The J.T. Miller Problem

Do the Rangers have a solution?

In the world of NHL prospects there's nothing better than when a top prospect turns into that before your eyes. But there's also nothing worse than watching a prospect not make the jump for whatever reason. Chris Kreider is an example of a player who took the jump this season. To this point, J.T. Miller has not.

Kreider's past struggles have been well documented. I personally don't like the way he was handled last year. Some of you disagree that the treatment stunted his development, but I think it played a big factor. A lot of people point towards Alain Vigneault sending Kreider down in the beginning of the year as a sign that the coach treated Kreider the same way John Tortorella did. Again, I disagree. Vigneault made the decision we all begged for him to make. He chose a path. Either Kreider plays 17 minutes a night in the NHL or the AHL, but five minutes a night in the NHL isn't going to help anyone. So Vigneault walked down the AHL road, called up Kreider when he was needed and has let him learn at the NHL level. There have been bumps and bruises here and there but he's blossomed into one of the Rangers' most important players this year. I give Vigneault's confidence in him (again, sending him down to the AHL didn't signify he didn't have confidence in him in my book) a lot of the credit.

But Miller's situation is slowly turning into Kreider's last year. Vigneault is a coach who is known to run a balanced lineup. This isn't the Tortorella teams where forwards routinely play five minutes a night. So the fact that Miller just played five minutes in the Rangers' 3-2 loss to the Devils on Tuesday, followed by Vigneault saying Miller has "upside, but in the last few games has been caught on the ice for impact goals against," isn't a good thing.

The good news is the Rangers are expected to get Dominic Moore and Rick Nash back in the lineup sooner rather than later (although Nash's return date is still a question mark). That means Vigneault needs to create two roster spots. In the notes after the loss to the Devils I wrote the following:

- Miller played just five minutes. Brandon Mashinter played under three, Benoit Pouliot played under 10. Those are the three players who are candidates to be removed once Dominic Moore and Rick Nash come back and get healthy. My guess is the Rangers might send Miller down so he can actually play, but I'm not sure.

That still seems like the logical thing to do.