Archive for J.T. Miller
*The holidays sort of interfered with our post schedule this week, so unfortunately no goal breakdown today. The Rangers beat a terrible Devils team on the strength of a Derek Stepan hat trick and a strong performance by Henrik Lundqvist. You’re welcome.
The Rangers have won 8 games in a row. That’s awesome. It hasn’t always been dominant, pretty hockey, but they have gotten the job done. After digesting the circus that is New Jersey’s hockey operations, marveling at Derek Stepan’s em, diverse, hat trick, and generally enjoying the win, one pregame narrative still continued to fester after the final buzzer sounded: Tanner Glass.
There seemed to be a tremendous amount of debate, both between fans and beat writers (don’t you love twitter, hockey journalists?) about AV’s decision to scratch JT Miller in favor of Lee Stempniak. At least that is how the beat writers framed it. Fans, on the other hand, saw Miller out and Glass in, which, of course, did not go over well.
In fact, the beat writers did not even broach the topic with AV at the pre or post-game presser. This is seemingly what really irked the fans. We demand answers, and they are our conduits, as journalists, to illicit the information from sources we don’t have access to. But no one bothered to ask.
Glass has been the faux-hawked elephant in the room pretty much since all of the injuries seemed to subside. At this point it’s pretty clear; he is a terrible hockey player. Pretty much every #fancystat ever created, plus all the eye tests tell us that. He shouldn’t be taking minutes or a lineup spot from JT Miller, or anyone else for that matter.
We have had made tongue-in-cheek comments about what leverage Glass has on AV that he was not only given that contract, but is seemingly immune to lineup changes and poor play. How could it possibly be, that an analytics driven coach, who generally makes defensible personnel decisions, can get it so wrong, so often with one fourth line player?
Larry Brooks tried to rationalize it by saying that Glass is a fourth line player, Stempniak and Miller are not, and therefore have nothing to do with one another. I don’t buy this for one second. Stempniak would make for a fine fourth line player on this roster. Steve Zipay tried to defray fan aggression by saying that we should stop complaining about this type of stuff when a team wins eight in a row. That’s like me saying to a client “don’t worry that I forgot to file that motion for you, the judge ruled in our favor anyway”. It’s nonsense.
I suppose we will never know what magic aura Glass holds over AV or why beat reporters are terrified to even bring up the notion that Glass is playing over far superior players. We probably should be satisfied by winning eight in a row. The problem is most of us (on this site at least) have half a brain and realize that they Rangers just (rightfully) tore through a pillowy-soft section of the schedule. We realize that Dominic Moore can’t be skating with a 210lb anchor around his leg when he is trying to cover Sidney Crosby.
I guess this turned into a little more of a rant than I set out to write. I guess the moral of the story would be: 1) Beat writers, we aren’t stupid. When something stinks, have the stones to ask the questions about it. 2) Tanner Glass is terrible at hockey, and I don’t know if our collective fan constitution can deal with two and a half more years of him. And 3) JT Miller deserves to be in the lineup right now. I suppose 4) we are actually excited the Rangers have won eight in a row.
Stop me if this sounds familiar: a heralded first-round pick impressed immediately in his first professional season, but struggled as a sophomore and spent much of that season in the American Hockey League. In his third year, the prospect looked like a lock for a full-time job out of training camp, but was sent back to Hartford after just a few games. But about a month later, the player was back in New York and the light bulb had finally clicked on – he was a major contributor from then on.
Indeed, Chris Kreider amazed us with five playoff goals in his first NHL action out of college, then spent much of 2012-2013 with the Wolf Pack. He spent six more games in Hartford at the start of last season before reaching Broadway for good.
J.T. Miller’s path has been very similar. The 2011 first-round pick began his pro career at a much younger age than Kreider, but he, too, impressed in 26 games with the Blueshirts in 2012-2013, then left fans a bit disappointed last year by failing to break out and split the season between the Rangers and Wolf Pack. Miller looked like the best forward at training camp in September, but was quickly demoted to Hartford after just three games in October. Miller returned to the Rangers on November 29th, and he’s posted three points in four games since then while playing primarily with Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast before a stint in the top-six alongside Derek Stepan and Marty St. Louis on Monday.
Per Larry Brooks, the New York Rangers are going to recall forward J.T. Miller for tomorrow’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Chris Kreider will be unavailable due to the death of his grandfather. This likely means Miller for Kreider will be the only lineup change after today’s blanking of the Flyers.
Our hearts and prayers are with the Kreider family.
When the Rangers get healthy in a couple of weeks their line-up will be set – barring a fresh injury or a dramatic loss of form. The Rangers will be dressing a veteran heavy line-up even though several regulars are still in the young category.
Meanwhile down in the AHL, the Hartford WolfPack has started the season strongly (7-2-1 as of Wednesday) and are being led offensively by a handful of prospects. Among others, Oscar Lindberg, Ryan Haggerty, Danny Kristo, J.T. Miller, Mat Bodie and Jesper Fast are all having productive seasons offensively. Including Haggerty (in his rookie pro season but still with six points in ten games) all of the above are playing consistent hockey and are close to a point per game.
This kind of collective form offers an organisation exactly the kind of problems they want. On the one hand the Rangers don’t have any space for prospects in New York – certainly not in positions where enough ice time is available – but on the other hand they want a steady stream of players knocking on the door putting pressure on the established core. However, a problem starting to develop in the Rangers organization is that several prospects may see their paths blocked in both the short and long term.
Forget Mike Kostka. The one-game experiment with the 28-year-old defender notwithstanding, the Rangers’ depth has been extremely impressive so far this season.
It hasn’t been easy.
Poor planning down the middle during the summer forced first Martin St. Louis and now Kevin Hayes into unnatural positions, but both players have done well learning on the fly. The center problem has been felt most at the faceoff dots, but that’s never been Stepan’s hallmark anyway. And though Stepan’s myriad of contributions obviously can’t be replaced, the absence of the No. 1 center has done nothing to affect the team’s primary scorers on the wing. Rick Nash is off to an unreal start, and rotating top-liners St. Louis and Chris Kreider have found the scoresheet early and often even without No. 21. Stepan has been missed more in the defensive end, but the entire team has been awful in its own zone thus far, so the subs would be hard to fault for that.
The New York Rangers have recalled forward Chris Mueller from the Hartford Wolf Pack, returning forwards Jesper Fast and J.T. Miller in the process. Miller and Fast have been healthy scratches for the past two games, so getting them playing time in the AHL is a good idea. Mueller had a strong camp, and Alain Vigneault probably figures he can get more out of him than he can Fast/Miller at this point of the season.
Personally, I think Fast was just fine in his two games, but clearly the coach wants him to work on some things. As for Miller, well I still think he’s best suited for the wing. Maybe he gets time there with the Pack.
Just saying the name brings up a debate that becomes more heated than the never-ending Michael Del Zotto debates. A first round pick who is still just 21 years old, Miller has been touted as high as a potential 1C (not happening) to an epic bust (too soon, but also not likely). Much like the discussions about him, Miller has also played all over the place in the lineup.
But here’s what we do know about Miller: He had a great preseason, and seemed to finally take the next step after two years of bouncing back and forth from the AHL. He is close to a point-per-game in the AHL, so he has offensive talent. Prior to this season, he was also a defensive tire fire.
So what can the Rangers do with Miller?
Sometimes opportunity is about timing. Anthony Duclair, JT Miller and Kevin Hayes have made the Rangers at the right time because in Alain Vigneault they have the right coach to develop them into full time – and hopefully long term – Rangers.
Vigneault won over a lot of the fan base last year by staying patient amid early troubles, by being the Anti-Torts in allowing players to develop chemistry together and also by being able to acknowledge ‘hot hands’ and give players a platform to perform when their form deserved extra playing time (example: Cam Talbot taking over midseason for a short period).
There’s every chance Anthony Duclair goes back to junior this year and if he does, it will have been the right decision. If he sticks, he’ll have earned it. The Rangers Head Coach has earned everyone’s trust and whatever he decides will likely be the best course of action. Alain Vigneault has proven he’s confident in his younger players if they earn his trust and the even ice time distribution in the St Louis game (every forward had at least 11 minutes ice time) suggests Vigneault will continue to work the kids in to meaningful positions and give them a chance of growth.
It’s the dawn of a new season and already we’re full of anticipation, panic and dilemma… What fun it is to be a New York Rangers fan. Anyway, it’s Thursday so let’s have the first Musings of the season shall we? There’s plenty to talk about.
The obvious major talking point in Rangerland is the injury to Derek Stepan. I’m an optimist. Stepan’s injury hurts the Rangers in the short term but his absence shouldn’t cost the team a playoff berth and the team has plenty of younger prospects they can test out. This is an opportunity the franchise may never have had if it were not for the injury. Now is the time to throw in a Lindberg, Hayes and/or JT Miller and see whether they can step into a full time NHL role.
Long term, the injury to Stepan may have been a blessing in disguise if the Rangers develop one (or more) prospects for the long term because of this unfortunate situation. If this was Lundqvist going down for a long stretch it would be time to panic but Stepan missing 10-12 games will not cost the club long term. No need to panic. Prospect development time is upon us.
Now the dust has settled after the draft, week of pre-free agency negotiation and free agency itself, a few days of quiet are upon us before arbitration hearings, contract negotiation rumors and the scraps are picked at in free agency. With that all in mind, let’s take a little look around the league and reflect on the Rangers this summer so far.
Patrick Kane and Jon Toews got identical contracts but that’s where the similarities end – in my opinion. Toews is a natural leader and figurehead. He’s not worth the money he’s just got but if either player is worth it, it’s certainly Toews and not Kane as Toews brings so much more to the table than ‘just’ offense.
Patrick Kane is a Star. He’s a point/game playoff player and is incredibly talented but he just got $10.5 million per year yet has only once scored more than 73 points in a year and has one 30 goal season in his seven years in the league. Sure, it’s not just about numbers and sure, the Hawks are paying to keep the faces of the franchise in town but the money getting thrown about is out of hand. Nothing we didn’t know already, right?
Every additional, major contract signing that gets announced makes me love the Ryan McDonagh deal that much more. Five more years of 25 minutes a game, elite defense and 40-50 points per season for $4.7m a season seems like a bargain.