VANCOUVER – as well as playing this season – and J.T. Miller has never been better in the National Hockey League – the Vancouver Canucks were even more impressed with what the winger was doing on the ice.
He still did it on Wednesday.
More than three weeks after the NHL shutdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Canucks Miller made it the first player to be available to the media in a video conference in Vancouver.
"For me, the whole situation that exists is the part that I still can't believe," Miller told reporters from his home on the north coast across from Vancouver. “It feels like the world has closed for X times. It's just a very strange thing. Months or years later, when we all look back, just hope it doesn't affect as many people as it has the potential to do. "
Previously, the 27-year-old from Pittsburgh said: “I was lucky. I don't think my family was affected too much at home. That being said, I am definitely aware of everyone affected. . . and everything that healthcare workers do. It is really special. It is something that will definitely not go unnoticed in my household. Obviously, it's life-changing stuff. "
Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world and tell the audience everything about what they heard and what they think about it.
It was a career-changing year for Miller, which the Canucks acquired last June as part of a Tampa Bay Lightning trade for first and third round draft picks. This prize shared the Vancouver fan base, but the winger has proven to be a bargain.
After traveling across the continent with his wife Natalie, their two young daughters, and two dogs, who first played in Canada and the distant Western Conference, Miller had the best season of his eight-year career with ease the NHL stopped on March 12 for COVID-19.
Miller was in line with last season's rookie of the year, Elias Pettersson, with 27 goals and 45 assists in 69 games, his offensive best ever. He was 17th in the NHL classification. He led Pettersson by six points.
Miller was also second in the league with a win rate of 59.2 percent, a percentage of 53.6 shots and a dominant share of 61.5 percent in even goals.
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"But it's the stuff you don't see where I think it has had the greatest impact on our group," General Manager Jim Benning said Wednesday. “We always knew what he could do on the ice, his ability to hold on to the puck, protect the puck, and play with the puck. He has a great release for his shot. I wish he would use his shot more. But I don't think his on-ice stuff surprised us.
“His leadership in the room, his willingness to try to teach the young players. . . I think if we went through all the players in our group, our young players, J.T. had a hand in everyone that improved this year.
“He played with Petey and Boes (Brock Boeser) and would sit on the bench with these guys and work with them. But also a guy like Jake Virtanen. . . J.T. would work with Jake and I think he had a positive effect on Jake's game improvement. "
Miller repeated Wednesday that he learned by watching great players and leaders when he was with the Lightning and more than five seasons with the New York Rangers.
"I just think the timing was right," he said of his development as a leader. "I think if you play properly, it sends the best news. I really tried to focus on it. From my nineteen to now, I've played in teams with people who have been incredible leaders and have gone through so much in their careers that I just stayed out of my way and tried to be a sponge. I still have a lot to learn in this regard. But at the same time, I want to win really badly and I want this to be the number one priority for many younger people.
"When you are young, it is difficult to put aside your personal success or business for the better half of the team. If you include a team-first mentality in your game plan and everyone participates in it, the will seems to always rise to victory and when we play like that we were a very effective team. ”
The Canucks are ground zero for the debate over who will qualify for the playoffs when the NHL ends its season.
At 36-27-6, Vancouver is tied for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but loses a tie-breaker against the Nashville Predators, who have another regular win. But in terms of profit share, the Canucks are ahead of both the Calgary Flames and the Winnipeg Jets, which have played more games than Vancouver.
"I want a fair season," said Miller. "I think that's all I really have to say about it. I don't have any hypothetical playoff formats for you. I want everyone to be safe and everyone to be injury free. I want it to be fair, but that shakes it me. "
Miller said no one in the NHL wants to play until August, "but if that's it, they choose to do it … I think you have to have the attitude of just being ready, no matter what time of year , You have to understand and accept the current situation. "
He claimed that he hadn't thought much about his total points, which, with 13 games remaining, was already well above his previous highs of 23 goals, 35 assists and 58 points.
"Lots of points, yes," he said, "but I'm confident that I can have another good season and possibly do it again."
He may have to.