State of the Rangers

Could Miller just be a spark?

Will Miller be back in another jersey this season or not?
Will Miller be back in another jersey this season or not?

JT Miller has been a pleasant surprise in his brief stay with the Rangers this season. His call up has coincided with (perhaps even caused) the re-emergence of the Rangers much anticipated offensive depth, and has caused players such as Brian Boyle to find themselves in the press box or with less prominent roles.

Whether we see Miller much longer in New York however, remains to be seen. Last season Carl Hagelin’s introduction to the Rangers also created a spark and the young speedy Swede forced the Rangers to keep him on the roster. Miller could conceivably do the same thing, albeit with slightly different circumstances. However, the Rangers could choose to use Miller as a spark for the rest of the roster and that’s it.

They may choose to place Miller back in the AHL and see if he can elevate his game there following his fine Broadway introduction. This move would preserve that first year of his entry contract. Miller could be used as the ‘threat’ to the roster. Every coach wants options and Miller offers John Tortorella a viable threat to established roster players who aren’t performing. They’ve seen how Miller has coped with the transition to the NHL seamlessly and will not want to sit.

All of a sudden coach Tortorella has a healthy Ryan Callahan, a healthy and looking-more-ready Chris Kreider, and it’s likely Miller’s presence will have shown Brian Boyle that he needs to step up if he wants back in as well. Tortorella will almost certainly find a way to at least give Boyle another chance.

Boyle has been too good a supporting a player for the Rangers, has previously been one of the coaches key defensive players, and won’t simply be tossed to the scrap heap after one bad start to a season. Miller may have changed the dynamic of the roster in a variety of ways, but may also find himself in the AHL sooner than he (and most fans) wants.

Even with five impressive games Miller may not have a choice. With Callahan, Boyle and Kreider present on the roster –and Aaron Asham’s ability to play between the third and fourth lines– there may not be a need to rush the young American. The entire rosters’ individual and collective performance over the next two games will have more of an influence than his World Junior’s performance. As the Rangers continue to search for some extended consistency this may be the story worth the most attention.

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  1. One thing I do like about Miller is that with him on board right now it sends a message to other players on the team. Torts is maybe using Boyle as an example that anyone can be scratched (Obviously not true in all cases) and he isn’t afraid to use Miller.

    A little competition is good for everyone, and I think guys will be forced to raise their games because of it.

    Even if Miller is sent back down I can easily see the team calling him back up.

    1. It’ll be interesting to see what happens after game five. Such a small window, but big implications if they burn a year of his ELC.

  2. With Miller, it’ll come down to his play without the puck. That’s what is most important as a third line center. From what I’ve seen, he’s been doing the right things.

  3. Miller is a spark, and I for one would love for him to skate with the Kreider kid for the next 10 years!!!!!

    Keep him up, he plays both ways, and is low maintenance, loves to play, and is big and strong.

    1. I agree with you for the second straight day. I like this.

      I like the way both guys are playing, but let’s remember they are kids. Play without the puck is just as important to play with the puck.

  4. Keep him up and convert Boyle to d

    He converted to forward because of his skating. And now that underhill has fixed it somewhat I think he could be a monster clearing the crease and shooting shots from the point. Give any big man time to tee up a shot and its going to be a hard one.

    1. He can’t use his size as it is… Not much of a monster. Don’t think he can clear a pimple at this point. Hope this benching pisses him off enough to start pushing people around with some “authoriti” !

  5. I think that there may be differing opinions on this from Slats and Torts. Any coach wants a player around that pushes others to reach a higher potential. JT does that, but does Slats think losing a year of eligibility is worth even a 10 game bump? NYR gave Krieder on the job training in the playoffs. I think it helped his development. Can Torts live with the inevitable rookie mistake? Not sure. I believe if JT solidifies the 2nd or 3rd line, he stays. If he is a spark and a 4th liner (which he currently isn’t) he goes back.

    1. The interesting aspect really is that ELC, especially since the cap will go down for the next two seasons.

      That said, Torts will keep Miller around if he’s performing well without the puck. Slats is a master with the 2nd deals too.

  6. I disagree. I would be absolutely shocked to see Miller sent back down before they burn off the first year of his ELC.

    Personally, I dont think his contract is much of an issue right now. Could it make resigning players down the road more difficult? Probably. That being said, we are built to win RIGHT NOW. Will we be built to win in the 14-15 season? Who knows. We only have three players signed for that year.

    In addition, Slats showed that he is willing to burn off a year of an ELC if it means a shot at winning the cup. Kreider is all the proof we need of that.

    When it comes down to it, barring injury, I see no possible way Miller returns to the AHL in the near future.

  7. Side Note: Dave, you always say when Boyle is the 4th line center, we’ll have the depth to win the cup. Now how bout Boyle being the 13th forward? Now THATS depth!

      1. Agreed, I think Halpern will be the healthy scratch soon enough, with Boyle hopping into that 4th line center role.

        1. Depends. Halpern is clicking with Asham and Powe right now. No matter what Halpern’s struggles are, he’s light years ahead of Boyle when it comes to skating.

  8. Good article! I believe Boyle gets inserted for next game…Krieder sits (in my opinion not playing tough enough on the puck) and then Miller gets sent down and replaced on the lineup with Krieder.

    Teams are playing their 19/20 year-olds all over. Miller will get his shot (frankly I like his play more than Kreider’s), but not this season.

    Bottom-line: We got pushed around in Boston yesterday and need size (meaning Boyle)….and the next roster move must be a big/stay at home/tough-ass D-man with a solid point shot.

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