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.