The New York Rangers had a very tough decision to make. Do they keep up J.T. Miller, burning the first year off his ELC or send him back down for some more AHL seasoning? Their answer? Sending Chris Kreider down and keeping Miller up.
Now, to be clear, it's not as though the two rookies were dependent on one another. As many beat reporters suggested after the move was made, this probably had much more to do with the fact that the Rangers' brass probably wanted Kreider to be playing 20 minutes a night for the Connecticut Whale rather than playing 10 minutes a night every now and then with the Rangers.
But with Brian Boyle reinserted into the lineup against the Islanders after being a healthy scratch the three previous games, the Rangers were left with one extra forward and Tortorella prefers not to have his young players have their development stunted by not playing.
Here's the thing: I think if John Tortorella had allowed Kreider to play more significant minutes, we would have gotten a better look at where he sits in his development. Remember, this is his first year as a professional, there was always going to be some growing pains. Tortorella, who probably wants to give Miller the same opportunity he gave Kreider early on, is going to take a good, hard look at Miller now.
I don't disagree that Kreider could use some time with the Whale to season. I also, however, believe that if Tortorella gave him 12-15 minutes a night he could figure things out on the big stage as well. But 7-10 minutes a night really wasn't helping either party. Hopefully Kreider realizes this isn't a sign that he can't do this, but a sign that he has such talent the Rangers want to make sure he reaches his full potential.
But Tortorella is going to run into the same issue if he's only giving Miller 10 minutes a night. If Miller is going to be up, give him serious minutes. Put him in pressure situations, see how he handles it.
If Kreider handles this situation the right way -- and there's no reason to assume he won't -- then he'll use this time with the Whale as a stage to prove he belongs back with the big club. Hopefully the brass down in Connecticut put him on the top line and give him 20 minutes a night. Hopefully he responds with some fantastic play (it's not all about the numbers) and then we see him soon.
I still think we're going to have both players in the lineup sooner rather than later.
It's just about the path the two take to get there.