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JT Miller owes his Vancouver Canucks teammate Collin Delia an apology.
Going into the final minutes of Thursday’s matchup with the Winnipeg Jets, Vancouver trailed 3-2. And Delia, playing her third game in goal for the Canucks, was stuck in the Vancouver crease, waiting for any sign from the coaching staff to skate for the extra attacker.
The signal never came. And when Miller took possession of the puck and returned to the Canucks’ defensive zone, he slammed into his teammate.
Miller can be seen yelling at Delia to get off the ice, in not-so-nice words. The Canucks assistant captain then smashes his stick against the crossbar directly behind Delia as he continues to yell at her.
It’s one of the most disrespectful things I’ve seen a player do to a teammate in a long time. And Miller is dead wrong.
Let me explain.
Every goalkeeper knows that when his team is trailing and there are less than three minutes left in the game, it’s time to start looking towards the bench. But goalies are taught to stay put until the coach calls them off the ice.
No coach wants to be surprised by a goalkeeper who goes straight to the bench. Adding an additional attacker is not a spontaneous decision. Coaches are constantly juggling which skaters are available to replace the goaltender.
But there is another layer. Over time, many coaches have realized that there isn’t much to be gained by shooting the goalie when the puck is still in the defensive zone. Consequently, many goalies have been trained to stay in that position.
Turnovers happen. Players have accidentally dialed into their own net. It really isn’t much of an advantage to have a sixth skater on the ice when it comes to getting the puck out with possession.
Do you know when Delia is supposed to come off the ice? When Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau says it. And if he goes back and watches the video again, Boudreau isn’t signaling to Delia that she sit on the bench. In fact, not a single member of his staff is looking at the Vancouver goalie.
So for Miller to throw a tantrum at Delia is completely ridiculous. Miller has no idea what the coaching staff is asking for. He simply sees a situation where, in his mind: the goalie needs to get off. And he crosses the line. Take a look again.
As players, we are passionate. we want to win. And things happen fast. But hitting the crossbar behind Delia? Miller might as well have sliced the netminder off the back of the head. The optics are outrageous.
Do you think Miller would have yelled at Canucks No.1 goalie Thatcher Demko the same way? What about Henrik Lundqvist or Andrei Vasilevskiy, both former Miller teammates?
No fucking. Chance.
I’ve been there before as the No. 3 goalkeeper. I’ve felt the trepidation of going into a new locker room and trying to do everything I can to help the team win. I know what it’s like to feel like an outsider despite wearing the same shirt as my teammates.
The 2022-23 NHL season marks Delia’s first outside of the Chicago Blackhawks organization.
Miller is asserting his dominance over a teammate who hasn’t been a member of the Canucks for very long. Someone whom, at the time, Miller considered inferior to him. An AHL goaltender in the NHL.
That’s pretty rich considering Delia stopped 35 of 38 shots and faced, according to naturalstattrick.com, a staggering 25 high-danger chances.
But here’s the thing. Delia was not recruited. She is 28 years old and in her sixth year of professional hockey. The Canucks backup has appeared in 35 NHL games thanks to determination and hard work.
Delia wasn’t standing in the crease looking off into space. She was paying attention. Watch the last two minutes of the game and it’s clear as day that Delia was looking to the sidelines waiting for a signal that never came.
And that’s the main reason why I disliked Miller’s actions. He made Delia look like an idiot, when Delia didn’t do anything wrong.
If Miller didn’t immediately realize how bad his actions were, I hope someone did and pushed him away. Because it’s not just Miller who looks bad. He is the entire Canucks team.
I say all this knowing that I screwed up on multiple occasions during my own career. No one of us is perfect. I had to own up to my mistakes and apologize to my teammates after games more than I’d like to admit. But those conversations were important.
Miller’s problem is that his outburst was very public. He can’t hide from it. And Miller just signed a $56 million, seven-year extension that keeps him in Vancouver through 2030.
He’s supposed to be a leader of the Canucks. But last night, Miller didn’t live up to the ‘A’ on his jersey.
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