Welcome to the final 2022 edition of Screen Shots, an ongoing THN.com feature in which we take a few different hockey topics and analyze them in short sections. Here we go.
The Vancouver Canucks’ terrible 2022-23 season has worn down a lot of its players, but there’s no excuse for veteran forward JT Miller losing his marbles on teammate Collin Delia in Thursday’s 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets:
Yes, you want your players to be competitive and not be happy with a loss, but there’s a huge difference between healthy competitiveness and hot-headed drama, and Miller definitely crossed the line when he decided to make a spectacle of himself.
In the end, nobody faulted Delia – who held the Canucks in the game for most of the night, stopping 35 of 38 shots.
At this point, Vancouver has to be feeling some degree of buyer’s remorse after giving Miller a seven-year, $56-million contract extension that doesn’t kick in until next season, but at a time when the organization is trying to redefine itself in anticipation of realistically contending for a Stanley Cup, the last thing they need is someone taking out his frustrations on his own teammates.
Miller will be 30 years old by the time this season ends. You can’t blame this reaction on being young and uneducated about the way he should be conducting himself. He’ll be wearing this reaction for a long time.
It isn’t easy to see another team trading for Miller right now. But someone from Canucks coaching and/or management should be reading him the riot act today. What he did was unacceptable, and Vancouver brass has to make him an example of what happens when you think you’re bigger than the team and act accordingly.
The New York Rangers scratched 2020 No. 1 pick Alexis Lafreniere Thursday against Tampa, underscoring how the 21-year-old can be much more effective this season. Lafreniere had gone eight straight games without scoring before Blueshirts coach Gerard Gallant took him out of the lineup, and he has 17 points in 36 games his year – a decent amount for many young NHLers, but certainly subpar for a first-overall selection.
Unlike many No. 1 draft picks, Lafreniere doesn’t have the luxury of playing on a team that little is expected of. He’s got the bright lights of Broadway shining on him, and although the Rangers have skilled players higher up in the lineup than he is, Lafreniere has played like he needed a wake-up call. That’s what Gallant gave him Thursday, and he needs to show now that the message was well-received and understood. The Rangers are here to win now, and they can’t afford passengers.
The surging Carolina Hurricanes are about to have a problem every team wants to have in the modern NHL: a plethora of goaltending. Injured veteran Frederik Andersen, who has been out of the lineup since Nov. 6, has been practicing with the team and is close to returning to action. Andersen’s presence in the lineup means a decision must be made on the three goalies – Andersen, veteran backup Antti Raanta and youngster Pyotr Kotchetkov – who will, sooner or later, all be healthy at the same time.
Kotchetkov has been a revelation between the pipes for Carolina this season, and there’s no way they’re giving up on him. Meanwhile, the 33-year-old Andersen has been the starter since signing with the Hurricanes as an unrestricted free agent in 2021. He’s had trouble staying healthy, but Andersen still has the confidence of coaching and management.
That leaves us with the 33-year-old Raanta, who has posted a strong 8-2-2 mark this season but also a worrisome .894 save percentage. Like Andersen, Raanta will be a UFA at the end of this year, but another team would likely claim him if Carolina tried to sneak him through waivers.
For that reason, opposing GMs know Carolina wouldn’t be trading Raanta from a position of comfort. They’ve got to get rid of one of the three, and Raanta seems the most likely candidate to go. Goaltending depth just isn’t a luxury teams can have in the flat salary-cap era, and the Hurricanes will have to divest themselves of one of their current trio of netminders.