Countdown to Camp: Colin Miller
Countdown to Camp: Colin Miller
From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Colin Miller.
If there's one player who potentially holds the key to helping the Bruins go from a disappointment to a playoff team, it's 23-year-old, right-shot defenseman Colin Miller. The skating, shooting, passing and puck-moving potential is all there, and it’s saying something about Miller, and the Bruins D-men corps, that he finished fourth among B’s defensemen in points despite spending half the season in Providence. It will be interesting to see if working with Bruce Cassidy at the NHL level can help Miller evolve into the offensive, puck-moving top-4 defenseman that his skills say he can become in time.
What happened last year
Miller was impressive right from the start of training camp and spent the first half of the season with the Bruins, albeit in and out of the lineup. He was among the rookie-defenseman leaders in most offensive categories for the first half of the season, and finished the year with an impressive 3 goals and 16 points in 42 games for Boston. Overall, he posted 7 goals and 32 points between the AHL and NHL and those are the kinds of offensive numbers he should produce for the Bruins this season if given a reasonable chance to succeed. The problems started cropping up after Miller was demoted just before the Winter Classic; he seemed to lose his confidence at that point as he was shuffled in and out of Boston’s lineup. The howitzer shot and slick puck movement stopped, and mistakes and hesitation crept into his game.He spent the bulk of the final few months in the AHL, and then was called up at the very end of the season when desperation hit for a Boston team struggling to make the playoffs. Suffice to say, it was a little too late at that point. Miller showed the potential to be a very good top-4 guy in the NHL, even willing to throw his body around a little, but he also looked very much like a wide-eyed rookie at times battling with his confidence.
Questions to be answered this season
The biggest question for Miller is if he’ll be able to slide into the top-4 role that the Bruins desperately need to fill after failing to acquire a veteran this summer. If he's ready for bigger minutes and a leading puck-mover role this season, it could solve a lot of Don Sweeney and Cam Neely’s problems and make the Bruins defense group much more formidable in the process. The other question is whether Miller can make that jump under coach Claude Julien, who has had difficulties with other puck-movers that have come through Boston like Dennis Wideman, Derek Morris, Joe Corvo, Tomas Kaberle and a number of others over the last 10 years. Clearly Miller played some part in the Bruins' decision to change up the coaching staff, specifically replacing Doug Houda with Cassidy to work with the defensemen. This season we’ll see how big of a difference that can actually make.
In their words
“He was a key piece of [the Milan Lucic] trade, came in and demonstrated that he can contribute offensively: tremendous skater, real competitive, with a good shot. We think there’s real good upside for both [Miller and Joe Morrow]. They’re going to have a chance to earn more ice time than they were shown last year. It’ll be available to them.”
-- Bruins Executive Director of Player Personnel John Ferguson Jr. on Miller, a player he saw plenty of while he was posting 19 goals and 52 points in the AHL two years ago.
The sky is the limit for Colin Miller as he enters some prime years at the affordable tag of $1 million for the upcoming season. He probably isn’t big or durable enough to project to be a No. 1 defenseman, but he could absolutely be a top-pairing guy if he can realize the great potential within his set of skills. He should develop into a puck-moving/power play defenseman capable of playing top-4 minutes barring a complete flop, especially considering his abilities and confidence level. The Bruins hope Miller can become that player next season, and begin chewing up ice time and piling up points while very much lessening the need for Sweeney to give up the store for a high-priced veteran like Kevin Shattenkirk or Cam Fowler. If Miller really hits his potential this season, the Bruins could very well surprise and be a playoff team with a D-men corps that’s on the rise. If it’s a repeat of last season with the fits, starts and inconsistent playing time, then it could be the same old, bad movie. If there’s one player on the Bruins who's a giant X-Factor for this coming season, it’s the Talented Mr. Miller.