Canucks Need to Take the “A” Away From Miller

In hockey, wearing a letter on your jersey is a distinct honour that comes with certain responsibilities. It means they are a leader on the team and, therefore, must set an example. This includes the way they interact with teammates during games and off the ice when talking to the media or engaging with fans. Currently, one Vancouver Canucks players with an “A” on their jersey who is not living up to these expectations is J.T. Miller. This is the second season he is wearing the “A,” but based on some on-ice incidents with his teammates and his attitude off the ice, it may be time to strip him of the letter and give it to someone else.

Incident With Luke Schenn

On Oct. 22, during the Canucks’ home opener, the broadcast picked up an on-ice argument between Miller and defenceman Luke Schenn. In the late stages of the second, Miller had made a lazy play and turned over the puck in the Canucks’ zone that led to a scoring chance. As the players were leaving the ice, Miller skated away from Schenn as he tried to talk to him about the play, leading to both players screaming at each other. The argument got so heated that Conor Garland had to step in and separate the two players as they were on their way to the locker room.

J.T. Miller Vancouver Canucks
J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

After the game, Miller was asked about the incident and responded with, “no offence, it’s none of your business.” Instead of shutting down the situation, he added fuel to the fire as the media’s response was there must be a division in the room. He could have easily said we had a disagreement, and it is in the past, but instead, he went with a childish answer. Also to note, this was minutes before President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford and Schenn were set to join Scott Oake on the postgame show “After Hours,” putting both members of the organization in potentially difficult situations. Not only was his on-ice behaviour disrespectful, but his off-ice comments showed a lack of leadership.

Incident With Collin Delia

On Dec. 29, versus the Winnipeg Jets, the Canucks found themselves down by a goal late in the game. Miller collected the puck and circled back into his zone to set up the breakout. After waiving goaltender Collin Delia to the bench with no success, he skated behind the goaltender and slammed his stick on the top of the net, screaming for him to get off the ice. The Canucks’ goaltender, who kept Vancouver in the game up until that point, then skated to the bench for the extra attacker. Vancouver was unable to tie the game, with Winnipeg scoring into the empty net just a few seconds later.

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After the game, coach Bruce Boudreau stood up for his goaltender, taking the blame for the incident and explaining he wanted to wait until the Canucks had moved the puck up the ice before pulling the goaltender. As for Miller, he once again gave a childish answer telling Sportsnet Ryan Leslie, “At the end of the day, it probably looks optically not good. So people with other opinions I don’t really give a — you know, care.” He also declined to answer Leslie’s follow-up on if he spoke to Delia about the incident.

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Since the incident, former NHLers have been very vocal about how disrespectful this incident is. Curtis McElhinney posted a tweet with the line, “Seems like a good guy move” when describing Miller’s antics, while Mike McKenna wrote an article saying a public apology is needed since he embarrassed Delia in such a public way. Even if two teammates hate each other, publicly embarrassing a teammate like that is never acceptable and is another example of poor leadership from the Canucks forward.

Canucks Should Give The “A” To Someone Who Deserves It

Leaders stand up for their teammates, not embarrass them, which is why the Canucks should give the “A” to someone else. Two players come to mind, with the first one being Schenn. A fan favourite and someone who will stand up for any teammate, he is the living embodiment of what a leader looks like on and off the ice. The only complication in giving him an “A” is that he very well could be traded this year and would not be a permanent solution.

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The other option is Elias Pettersson. He is clearly the future of this franchise and has singlehandedly won games for the Canucks this season. Few players on this Vancouver team give as much effort on the ice as he does, and as a bonus, isn’t scared to call himself out when he has a bad game. If Bo Horvat is dealt this season, he is the front-runner to be named captain, so why not give him a letter now and let him gain some experience as a leader on this team.

While the best way to sort out his attitude issues may be by putting him in the press box, that is unlikely, as the team just committed $56 million to him until the summer of 2030. That is why removing the “A” is the best option. He is playing in a Canadian market where media and fans care about every little thing that happens with the Canucks, so if his response to questions is “who cares,” then he shouldn’t be part of the leadership group. Regardless of how bad things have gotten in Vancouver, leaders like Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, and Horvat have never publicly humiliated teammates on the ice or in the media. If Miller cannot understand that in his fourth season with the organization and feels he can embarrass his teammates, he should not be part of this team’s leadership group moving forward.

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