Archive for J.T. Miller
The Rangers have had a strong year to date – even as we conveniently forget Tuesday’s defeat – but entering the second half of the season find themselves scrapping for the final seed in the Metropolitan division and stuck behind the Islanders and Penguins as they approach February. The Rangers can improve; something that bodes well for the rest of the season. Here are four players that have plenty more to give.
The Rangers captain missed a chunk of the season through injury and since being back has had dominant games as well as games where he’s been inconsistent, particularly defensively. McDonagh has been streaky rather than his consistent self. Before the All Star break McDonagh had a seven game pointless streak and has scored his points in bunches (including 4 points in one 3 game spell and 6 points in a 6 game spell).
It’s not all about numbers; McDonagh can improve in his own zone as well, by being better positionally while also cutting down on the turnovers. Against the Isles on Tuesday, McDonagh again wasn’t exactly stellar but he needs to be for his team to succeed. If McDonagh gets back to his consistent, elite self it’ll go a long way in helping the Rangers catch the Pens and Isles in the standings.
The good news is that Kreider was coming on very strong before the All Star break. The bad news is that he was making up for what has been a very stop-start season so far, individually speaking. Kreider has the overall package to take over games with his size, speed and willingness to crash the net and play physically. Kreider had six points in his last six games before the break and has three game winners in his last nine games showing his increasing ability to be the difference maker the Rangers hoped they’d found in Kreider.
To be successful, the Rangers need Rick Nash to continue his All Star ways but if Kreider can help Nash produce and begin to develop the consistency that has so far eluded his game the Rangers will have two physically dominant power forwards that could help create match-up nightmares for the opposition.
Another player hit by the injury bug, Dan Boyle has flashed his ability and shown, in patches, why the Rangers went out and committed to a 38 year old no longer wanted by his former employers. As expected, most of Boyle’s damage has come with the extra man (7 of 9 points on the powerplay) but he needs to produce more, stay healthy and help the Rangers decide games with a legitimate and consistent powerplay. As Dave discussed earlier this week, the Rangers powerplay has been much improved this season and Dan Boyle will be a major part of that unit so long as he’s healthy.
(this was mostly written before the Isles loss….) Has Miller finally found his feet in the NHL? Has he earned the full trust of Alain Vigneault? What’s Millers actual NHL upside? There are a lot of questions confronting JT Miller as he enters the second half of the season. Miller’s talent is undeniable; he’s already centred the Rangers’ second powerplay unit and has already popped up with some big goals for the Rangers this season.
However, like others on this list, Miller hasn’t been consistent enough, has gone long stretches without producing and on top of that still hasn’t earned Alain Vigneault’s complete trust. It appears that Miller is again a scratch for tonight’s game against the speedy Canadiens. Miller is clearly struggling to convince Vigneault of his worth. Something to consider as the club approach the trade deadline.
A big part of any success the Rangers have this season will be because of their depth stepping up and the kids (including Miller, Kevin Hayes and Jesper Fast) on the roster will be a big part of that. We saw the Rangers lose to the Isles on Tuesday in part because the Islanders’ bottom six outplayed their Rangers counterparts. It’s a legitimate concern for Alain Vigneault. If Miller can establish himself over the next 37 regular season games it will likely mean the Rangers have finally developed a consistent third line and Miller will have banished any lingering doubts about his long term Rangers future. He’s clearly capable of more.
Continuing on with the mid-season report card, this is my take on the Rangers bottom six forwards. Dave covered the goaltending and coaches and Chris wrote about the top-six forwards previously, so be sure to check them out.
(ALL STATS ARE 5v5 UNLESS NOTED OTHERWISE)
- GP: 43
- TOI/Gm: 12.7
- CF/60: 51.3 (8 fwd)
- CA/60: 49.2 (2 fwd)
- RelCF%: 2.0 (4 fwd)
- P/60: 1.4 (10 fwd)
- SHCF%: 11.0 (TOI/Gm – 2.1)
Hagelin’s speed keeps opposing teams honest. He’s been very reliable defensively, a dangerous part of the penalty kill and has big playmaking potential 5v5 on the offensive side of things. Keep your eye on his name in trade rumors. He’s a free agent at the end of the year and with cap space tight after Marc Staal’s extension he could be a cap casualty. Hagelin has been a big part of the bottom six and will continue to be moving into the 2nd half of the season.
*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.