Kevan Miller

Bruins' Kevan Miller acknowledges he's 'worried' about his NHL future

Bruins' Kevan Miller acknowledges he's 'worried' about his NHL future

Kevan Miller was appreciative of being named the Bruins' nominee for the Masterton Trophy this season even though he never suited up for a game.

It was a recognition of his perseverance in attempting to return from a handful of procedures on his knee after a pair of catastrophic kneecap injuries have kept him out of the lineup for over a calendar year.

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The injuries robbed him of participating in last spring’s run to the Stanley Cup Final as he was knocked out for the entire postseason, and have relegated him to playing in three NHL games since February 2019. Now he’s been ruled out from playing for the Bruins when the NHL resumes this summer for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer with his career at a definite crossroads.

Despite all that, the 32-year-old Miller said that he still hasn’t entertained thoughts of retirement or given up hope that he’ll return to play in Boston or somewhere else.

“I’m grateful for all the support my friends, family, teammates, coaching staff and the organization has given me throughout this, it’s been a long haul. As a lot of you guys know, it’s taken a heavy toll mentally and physically… it’s definitely taken a toll. It’s been a long road, but I’m trying to keep things in perspective,” said Miller, during a Wednesday Zoom call with reporters. “I’m hoping to get back to 100 percent whenever that might be and get back to playing hockey.

“I haven’t gotten to that [point of giving up]. I’d be lying to you if I said that I haven’t been worried about where this is all going to end up. It’s my job and it’s part of my passion. I want to be healthy. I want to play. I know I could help the team. It’s a tough pill to swallow when you show up to the rink and you can’t skate with the guys, and it’s been so long since you’ve played in a game.”

It’s been a tough development for the Bruins, as well, who absolutely could have benefitted from Miller’s heavy, physical presence and immense strength when it came time to battle the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Final last June. Miller and the Bruins both know his presence could have been a difference-maker in a series that was even enough it came down to a winner-take-all Game 7 in Boston that didn’t go the Bruins’ way.  

In all reality, it’s going to be difficult to see Miller coming back to Boston given their salary cap situation and given they have a couple of affordable, young bottom-6 defensemen in Jeremy Lauzon and Connor Clifton. Lauzon, in particular, plays the big, strong stay-at-home role that Miller was known for and would give the Bruins the same kind of punishing, hard-hitting warrior in the defensive zone at a portion of the cap space of Miller.

But here’s hoping that Miller finds good health and a return to the NHL at some point in the future even as the odds — and Father Time — aren’t with him given the nature of some very serious knee injuries that have plagued him for over a year.

Bruins' Kevan Miller nominated for NHL's Masterton Trophy by local writers

Bruins' Kevan Miller nominated for NHL's Masterton Trophy by local writers

If you spent even a moment talking to Kevan Miller about his 2019-20 NHL season with the Bruins, there was no doubting his dedication to the game of hockey.

His characteristic perseverance has been there from Day One in his pro hockey career as he worked his way as an undrafted stay-at-home defenseman out of the University of Vermont who made himself into an NHL defenseman.

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Unfortunately, the rugged 32-year-old Bruins defenseman didn’t play a single game this year while attempting to come back from a pair of fractured kneecap injuries that cropped up when he crashed into the boards at the end of last season.

The first injury agonizingly kept him out for the entirety of Boston’s run to the Stanley Cup Final last spring. Even worse, Miller re-injured his broken kneecap while pushing to try and return during a playoff run where his physical play and overpowering strength around the net might have been able to make a difference for Boston had he been healthy.

Those injuries carried over into this season and Miller experienced several setbacks with his knee, and never appeared in a single game despite pushing hard in his rehab to be able to play once again. It was a tremendously frustrating season for the seven-year NHL veteran in the last year of his contract with the Bruins.

But Miller never stopped putting in the work while trying to make a full comeback and all season did nothing but show the "qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey” that make for a worthy Masterton Trophy nominee.

“I truly appreciate the nomination,” said Miller, of the Masterton nod as voted by the Boston chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA). “It’s been quite the journey to get healthy and I’m hoping to persevere and live up to that nomination.”

It’s no surprise since those are the unmistakable traits he’s shown throughout a blue collar career where nothing was handed to him, and Miller had to put the work in for each of the 324 NHL games he’s played through a steady stream of injuries caused by the physical nature of his style of play.

Miller isn’t just a worthy nominee on the ice, however.

In addition, Miller has been an active member of the Boston community when it comes to charitable endeavors as, among many other activities, a spokesperson and vocal advocate for the Brain Aneurysm Foundation throughout his Bruins career.  

Here’s the list of the 31 Masterton nominees from each of the NHL clubs, including former Bruins players Noel Acciari (Florida) and Joe Thornton (San Jose). The field of 31 nominees will be narrowed down to three finalists and an eventual winner when the rest of the NHL Awards are announced at a date to be determined for the 2019-20 NHL season.

Kevan Miller suffers another setback that forced an additional knee procedure

Kevan Miller suffers another setback that forced an additional knee procedure

Oft-injured Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller hasn’t played in an NHL game in more than a year and has already been ruled out by the B’s for a return if the 2019-20 NHL season gets going again over the next few months.

The 32-year-old Miller’s NHL career continues to be in question as well after he revealed on Thursday that he underwent another surgery on his troublesome knee a couple of months ago. Miller was on and off the ice skating on his own when the regular season was ongoing this season, but he never made it to the point where he was able to even practice with the Bruins this season.

Without even playing a game, he’s had a couple of setbacks and procedures over the last six months that really put his NHL future in serious doubt as he moves into his mid-30s.  

“As far as hockey and rehab goes, I’m still rehabbing. I was on a good trajectory and skating, and then I had a setback that I think [Don Sweeney] has talked about,” said Miller, during a virtual town hall with Bruins season ticket holders on Thursday afternoon. “I’m just coming off a surgery I had about eight weeks ago, so the timing has been good for me. I’m off the crutches and walking around again.

“Most of my rehab has been in Boston, so I’ve been here since [going into quarantine]. I’ve been having the rehab mostly at home, so I’ve become accustomed to having all the [workout] things at home. I’m feeling good now and back on the train to getting my knee healthy again.”

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Bruins GM Don Sweeney said a couple of weeks ago the Bruins would chat with Miller – at the end of his current contract -- about a possible return to Boston next season, but it’s a crowded back end with Connor Clifton and Jeremy Lauzon both on guaranteed contracts for next year. They both play the same kind of physical, bottom-pairing role that Miller has served through most of his career with the Black and Gold, with Lauzon comparing pretty favorably to Miller in terms of size, strength and intimidating physicality along with a touch of nastiness to his game.  

Miller fractured his kneecap a couple of times at the end of the 2018-19 season for the Bruins and suffered a tough re-injury setback during the Stanley Cup Final run while pushing to make it back to play in the postseason for the Black and Gold.