J.T. Miller: Requiem for a Captain Who Never Was

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Mike Valvano

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A Rangers’ first-round pick in a decade lacking them. A first-line talent on a team jammed to the brim with middle-sixers. A growth and maturation process that’s endearing to every fan base. A leadership pedigree amongst elite peers as a youngster. A willingness to drop the gloves and stand up for himself and his teammates. A sterling confidence to pull off a highlight reel first career goal.

A no-nonsense attitude and no fear of the NHL’s elite.

Great hair.

The story was ready to write itself.

J.T. Miller, on paper, had the resume to be a long-term Rangers captain. With the void created by the trade of Ryan McDonagh to Tampa Bay, the table was set for Miller’s reign and the “C” could have, potentially, moved seamlessly to the #10 sweater. Instead, due to a number of factors, including Miller’s own enigmatic persona, he was offloaded to Tampa Bay with the former captain and the story of Miller as a Ranger comes to a close with no grand ending.

Nothing was handed to J.T. Miller when he broke into the NHL at just 19. At the time, head coach, John Tortorella, as he did with every player, made Miller earn his minutes and challenged him to be a factor all over the ice.

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“He’s going to make that decision for us, as far as staying or going down, with his play,” said Tortorella, who wasn’t afraid to send Chris Kreider to the AHL.

Miller, to his credit, took Tortorella’s directive to heart. “I cannot play to be satisfied. I don’t just want to blend in. I want to make a difference.” This type of understanding is refreshing from a youngster and early on, it translated to the ice. However, with a regime change, some of the same entitlement issues crept up again.

“J.T. has to figure it out and hopefully he will,” Alain Vigneault echoed, 13 months later. “When he does, we’re going to have a good player. If he doesn’t, he will be a good minor league player.”

“He just hasn’t earned the right to be at this level on a regular basis,” he also said. “He needs to show more commitment on the ice and off. Until he does that, he hasn’t earned the right.”

Miller carved out a spot in the NHL as a rookie under John Tortorella. He “earned the right” under Vigneault and proved he belonged in the conversation of talented North American youngsters when he was named to Team North America in 2016. Last year, he posted a career-high 56 points, 34 assists, and plus-17 rating while leading New York’s most dynamic line alongside Kevin Hayes and Michael Grabner. This year, after Derek Stepan was traded, a key role as part of the Rangers’ leadership group was there for the taking. As a true Ranger on the upswing, with a history as a vocal leader, the role was Miller’s to lose.

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“He was always one of the most vocal guys,” Phil Housley said about Miller’s performance in the World Junior Championships. “He was always asking coaches questions pertaining to situations to deliver the message to the guys. I really liked that.”

But despite being spurred by two coaches—both publicly critical of a player they clearly saw potential in—Miller hasn’t risen to the occasion to fill the void left by Stepan. The hunger to lead presented by Housley never materialized, and the fact that it didn’t makes this season all the more perplexing. Miller should have been a top-six regular, should have been a 60-point player and, should have been a leader on a contender.

Instead, he faded.

Rather than blossoming as Mike Richards did in Philadelphia—as a young, physical, talented, agitating, and workmanlike captain—he’s evolved into a talented enigma. Firmly entrenched as one of the dozens of NHLers who tantalize fans with high skill and, at times, high effort, but is only consistent in inconsistency. As such, he’s done nothing to steer the Rangers’ away from the iceberg, even as they’ve been one of several Eastern Conference ships set aimlessly adrift.

Perhaps Miller and Alain Vigneault don’t see the ice the same way and dissatisfaction with coaching caused lethargy. Perhaps the room is stale and toxic, and perhaps Miller’s a part of the reason why. Perhaps the unchanging leadership group in Miller’s tenure made him feel like there was nowhere to grow or, maybe, Miller just doesn’t love professional hockey. Regardless, he has not embraced the opportunity to lead a floundering Rangers squad and failed to show himself as a part of any solution. Hence, he became expendable to a rebuild, particularly before signing the long-term extension that would be needed to keep him as a Blueshirt beyond this year.

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“He wants to stay,” Tortorella once said, bluntly, in response to Miller’s commitment to being a factor all over the ice.

At times, Miller has shown both that he wants to stay and a proclivity to lead a successful team but, this season, disappointingly, Miller never looked like he wanted to stay. Or worse, he never looked like he wanted to work to stay. That, frustratingly, led to his departure.

All told, the end of J.T. Miller’s run in New York is, ultimately, the unfulfilling final chapter of a book that has no satisfying denouement. It’s Disney’s Miracle if the U.S. never beat the Russians or, perhaps more fittingly for the rag-tag group of current Rangers, Slap Shot without Steve Guttenberg stripping down to his jock. It will mark the sluggish end to a strong but not sparkling era of Rangers hockey, and fans will now watch Rangers captains past and almost future look to write a new chapter in Tampa.

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Discussion





  1. Quote Originally Posted by rmc51
    View Post

    Yeah, that single line is certainly a comprehensive answer to why Miller is a more complete player.



    Oh hey cherry picker!

    Can't hear you over the sound of the goal horn from Miller's goal last night!





    Quote Originally Posted by Vodka Drunkenski
    View Post

    Talk about zero substance...



    It's pretty obvious that you ignore responses just because they don't fit your narrative, not because that they don't answer questions that have been asked. Pete has had a response for everything thrown at him in this thread, they just don't agree with your opinion (which is fine) but pot shots similar to the ones above, will get you no where fast.



    That was clearly a joke...since this thread is getting bumped every time Miller scores a goal for his new team.

    There are pot shots galore in this thread. Pete has made several in his last few posts.





    Quote Originally Posted by Pete
    View Post

    Yea, I'm not sure how anyone can say he wasn't working here, or didn't work out. Good players get traded all the time.

    It's a classic case of if people didn't like the player, they never will. What's comical to me are the people who rag Miller praise Kreider, and Miller is already a more complete player than Krieder is.








    Quote Originally Posted by Puck Head
    View Post

    You’ve mentioned many times how great miller is because of his performance since leaving the Rangers.

    Offensively Kreider has matched him on a much lesser team.

    But do tell what aspects make Miller. More complete player.
    Physical ?
    Defensive awareness ?
    Character ?
    Turnovers ?

    Just list them out


    Sent from my iPhone using Blueshirts Brotherhood mobile app powered by Tapatalk








    Quote Originally Posted by Pete
    View Post

    I haven't called Miller a "great" player even one time.








    Quote Originally Posted by Pete
    View Post

    There were answers, you just didn't like them, so you ignored them.



    Yeah, that single line is certainly a comprehensive answer to why Miller is a more complete player.





    Quote Originally Posted by Fatfrancesa
    View Post

    J.T. miller put up 20 plus goals and 50 plus points here with this without hall of fame anything around him. He did it all the while being moved from position to position, line to line, even in av’s doghouse. I will not defend his defensive play. But the guy put up numbers here at 22 and 23 years of age. By no means is he a finished product either is Namestnikov. They are both still kids. The difference here is that Namestnikov has never done shit without those Hall of famers on his line. It doesn’t mean he won’t but he has more to prove than miller. Thus far his play has only raised more questions while miller is benefiting in his new situation. All the while many here pretend miller was shit here and didn’t produce. Yet they love Mza whose numbers at 30 mirror miller at 23. And no mza is not a good defensive player either.

    Why do people think millers career is already defined? I don’t get it. And what’s more if he goes on to play great it will only be because of what’s around him. Convenient. Fact is he showed major potential here and while never reaching it, he was still what top 3 in production amount forwards.



    In 2015/2016 Names had 14 goals and 35 points in 14 minutes a night compared to Miller's 22 goals and 43 points in 15 minutes. Pretty unfair to Names to say his 8 less points isn't doing shit.





    Quote Originally Posted by rmc51
    View Post

    Zero substance



    Talk about zero substance...






    Quote Originally Posted by rmc51
    View Post

    Lol how many JT Miller jerseys do you have?



    It's pretty obvious that you ignore responses just because they don't fit your narrative, not because that they don't answer questions that have been asked. Pete has had a response for everything thrown at him in this thread, they just don't agree with your opinion (which is fine) but pot shots similar to the ones above, will get you no where fast.





    Quote Originally Posted by Puck Head
    View Post

    Who even brought up Kreider ?? And why? He has zero do to with any of this discussion


    Sent from my iPhone using Blueshirts Brotherhood mobile app powered by Tapatalk



    My thoughts exactly. I just saw the questions you posed asking what JT Miller was better at than Kreider, which were all valid questions, and it went without a response from the people "objectively" saying Miller is a more complete player than Kreider. Then it continued to go without any answers, since they didn't have any.
    I wasn’t dissing zucc. My point was that he’s loved and his production wasn’t much different from miller who played far less, less pp time and less time with the rangers top forwards. Zucc is not a great defensive player but yes he hustles and back checks. He’s not a bad defensive player either just nothing special. This team turns the puck over in droves, miller was a part of that. However the whole team has a problem. Hard to figure why it’s held against miller but with everybody else it’s the system or the coach. I’m not saying it’s not a problem part of his game. What I’m saying is that as a whole he’s not much different then the entire team as far as being careless with the puck. Thing is he outscored most everybody in this team and did it at 23.





    Quote Originally Posted by Pete
    View Post

    A valid question. You could have just scrolled back and looked, but I'll do the work for you.

    Long Live the King and I were having a spirited debate regarding Miller and Names, at which point we get this rando comment from the peanut gallery:

    The bold is clearly was directed at me, and shame on me for taking the bait. I should have just kept this person on ignore.

    But alas, I took my own shot with this post:


    Now, I'm not going to continue to debate if CK is more well rounded than JTM, you have your opinion and I have mine. But you jumped in to defend CK, as you usually do , and then we had varying levels of nonsensical posts from folks who were trolling (I'm guilty as well), or are just confused (turnovers = bad defensive play...Yandle and Ekblad are both in the top 10 in turnovers, yet they are leaders on their team in both PK TOI and DZS%...So methinks their coach values them as defensive players).

    Now that said, I'll just leave this at when it comes to JTM vs CK20, it's pick your poison. They are both getting you the 55ish points, they will both be unproductive for chunks of games, but while Kreider disappears from games entirely, Miller will try to do too much and over-handle the puck and/or turn it over.

    That's my $.02.



    Funny how Yandle has turned in to a solid top pair D-man with a lot of Dzone starts and PK time, but AV ment he only could play on the PP and sheltered minutes. Went from 33% dzone starts with the Rangers to 57.8% with Florida.

    The really funny part? He has more points and better +/- in Florida.

    EDIT: That was awfully off topic, but this entire thread is a mess, so I guess its fine





    Quote Originally Posted by Puck Head
    View Post

    Who even brought up Kreider ?? And why? He has zero do to with any of this discussion


    Sent from my iPhone using Blueshirts Brotherhood mobile app powered by Tapatalk



    A valid question. You could have just scrolled back and looked, but I'll do the work for you.

    Long Live the King and I were having a spirited debate regarding Miller and Names, at which point we get this rando comment from the peanut gallery:





    Quote Originally Posted by NYRangers723
    View Post

    i dont think anybody questions millers talent BUT i just dont buy that its all AVs fault that miller didnt work out here. Dont get me wrong AV has made many errors including some ways he handled JT but at the same time JT also made a lot of errors. Now i admit i was never a huge fan of JT but i liked his talent and would of had no problem if he stayed as part of the future. My only gripe is not against him but of certain people who get upset if anybody critiques the kid or just blames AV. Not saying its you doing it but ive seen a few



    The bold is clearly was directed at me, and shame on me for taking the bait. I should have just kept this person on ignore.

    But alas, I took my own shot with this post:





    Quote Originally Posted by Pete
    View Post

    Yea, I'm not sure how anyone can say he wasn't working here, or didn't work out. Good players get traded all the time.

    It's a classic case of if people didn't like the player, they never will. What's comical to me are the people who rag Miller praise Kreider, and Miller is already a more complete player than Krieder is.



    Now, I'm not going to continue to debate if CK is more well rounded than JTM, you have your opinion and I have mine. But you jumped in to defend CK, as you usually do , and then we had varying levels of nonsensical posts from folks who were trolling (I'm guilty as well), or are just confused (turnovers = bad defensive play...Yandle and Ekblad are both in the top 10 in turnovers, yet they are leaders on their team in both PK TOI and DZS%...So methinks their coach values them as defensive players).

    Now that said, I'll just leave this at when it comes to JTM vs CK20, it's pick your poison. They are both getting you the 55ish points, they will both be unproductive for chunks of games, but while Kreider disappears from games entirely, Miller will try to do too much and over-handle the puck and/or turn it over.

    That's my $.02.





    Quote Originally Posted by phillyb[emoji769

    ;922761]This post proves why you should be ignored lol.



    This post proves you should eat more wings lol.
    Miller doesn't even come close to zuc's defensive game. His backchecking, hustle, shot blocking and defensive IQ is above anyone on this team right now (maybe except Fast). Grabner and Nash was the only one close to those two.





    Quote Originally Posted by Fatfrancesa
    View Post

    J.T. miller put up 20 plus goals and 50 plus points here with this without hall of fame anything around him. He did it all the while being moved from position to position, line to line, even in av’s doghouse. I will not defend his defensive play. But the guy put up numbers here at 22 and 23 years of age. By no means is he a finished product either is Namestnikov. They are both still kids. The difference here is that Namestnikov has never done shit without those Hall of famers on his line. It doesn’t mean he won’t but he has more to prove than miller. Thus far his play has only raised more questions while miller is benefiting in his new situation. All the while many here pretend miller was shit here and didn’t produce. Yet they love Mza whose numbers at 30 mirror miller at 23. And no mza is not a good defensive player either.

    Why do people think millers career is already defined? I don’t get it. And what’s more if he goes on to play great it will only be because of what’s around him. Convenient. Fact is he showed major potential here and while never reaching it, he was still what top 3 in production amount forwards.



    Good points. Only thing I’d like to touch upon is Zucc’s defensive prowess. He’s been a back-checking force for this team for a few seasons and plays incredible defense even strength.

    I don’t think Miller’s surpassed Zucc’s defensive game.