The least surprising part of J.T. Miller’s appearance on John Scott’s Dropping the Gloves podcast was when he admitted that he and the Vancouver Canucks are not particularly close on contract negotiations.
That’s been clear from the limited communication coming from the Canucks for months. As much as Miller wants to stay in Vancouver and the Canucks want to keep him, the two sides are miles apart when it comes to what a contract extension would look like.
With Miller turning 30 next year and the team still not a contender, the Canucks are justifiably nervous about a long-term, big-money deal, while Miller and his agent know that this is his one big chance for a major payday and that there will be teams willing to spend if he goes to free agency.
“They have a lot of decisions to make on a lot of players. So far to this point with the negotiations, we’re not as close as we’d like to be,” said Miller. “I want to be there but, that being said, if it’s not meant to be, I understand that too. Trust me, I’d like to have a deal done in Vancouver and I want to be there but, at the same time, I have to respect everybody’s vision and if that doesn’t line up, it is what it is.”
While Miller wouldn’t go into detail about any aspect of negotiations or what he might be worth on the trade market — “How many first-rounders does J.T. get — at least four?” joked Scott — the entire 45-minute interview is a great listen. Scott is a natural interviewer and doesn’t shy away from tough questions despite the jocular tone of the podcast.
"We have all the pieces."
Scott also isn’t afraid to pump the tires of his guests, perhaps buttering them up so the tough questions go down more easily.
“You’re Patrice Bergeron but you get more points and you’re better looking,” said Scott.
There are other elements of this comparison that could be quibbled with, but let’s be clear — Patrice Bergeron is a very handsome man.
Perhaps the tire-pumping can get out of hand, but Scott seemed sincere when he suggested the Canucks were a Stanley Cup contender, saying they've got it all: a high-end defence, high-end forwards, and a high-end goaltender. Miller seemed to agree but it was still interesting to note where he paused at one point.
"We have one of the best goalies in the world, some of the — one of the best defencemen in the world, and some of the best young forwards," said Miller. "We have all the pieces."
"That's most likely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Scott asked Miller about how it felt to finish the season with 99 points instead of hitting the century mark.
“I just keep telling people I didn’t play a full season and it makes me feel better,” joked Miller before admitting. “Yeah, it sucks.”
“That’s most likely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and the part that sucks is I got the 99th in the first period of that last game,” he added. “They’re [the Edmonton Oilers] ramping for the playoffs, I’m thinking they’re going to take it easy on us but they just started playing harder and harder. They actually came back in the game and tied it up.
“Then we went to overtime and I had two really good chances in overtime too. Bruce called a timeout in overtime to get me some rest, I was on 24 or 25 minutes that game, I almost died.”
Miller finished that game with 24:15 in ice time and the Canucks had 22 shots on goal with Miller on the ice in that game as they tried to get him his 100th point but it was not to be.
“If you knew me really well, I could care less about it, it’s just a number,” said Miller. “Trust me, to see one more digit would have been very, very special but I still find the double-nines are a pretty cool number as well.”
"I want to get that out of my game."
The most interesting part of the interview — at least to this listener — was when Scott asked Miller about where he needed to grow. Miller showed a lot of introspection and self-awareness in his answer.
“Keeping my emotions in check on a more consistent level,” said Miller. “I’m a very, very fiery guy and I play on a very, very sharp edge. I’m always on the brink of getting too frustrated or worked up. At the same time, that brings the absolute best out of me.
“Just because I’m dropping F-bombs or breaking a stick here or there, it doesn’t mean I’m checked out, it means — in a weird way — I’m into it. At the same time, I understand I can’t be doing that, I can’t be showing that, and I want to get that out of my game.”
Miller explained that he doesn’t want to lose his edge, that he has to play that way, but as a leader on the Canucks, he has to lead by example and “keep my emotions in check and stay engaged a little more often.”
He also identified his defensive game as an area where he needs to get better.
“I need to think about defence a little bit more and just be more engaged and win more battles in the defensive zone,” he said.
Miller also talks about what went wrong last season — “We just couldn’t win a game” — the Canucks’ chances next season, praises Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Vasily Podkolzin, and talks about how he got to 99 points. The entire interview is well worth a listen.