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J.T. Miller has wrestled the title of best player on the Vancouver Canucks and become an indispensable piece while doing so

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Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Noah Strang
8 months ago
When Travis Green was fired earlier this season, everyone went straight to speculating on how the coaching change would affect the individual players. Who would benefit from the shift in tone, approach, and systems, and which players would be negatively affected? While there was lots of speculation at the time, we are now over 30 games into the Boudreau era and have a much clearer picture of the new reality.
One player who has stepped their game up to another level is J.T. Miller. The forward who was acquired for two draft picks and goalie Marek Mazanec has been one of the Canucks’ most impactful players ever since arriving on the west coast, but since Boudreau arrived he has taken his game to new heights.
After Miller recorded four points against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night to secure a crucial two points for the Canucks in their playoff race, Boudreau had nothing but high praise for the 28-year-old American. Not only did Miller lead all skaters in points, but he also delivered a crucial go-ahead goal in the third period.
“He’s taken over as the catalyst and the leader. It’s wonderful to see because you need that at this time of the season,” commented the head coach.
Miller’s continued evolution into one of the best players in the league has come at an interesting time as he’s found himself at the centre of trade rumours. He’s already been traded twice in his career and with the Canucks’ cap issues, many argue that it would make sense to trade him while his value is high. However, his play has been so good recently that it’s raised the question as to if the Canucks can afford to even trade their best player.

How J.T. Miller has earned himself the title of best player on the Canucks

Heading into this season, you could make the argument for a few different players to be named the best on the Canucks. Quinn Hughes has one of the most unique skillsets in the league and is irreplaceable in terms of what he brings to the ice. When on his game, Elias Pettersson is one of the top two-way pivots in the league with a devastating shot. Goalie Thatcher Demko bails the team out on a nightly basis and deserves tons of credit for his consistency.
Miller was also in this conversation, though a struggle with controlling emotions and a tendency for careless mistakes often left fans confused. It wasn’t rare to see Miller completely dominate a shift before throwing a blind pass that led to a turnover and a chance the other way. However, since Boudreau’s arrival, Miller has cleaned up his game a bit and the results are showing on the ice and on the box score.
In the 31 games that Miller has played under Boudreau, he’s scored 44 points, a 116 point pace when extrapolated over 82 games. Not only that, but he has just eight secondary assists during that time, showing that he has been creating plenty of scoring opportunities. While Miller is on the ice at 5-on-5, the Canucks have scored 56.10% of the goals. Miller has clearly established himself as the best player on the team, as well as taken a larger leadership role that he hasn’t held in the past.

How this has muddled his trade situation

While Miller’s excellent play has defintely boosted his trade value, it’s also made it a more difficult decision for the Canucks. How do you trade your best player and team leader during a playoff push? Are you going to feel comfortable selling Miller now and then watching him remain an elite first-line player for someone else for years to come? Because that is a very real possibility. Miller has one more year after this one on his very reasonable contract and getting started early on extension talks will be crucial for Jim Rutherford and his team.
Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reported that an NHL team executive told him that he doesn’t think Miller will re-sign in Vancouver. If that’s the case, Miller needs to be traded before he’s allowed to walk for nothing. While that’s obvious, it also raises the question as to if the Canucks should trade him at this deadline or keep him for the push before dealing him in the offseason when teams might be able to do some more cap gymnastics.
The Miller conundrum is one that has been covered extensively and for good reason. It’s the largest decision this franchise has had to make in a very long time and one that will decide the direction of this team for years to come. His excellent play has only made this decision harder and a wrong move here by the Rutherford regime could shift this franchise even further in the wrong direction.

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