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The Captaincy Debate: Why JT Miller should be the next captain of the Vancouver Canucks

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
9 months ago
Before you get too bent out of shape…
Before you feel your blood start to boil…
Before you bolt to the comment section to record your vehement disagreement…
You need to understand one thing. And that’s that you are reading the first part of a four-part series on The Captaincy Debate, in which we’re going to present the “cases” for each of the four most serious candidates for the Canucks’ currently vacated captaincy.
So, what you’re reading is not a full-throated endorsement. It is, instead, the presentation of one side of the argument, of which all sides will eventually be presented.
But not today! Today is all about JT Miller, and it’s time to get to his accolades.
Really, there’s something to be said about a captain who can “do it all.” And Miller is a player who has been doing it all for the Canucks for four years running now.
Since being acquired by the Canucks in the 2019 offseason, Miller is tied for the highest amount of games played with Tyler Myers at 283. But Miller’s 299 points during that same span aren’t tied with anyone. He is the Canucks’ leading scorer since his arrival, still 42 points up on Elias Pettersson and a full 61 ahead of Quinn Hughes.
There’s a lot else that Miller brings to the table aside from just points, however, and that list includes a lot of captainly things.
Miller also very nearly leads the team in faceoff percentage since his arrival, trailing Bo Horvat by a score of 55.3% to 55.9%.
Miller does lead the team in hits since his arrival with 585, ahead of Luke Schenn in second place and then almost 200 hits ahead of Myers in third.
He doesn’t just hit, either. Miller commits to each and every aspect of physicality, both between and after the whistles. His seven fighting majors since coming to Vancouver are the fourth most of any Canuck during that same span, and the most by any player making more than $1 million a season. Said fights normally come in one of two varieties: sticking up for a teammate, or attempting to give the team a spark when they need it most.
You know…captain stuff.
There are few players in the league who make as all-encompassing an impact on the ice as Miller has for the Canucks.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before! Miller’s 111 power play points since joining the team? The most of any Canuck during that span. His 14 shorthanded points? Also the most of any Canuck during that span.
And let’s not forget about those 16 game-winning goals. You’ll never believe this, but they are also the most of any Canuck since Miller joined the team.
Even-strength, power play, penalty kill. Up a goal, down a goal, overtime. You name the situation, and Miller is probably the one leading the charge. And when we saying “leading,” we don’t just mean statistically, even though that’s been our focus so far.
Miller is a very external sort of leader. He shouts, a lot. He whacks teammates on the back or musses up their helmet when they need a little direct intervention. He’s been known to fire up his teammates with a pre- or mid-game speech on occasion.
Miller is very much one of those “drag ‘em into the fight” types of leaders, and that’s something that hasn’t been seen in a Canucks’ captain for decades.
If named captain, we have to imagine that Miller comes out of it as the most obviously and outwardly passionate captain since Stan Smyl. Maybe the era of the quiet and conserved leader is over.
Because “quiet” is really not something that Miller does. Which brings us to perhaps his greatest qualification as captain of them all.
It is expected that the captain of an NHL team serve at least partially as that team’s public face, and that means a lot of time dealing with — and occasionally answering to — Vancouver’s exceptionally invested media personnel.
Few are happier to speak honestly, bluntly, and even brusquely to the media as Miller is. The honesty and bluntness are typically appreciated by everyone; fans, media, and teammates alike. But it’s that brusqueness that might be needed most as the Canucks begin what is almost certain to be an uneven and uncertain climb toward contention.
There are going to be a lot of questions asked, and many of them will be hard questions, particularly when the Canucks inevitably falter along the way. Maybe it’s not the worst idea in the world to have someone answering those questions who is more than happy to tell folks to “eff right off” in defence of himself and his teammates.
That’s J. Miller, to a ‘T.’
There are two potentially detracting items that will be mentioned in any discussion of Miller as captain, and we’ll address them here.
One is his penchant for defensive gaffes. Now, Miller’s overall d-zone skills are probably underrated — he does still matchup fairly well against opposing top-sixes on a regular basis — but the errors and giveaways are sometimes tough to ignore.
Much of that struggle, however, appears to be of the mental variety. It seems to be a focus thing. What better way to focus Miller than to slap a ‘C’ on his jersey. He seems like the type to really know what it means and what it represents. What better way to induce a little more defensive responsibility out of the guy than giving him the ultimate responsibility?
The other thing that will get mentioned in these discussions is that contract. It’s kicked in by now, and it will keep Miller on the books for the next seven seasons at a $8 million AAV, which has proved controversial, to say the least.
But when it comes to the captaincy, suddenly that contract looks almost like a positive. It is, for one, a show of commitment. As of right now, Miller is the only Canuck signed beyond the year 2027, and his deal takes him all the way to 2030. No one has to wonder if he’s in it for the long-haul anymore.
And, sure, that $8 million AAV probably won’t age well in the long-run. But we’re not talking about the long-run, we’re talking about naming a captain this year. And in the present moment, JT Miller is absolutely worth $8 million, and probably a touch more than that, too.
With the salary cap due to go up in leaps and bounds, Miller probably has at least a few more years of fair-to-better-than-fair value on that contract. In other words, another few years of doing absolutely everything the Canucks might ask of him.
Including being the captain?
We’ll see.
 
Tune in throughout the week for further editions of The Captaincy Debate.

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