Kreider and Miller. The future, but maybe not the present.
Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller have seen diminishing ice time over the past few games, getting to a point where neither received a shift after the mid-point of the second period in last night’s win. Coach John Tortorella has stated that he is worried about the kids, especially at this time of the year:
“Quite honestly, I am worried about the two kids. I am not upset with them, I just think that the stakes are high and I just have to watch how they go through the game.”
This shouldn’t surprise many, but it has been the cause of some very heated debates. Some have even gone as far as calling for Tortorella’s head because he refuses to play the kids. Some have said that he is hurting their development. Before we go blindly bashing the coach, there are a few points to consider.
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The time has come where the Rangers need to make a decision on rookie J.T. Miller. Miller played his fifth game last night, and once he plays his sixth game, the first year of his entry-level deal will count. If the Rangers send him back to the AHL, and do not use him for a single NHL game for the rest of the year, including the playoffs, then his deal will slide once more. If his deal slides, then his initial ELC won’t expire until after the 2015-2016 season. If he plays one more game, it expires a year early.
With the new CBA, the salary cap is going to drop to $64.3 million next season, and likely drop again the season following. This puts additional strain on the Rangers, who have three key RFAs (Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh) this season. The added cost certainty of Miller’s ELC will go a long way to keeping the core pieces in blue.
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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.
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Taylor Pyatt has been the one exception to an almost universal rule
Countless factors go into individual player evaluations, but one quality continues to dictate how the Rangers construct their roster: speed.
It’s not exactly a new revelation, the altered NHL demands that players possess speed and skill as the league has phased out the plodding physical specimens that were impact players in the 1990s. But few franchises have put as strong an emphasis on skating ability as New York. Just look at three of the team’s most recent first-round picks: Chris Kreider, JT Miller and Brady Skjei. What do all have in common? Tremendous skating ability.
There’s simply no room on Broadway, especially under coach John Tortorella, for players that can’t outskate the opposition.
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Rob Carr/Getty Images
Today we are going to take a deeper look at the Rangers recent moves. Though the team played better in Tampa the other night, the bottom six hasn’t been very consistent and clearly Torts and Sather thought a change was needed. Below we’ve put together a qualitative analysis, or as Dave likes to call it – the eye test. If there’s an interest in the quantitative/advanced stats-type stuff. Let us know. Dave can whip that together.
Rangers trade C/LW Mike Rupp for C/LW Darroll Powe & RW Nick Palmieri
What the Rangers lose – Size, fights, veteran leadership
I was one of the few advocates of having a guy like Mike Rupp in the lineup. Most people who didn’t play organized hockey growing up have a hard time evaluating 4th line guys, so I get the disconnect some fans had with his presence in the lineup. For me, Rupp was exactly what you need from a 4th line role player.
Rupper was a leader in the locker room, as evidenced by Torts constantly seeking Rupp’s input at key times (shown in 24/7). He stood up for his teammates (remember Tomas Kopecky sucker punching MDZ last year? Rupp was the first guy in). He also played well in a limited role during the playoffs, bringing a good forecheck and puck management.
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In the second big move of the day, the Rangers have called up forwards J.T. Miller and Brandon Mashinter from the CT Whale, and returned Benn Ferriero to the AHL. Despite impressing in his debut, Ferriero saw reduced time on the ice, and with the acquisition of Darroll Powe, the writing may have been on the wall for the forward. This won’t be his last trip to the NHL.
In eight games with the Whale, Mashinter has a line of 3-4-7 and has been one of the best forwards on the ice. Miller, the Rangers prized prospect, has a line of 8-12-20 in 37 games, and has really picked up his game since his slow start to the season.
The Rangers can’t afford to burn a year of JT Miller’s Entry Level deal
GM Glen Sather attempted to act swiftly to address the Rangers’ depth issue at forward last week, but after Jason Arnott failed his physical the team is still left searching for forwards. Acquiring bottom-six forward Benn Ferriero appears to have been a savvy move, but New York is still thin up front.
The free agent market is barren, so it’s likely that the Rangerswill need to recall another player from Connecticut at some point due to injury, suspension or some other unforeseen circumstances. Thus far, the Rangers have deployed Brandon Segal and Kris Newbury, both of who were immediately sent back to the Whale after one-game cameos with the big club. Neither impressed and coach John Tortorella didn’t seem to have any trust in them, so neither can be seen as anything more than an emergency stopgap solution.
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Could Miller swap US red white and blue for New York’s?
When the Rangers hit the ice in the next couple of weeks, a player with plenty of momentum and a huge chance of making the Rangers opening night roster will be J.T. Miller. Physically mature and improving with every game he plays, Miller had an impressive World Junior’s, growing in importance with each game as the American team won gold in impressive fashion. With nine points in seven games and a +5 rating to boot, Miller enjoyed the WJC on an individual level in addition to soaking up team glory.
As previously discussed, players such as Chris Kreider– along with Miller – also represent the future of the Rangers, but a player such as Kreider may not be in form right now, while other younger players such as Christian Thomas or Ryan Bourque simply aren’t ready. However with every additional game throughout the WJC, Miller has started to look pro ready.
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Team USA pulled it off. After beating a stacked Team Canada in the semi-finals, USA beat an equally talented Sweden team 3-1 in the World Junior Championship Finals to capture WJC gold. Very few thought that the Americans would win gold from the onset of the tournament, as the Russians, Canadians, and Swedes were all incredibly talented teams with high-profile scorers. USA won on great goaltending from John Gibson, superior defense, and a north-south grind-it-out style.
J.T. Miller –the Rangers 2011 first round pick– added another assist to his totals, tallying the primary assist on the third goal. He also finished with a +1 rating, two shots on goal, and a 6-5 record in the face off circle.
Miller finished tied for the team lead in scoring, with two goals and seven assists throughout the tournament (seven games). Miller started the tournament off slow, but got better with each game he played. He was one of the most visible and most dominant US players.
J.T. Miller and Team USA showed they belonged in the semi-finals of the 2013 World Junior Championship this morning, dominating Canada in a 5-1 victory. Team USA lost to both Canada and Russia by identical 2-1 scores in pool play, and needed wins over Germany and Slovakia just to make the single elimination tournament. Since then, Team USA has outscored opponents 12-1 en route to the finals.
Miller, who played his best game of the tournament this morning (something we say after every game), finished with two assists, a +3 rating, two shots on goal, and nine face off wins (out of 12 total). Miller assisted on the final two USA goals, and was on the ice for the final three goals.
Team USA will face the defending champion Swedes Saturday morning at 8am EST. The game will be on TSN, NHLN, and NHL.com