Nate Schmidt’s 20-game suspension impacted the entire Golden Knights roster, but Colin Miller may have been one of the most impacted.
The 26-year-old defenseman found himself on the first defensive unit with Brayden McNabb. Normally, that would be considered a good thing from Miller’s perspective. His minutes increased as did his responsibilities. He added penalty killer to his resume along with his usual shift on the VGK power play.
It also meant playing against the other team’s top line and trying to keep them off the scoresheet. Miller has had to focus more on thinking defense-first. It may contribute to the fact he is goal-less through the first 20 games after scoring 10 goals last year as part of a career-high 41-point season which led all of the team’s defensemen.
As Sheryl Crow sang, “A change can do you good.”
Schmidt makes his 2018-19 debut tonight in Edmonton against Oilers. To begin the game he’ll step in to play with Shea Theodore, but Gerard Gallant says the pairs may change as the game goes on. Whether Miller stays with McNabb or not though, his responsibilities will change with Schmidt back in the lineup.
For me, I’ve been playing in all sorts of different roles since I got here. It doesn’t really affect me much. It’s great to have Nate back. He’s a huge part of this team and he brings a lot to our team — power play, penalty kill. -Colin Miller
Gallant said Miller hasn’t performed badly and even though he is without a goal 20 games in, Gallant likes what Miller has done.
I think Colin had a good start to the year. He’s been solid. I wish he had four or five goals. But he has gone through some bad luck. But he’s played well. -Gerard Gallant
It’s what you would expect both player and coach to say. But maybe the Knights wouldn’t be struggling as much if Miller were contributing more offensively. That bad luck once again manifested itself in Friday’s 4-1 loss to St. Louis. Miller let loose a laser that traveled hard and low across the ice and would have beaten Jake Allen, the Blues’ goaltender.
Instead, the puck hit the post and Miller’s drought continued.
But lack of goals aside, the return of Schmidt will undoubtedly impact Miller’s role. He won’t be going up against the other team’s top line and that should make him more effective defensively.
It changed my game a little bit playing against the top lines but I’ve played with Nabber (McNabb) before and it’s been fun. -Miller
You may see him join the rush more and be more assertive offensively. And he likely won’t be killing penalties which should leave him a little fresher.
Consider Miller leads this year’s team in time on ice at 21:40 per game. Last year, his TOI was 19:21, a full two minutes-plus less. Schmidt led the team in TOI last year and you can expect that to be the case again. Which means Miller will play a little less and perhaps make him more effective.
He’s also shooting more this year, averaging 5.5 shots per game compared to 4.8 last year. Of course, he doesn’t always hit the net, but that’s symptomatic of the entire team.
Yet he remains one of the team’s most durable performers. Miller and William Karlsson are the only two players to have been in the lineup for every single game in the franchise’s brief history. And even after blocking a 2nd period shot which appeared to hurt like hell, Miller never missed a shift.
The guess here is Miller will find the back of the net soon, perhaps on this three-game road trip, and maybe it gets him going. His defensive play will also improve with Schmidt’s return and perhaps the moves will lend itself to some consistency, something the Knights are in dire need of as Thanksgiving approaches and they sit near the bottom of the Pacific Division. Yet they are just eight points out of first place, and five out of playoff position, despite their 8-11-1 record.
Let that sink in for a moment.
**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**