There is no denying that K’Andre Miller had an amazing rookie season. It all culminated for the 21 year-old budding star with a spot on the NHL’s All-Rookie Team. In his first season fresh out of college he recored 12 points, a +9 rating in 53 games while averaging 21:07 a game.
To start the season, Miller was being eased into playing at the NHL level. Then Tony DeAngelo was exiled from the team after an altercation with Alexandar Georgiev and Jack Johnson was lost due to injury. This forced the Rangers to give Miller a top four role; and he performed extremely well.
However; that was likely not the game plan and it may behoove the Rangers to possibly scale his minutes back to avoid the dreaded sophomore jinx.
K’Andre Miller a little less is more for Rangers defense
Using data at Hockey Reference, I took all of K’Andre Miller’s games played for the 2020-21 season and noticed a clue that less could be more.
In 34 games where Miller played under 22 minutes, he recorded 9 points, had a + rating of 9, and the team went 17-14-3. When I looked at games where he crossed the 22 minute threshold Miller had 3 points, and an even rating in 19 games. The Rangers record was fairly similar at 9-7-3.
While it’s a not a serious cause for concern, Miller’s point production drops from .27 to .13 per game when he goes over 22 minutes. The statistical evidence seems to indicate that over a certain threshold, Miller’s play isn’t as strong.
It does become more obvious when you split his season in half.
The Rangers utilized Miller to the tune of 20:25 minutes per game in the first half. He notched 7 points with a +10 rating, that was good for .26 points per game. Towards the second half of the year, it was becoming evident that Miller seemed to be struggling. When the Rangers started heaping more ice time on Miller, he only recored 5 points and had a -1 rating averaging 21:47 a night. A drop to .19 points per game.
Bringing in the right veteran may help Miller in the long run
There is nothing to say that Miller simply won’t get better playing a ton of minutes next season. Matter of fact, I advise that to be the initial game plan for his development. However, it would be wise to make sure the Rangers can add a veteran on the left side that can jump in and ease the burden on the young defender.
While there’s been a lot of talk about Alec Martinez, his next contract could be in the neighborhood of $4.5 to $5.5 million. At 34 years of age, anything more than 2 years at around $3.5 – $4 million does not make a ton of sense.
Zdeno Chara is going to be 45, but proved he can still contribute on a very good Capitals team. So he could be a cheap option if he still wants to play. The Rangers should also explore the trade market for a veteran blue-liner who has a reasonable contract.
The bottom line is that Miller is the future of the Rangers defense. It will be up to Drury to make sure he doesn’t take a backwards step on his path to stardom.
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