Canucks Roll Call is assessing every player who held a significant place in the fortunes of the 2021-22 Vancouver Canucks season. We’ll be looking at the highs and lows they experienced during the recent campaign, as well as what the future holds for them in Vancouver. We began with the club’s free agents and now move on to those players under contract. Today we feature center and leading scorer JT Miller.
We start at the top of the Vancouver Canucks scoring list. What a season for Miller, just one point shy of 100.
2021-22 totals (GP-G-A-P): 80-32-67-99, 47 PIM
Contract Status: One year remaining on a five year deal with an annual cap hit of $5.250-million, a contract originally signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018. He arrived in Vancouver in June of 2019 in a trade for a 1st-round pick, a 3rd-round pick, and depth goalie Marek Mazanec, who’s back home playing in the Czech Republic.
Miller is sort of a contradiction dressed as an enigma.
Here’s a statistical example. He led all Vancouver Canucks forwards in hits, by far, with 172. We’re taking about the leading scorer here. Next closest was Jason Dickinson with 101. Miller also led all forwards with 56 blocked shots, all of which spells out leadership through example, sacrifice, and determination.
At the same time, Miller led the forwards, by far, with 30 defensive zone giveaways. Yes, he’s on the ice a lot and has the puck on his stick, but that’s almost three times more than anyone else. And it seems like those turnovers are often wildly irresponsible and appear to come out of frustration. “Pissy” has been one way to describe his on-ice demeanour at times.
Then we split the difference. Despite his propensity to occasionally take some ill-timed doozies in terms of penalties, he was essentially even on the season for taking penalties and drawing them. One would think given his offensive numbers, this player should be drawing a lot more than he’s taking, but then again, look at the physicality factor.
Contradictions that come from multiple forms of competitive passion.
Miller also led the forwards in penalty minutes with 47. His one fight was with Radko Gudas of the Florida Panthers and it was simply more of a take-down. (The video is from the previous season.)
Oh, and he won 54.1% of his face-offs.
His determination, that ability to score, and to show up in clutch moments was epitomized on November 2nd, 2021 at home against the New York Rangers when Miller scored a thrilling game winner in overtime against Igor Shesterkin. Stopped on a breakaway, Miller picked up the loose puck below the goal line and won the game on a wraparound.
It was one of six times Miller scored the game winning goal for the Vancouver Canucks, tied for the team lead with Brock Boeser.
During a 13-game scoring streak that bridged February to mid-March, Miller piled up eight goals and 19 assists. During the crucial stretch drive when the Canucks were trying to rally into a playoff position, he had 26 points over the season’s final 19 games. (Five of them came in a single game at home against the Arizona Coyotes, but hey, can you blame him).
When one thinks about it, the entire season after head coach Bruce Boudreau took over on December 6th was one long stretch drive and Miller was clutch. He missed two games all season.
The analytics department would be happy with his overall shot, possession, and expected goal numbers.
Literally it’s just the body language and the frustration occasionally being acted out. He’s bossy, he’s vocal, but that’s who he is. From all accounts it’s a very close-knit room, so it’s not as if he’s an overall alienator. (new word).
Miller’s longest pointless streak, four games, came in late-November near the end of head coach Travis Green’s tenure. Not a coincidence.
What the future holds
This isn’t about what the player has to offer, it’s about what the player has to offer at what price and for how long. When Vancouver Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford and General Manager Patrik Allvin begin negotiating with agent Brian Bartlett, they won’t necessarily be in a hurry, although it seems both sides would prefer to get the extension done before the season starts in October.
Miller appears to be in his prime right now. With a six-year deal, he’d turn 36-years-of age in March of the sixth year. Would he insist on eight years for security? I doubt the Canucks would be willing to go there.
As for trade speculation, it’s just that. If management ultimately doesn’t believe in the potential long term benefits of having Miller around, then that option becomes real. They’ll decide what combination of draft pick, prospect, active player(s) get added — preferably a right-handed D-man and/or right-handed center — and with whom a deal gets done.
Rutherford has suggested multiple times he likes many of his players. It would be hard to believe that one of them isn’t his dynamic leading scorer.