guys out as AV is.

  5. Walt says:

    Great write up, and plenty of food for thought!!

    The only thing that strikes me as odd, the comment about “off the ice”?????

    The on ice product isn’t perfect, and could use some help on the D side of the ledger, but the off ice remark is worrisome. Is his work ethic in question, or is he a party animal, ala MDZ?? This organization has very little use for those type of players, so let’s hope that isn’t the case!!

    • SalMerc says:

      Sometimes men AV’s age do not understand the 21 y/o attitude. I have had 3 at that age, and they still perplex me.

      • Sally says:

        And he only has daughters which are a different animal. My daughter was mature ,focused and hardworking at 16. We are still waiting for my sons to catch up and they are in there 20’s.

        • Walt says:

          My oldest didn’t decide to grow up, and become serious until his senior year in college. Now at the ripe age of 39, he will have the same experience with his son some day soon. Know what you say my man!!

          • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

            I’m a believer that girls mature faster/earlier than boys do. I’m 32 and I still haven’t figured it all out. I think Miller has made more problems for himself off the ice. None of us fans know for sure but I personally think what they don’t tell us is that his work ethic off the ice is not at a pros level yet. Many players work out after games because the next day they have less energy either way. That’s not easy to do and maybe Miller hasn’t gotten it yet. That’s ok. He’s still young. Another full NYR camp and maybe part or all of another AHL season may get him ready. Many NHL teams allow 2 full seasons of farm team for youngins to develop. It’s worked out for Det and Chicago.

  6. RangerMom says:

    I’m all for tough love, but I don’t think the best approach to dealing with a 21 year old is to slam him publicly. I really wish AV would keep it between him and the players.

    • Chris A says:

      I don’t know. I think when a coach says something like that it’s not said off the cuff and in the heat of the moment. It’s a calculated statement meant to motivate the player.

      The Rangers know JT better than anyone not named Mr. and Mrs. Miller and if the organization feels some public statements are the best way to motivate the kid to get his head screwed on right, then that’s what they are going to do. If the Rangers thought those statements would have a negative impact than AV wouldn’t say anything.

      There are very few things organizations say to the media that aren’t carefully thought through.

      • HARLEMBLUES says:

        Well said Chris A. Do people think he wasn’t talked to about things each time he came up to the big club and then send back down.Millions are being invested in these kids.They must learn to be professional in their approach to the job.If you are going to party in the big city you must come to work like THE BABE and CLYDE and deliver.

        • Chris F says:

          How do you know that Miller parties when he comes to NY?

          • HARLEMBLUES says:

            It reads IF YOU ARE.I have no Nside info.In other words handle your business and J.T. isn’t.

      • rangermom says:

        I’m sure it was calculated. Still don’t like it though.

    • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

      I get what you’re saying but I think he was asked a question and answered it as forthright as possible. He was vague in his answer. We don’t know what it is specifically that AV is not impressed with. I think it’s his work ethic off the ice. He’s got an arrogance about him and it may hurt him now. Down the road when he learns to be a pro. It’ll be his greatest asset.

  7. Chris F says:


    I think you’re overlooking the vast middle ground of people who acknowledge that Miller’s game needs some improvements but object to AV’s approach of calling him out publicly, demeaning him on and off the ice and giving him a public ultimatum that either he improves or he’ll be a very good AHLer.

    It’s not as if everyone either feels that A) Miller is the best thing since sliced bread who has no faults or B) feels that AV is more than justified to challenge him to be better.

    There are other perspectives that I suspect most people ascribe to. That is that Miller’s positional and defensive game needs some work, maybe even his attitude needs an adjustment, but AV’s public comments jeopardize his place in the organization.

    No one knows what’s happening behind the scenes. But JT Miller is a coveted asset within the organization who upper management are clearly invested in. They want Miller Ranger-ready ASAP.

    AV, on the other hand, seems to have no patience, no interest whatsoever in helping that process along. JT gets called up, AV plays him a game or two, doesn’t love what he sees, so gives him a public tongue lashing and sends him back down. Rinse. Repeat.

    Obviously that’s not working. Maybe it’s time for the coaching staff in Hartford to take a little responsibility. Maybe it’s time for the NY coaching staff to spend a little time with the kid.

    In the past, there was great symmetry between coaching systems in NY under Tortorella and Hartford under Gernander. Is this still the case with AV? Does Miller even know what he needs to do in AV’s system?

    I don’t know, but AV’s comments were excessively harsh.

    • SalMerc says:

      Yup! I didn’t see pix of JT at a club in NYC or carrying a gun or missing a practice. I would save the public remarks for those activities. He may not be a fit with AV, if so, then it is time for the NYR to move him. I just know that public humiliation usually does not work.

    • Walt says:

      Have you ever been chewed out by a nasty sargeant, it feels bad all of 10 seconds, but the message is passed along. One accepts it, knowing that he will be a better person for it. JT isn’t a wimp, he will go on from here, and excell!!

      • Jess says:


        I was a NCO and I also taught junior NCOs how to become better leaders. Never once did I or most of my peers use the “Hollywood” idea of Gunny Hartman to teach.

        You don’t learn through embarrassment and I do have a problem with with calling out rookies via the media but it has more to do with the Ranger fans than the Ranger staff.

        Ranger fans will sing the praises of a prospect until the first time he struggles and then he sucks. Chris Kreider went through it last year, Derek Stepan is still getting trashed because he held out.

        To me AV should have told Miller those things in private and said something along the lines of “he knows where he stands and what he has to do end of story”

        One other thing that none seem to acknowledge and that is here is another player that the Rangers pushed to the pros rather than send back to the juniors for another year of seasoning and development. I wonder what might have been had the Rangers send Del Zotto, Miller and Grachev back to the OHL instead of keeping them.

        • Walt says:


          What’s to say AV didn’t address his issues with JT, and the kids just doesn’t get it?? I don’t want to bad mouth JT, but this is the second coach that has had issues with him, and maybe he is a slow learner, or doesn’t take the coaches seriously??

          Your right, they should treat him like a new horse, that needs to be broken. Send him down to the AHL, leave him there until he learns the system, and plays as the coaches want!! That may sound harsh, but that is the reality of the pro game, either you do as expected, or your gone, it’s up to you!!

          As for your remark on Gunny Hartman, that is all bull carp from Hollywood, but I was discharged in 68, and in those days we were’t treated like boys, and if needed to get our asses chewed, so be it!!

  8. Chuck A says:

    To his credit, JT’s pure talent has probably made him a perpetual big fish in a small pond. Those days are over, and credit to the organization for reinforcing that reality.

  9. Frank Cerbone says:

    Rangers had numerous looks at Columbus 2nd rd pick Boone Jenner who was Christian Thomas’s wingmate in juniors. But Gordie Clark/Glen Sather don’t like big, tough wingers tghat can score. And so, Boone Jenner is playing just fine with Columbus.