The young man in the picture is JT Miller. Normally, I wouldn’t write about the New York Rangers, but JT is special because his hometown of East Palestine, Ohio (pronounced PAL-uh-steen) is about 20 minutes northeast from where I live. He’s a local boy made good, although with all the Penguins love in the papers, the only attention he received was when he was drafted in 2011. Thanks to my Faceoff Violation editor Melissa (who runs the Rangers blog there), I’ve kept up with his comings and goings on the team.
He’s been doing a lot of bouncing between NYC and Hartford this season, but this last time was really frustrating. Chris Kreider is currently injured, so JT was called up. He played one game but was a healthy scratch for the next. His replacement? Daniel Carcillo. Now, I like Danny, but I have to agree that he didn’t belong on a line with Rick Nash and Derek Stepan. He’d been in that position before on the Blackhawks with no-so-stellar results and was actually better suited on the bottom six. Then I read about Alain Vigneault saying JT really hasn’t earned the right to be in the NHL. After I ranted a bit about that, Melissa told me that it could be a wake up call because of possible off-ice problems, and that it had happened before.
That brought to mind Tyler Seguin‘s situation. JT’s a young guy, just turned 21. Tyler’s a year older. We’ve all heard about what might’ve triggered his trade to the Dallas Stars (in short, a nonchalant attitude and partying behavior). Perhaps this is happening with JT as well. I’m sure the Rangers are handling this in a different way than the Boston Bruins did (or the Chicago Blackhawks did with Patrick Kane). But if their way is to exile him to Hartford for eternity, that’s not really teaching him anything. The constant shuttling is saying that he’s only good enough when someone’s injured. He needs to be sat down and given a real heart-to-heart talk, but I don’t think AV is the person to do that.
I had suggested that he needs a coaching change, and Melissa pointed out that he’s already played under two different NHL coaches. But going from John Tortorella to Alain Vigneault is, in my eyes, going from bad to worse. So perhaps it’s not just the coaching or the player.
What’s the only other option? A trade. He’d be a good prospect for a team with a good farm organization. Train him up, give him the discipline and skills he needs to be that callup that’s used not just when someone’s out. Show him how to be the guy who could make the team out of training camp. If he’s not what that team needs, trade him off to someone who does. It’s worked well for Jimmy Hayes and Brandon Pirri, who’ve found success with the Florida Panthers, and you can trace that back to their time with the Blackhawks and Rockford IceHogs.
Maybe JT does need a wake up call; we don’t know one way or the other. But I think he needs a change of scenery. Find a strong organization that will help him thrive. If he can, he might have a Seguin-like revival, and that will make me and East Palestine even more proud.