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THE MOJ: Canuck JT Miller’s alpha male status in need of checks and balances

Miller stepped over the line with on-ice actions embarrassing coach and teammates
Vancouver Canucks center J.T. Miller shoots against the San Jose Sharks during the second period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vasquez)

It’s been an interesting week for J.T. Miller of the Vancouver Canucks.

Miller was involved in a couple of controversies that had fans and media alike criticizing the 29-year-old forward.

In the latest instance, he caught flak from the Hockey Night in Canada panel for his lack of effort in a 3-2 New Year’s Eve loss to the Flames in Calgary.

Former Canuck and current HNIC studio analyst Kevin Bieksa stated that he couldn’t defend a lazy line change by Miller while fellow analyst Kelly Hrudey also questioned Miller’s effort on another play.

I love the intensity that Miller usually plays with but last week’s on-ice outburst in which he embarrassed goaltender Collin Delia was inexcusable.

In case you missed it, the Canucks were trailing the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 late in the third period during a game Thursday night in Winnipeg and had possession of the puck in their own zone. Delia was looking at the bench waiting for head coach Bruce Boudreau to give him the signal to leave the ice for an extra attacker.

With no indication from Boudreau to get to the bench, Delia remained close to his crease.

That, however, infuriated Miller who could be seen yelling at Delia to get off the ice. Miller even smashed his stick on the crossbar when he had possession of the puck behind the net in a clear sign to get Delia to vacate the premises.

One of the unwritten rules of team sports is to never show up or embarrass your teammates on the field of play.

Miller broke that rule.

In fact, Miller also embarrassed Boudreau.

Pulling the goalie is a game management decision that is made by the head coach – not by an alternate captain who is on the ice.

What made it look even worse is that Delia is a 28-year-old journeyman just trying to stay in the league.

I wonder if Miller would have tried the same stunt if the goalie at the other end of the ice – Jacob Markstrom - was still a Canuck?

Don’t think so.

“I think his emotions are all about his competitiveness and when things don’t go well for him or he’s trying hard and not getting the results he wants… he’s an emotional guy. I’ve played with and coached a lot of emotional guys but I’d rather have an emotional guy that cares than a non-emotional guy that doesn’t,” Boudreau stated to the media after Monday’s practice, obviously taking the high road to protect his player.

The irony of it all is that Miller is a fiery competitor but we have seen too many instances where his effort – like in the Calgary game — is lackadaisical.

Miller is supposed to be a leader on the hockey club as the ‘A’ on his jersey would indicate.

Leadership, however, needs checks and balances otherwise it becomes a dictatorship.

That’s why the U.S. Government has an executive branch (the President), a judiciary branch (the Supreme Court) and a legislative branch (the Senate). Each branch holds the other two accountable.

When the team had veterans around like Markstrom, Chris Tanev, Jay Beagle or Brandon Sutter, Miller could be held in check but apparently that’s not the case anymore as Miller has become the Alpha Male of the hockey club.

You don’t need to be ‘in the room’ to figure it out.

In fact, all you have to do is listen to Miller being interviewed by Sportsnet’s Ryan Leslie prior to the game in Calgary regarding the incident with Delia.

During the interview, Miller told Leslie “I don’t even know why this is being talked about” and that “I didn’t even notice (the incident) this was a thing until today.”

Doesn’t sound like a guy who got a message that what he did was wrong.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media. And check out his weekly podcast every Monday at Today in B.C. or your local Black Press Media website.

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