It has been a long and laborious journey for the Boston Bruins’ Kevan Miller. After working through setbacks after a fractured kneecap that he suffered in April 2019, the veteran defenseman finally appears to be healthy. He is back playing quality hockey in training camp and proving that the Bruins were right to hold onto him.
Miller missed the entire 2019-20 season dealing with the injury before the Bruins surprisingly brought him back on a one-year, $1.25 million contract this offseason. The 33-year-old, who was never a great skater, wondered if he had what it takes to return from a major leg injury. He has put those worries to rest, and in the process has developed a new love for the game.
Gratitude Through Adversity
Miller has separated himself from the pack of defensemen vying for a spot in the Bruins’ lineup, firmly planting his flag on the right side of the third pairing. We should not be that surprised at his comeback – his road to the professional ranks was more difficult than most. But a man of Miller’s toughness does not give up easily.
From being undrafted out of Vermont to spending many seasons in the AHL, the knee injury was only the latest of many obstacles he has had to overcome. Miller’s journey to the NHL is a testament to his grit and determination.
But it took more than just grit to get through a grueling rehab process. During his time away from the ice, Miller developed an appreciation for the game that he did not have before his injuries:
If anything for me, I think I’m just in a different position than I was before the injury… Playing in the NHL, you take it for granted. And that’s something that I’m not gonna take for granted anymore.
Miller’s gratitude has taken him far in training camp. He reportedly ‘looks like an absolute animal’, delivering hard hits and sharp passes from his stay-at-home spot on the right side.
Miller Embracing ‘Old Guy’ Role
Miller is setting a good example for Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen, two young defensemen whom the Bruins have put a lot of stock into. Without Zdeno Chara, Miller is now the designated ‘old guy’ on defense, so his return could not come at a better time.
Just as he introduced Matt Grzelcyk to the NHL, Miller will now mentor those young, promising prospects as they are integrated into the lineup. This new role is a major source of Miller’s newfound appreciation for the game, and he acknowledges that he now has a greater responsibility to the team.
Miller’s appreciation for the game and his sense of responsibility indicates that he is mentally ready to return to action, but he is still not quite 100% physically. He has been spotted doing individual work before and after practice, putting his knee through more drills to make sure that it can handle a full workload ahead of the season-opener on Jan. 14.
Every day, every shift, every practice, every time I get to put my skates on and skate with the guys, I have a different appreciation for the game now… Every day is a gift to be out there playing.
In any case, Miller is just happy to be back on the ice with his teammates, contributing to the success of the team who first gave him a chance in 2011. This is the start of a new chapter in his career – one of greater stability, responsibility, and love for the game.