Sometimes they lie between their teeth, but hockey players are well trained to speak to the media.
That’s why, when JT Miller couldn’t or wouldn’t answer a question about his team on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, he said all.
Canucks emotional leader Miller isn’t afraid to say it the way it is. That’s why he was the one to stand up for his teammates after last season’s COVID outbreak.
Asked after the match by Thomas Drance from athleticism if he and his teammates argued enough for each other, Miller first let out a deep sigh.
“Ah man, I don’t know,” Miller said. “We could probably do it a little more consistently, if I’m speaking honestly. When things aren’t going well during that length of time, it’s really, really hard mentally to stay the course and use our process to win games… It comes from moving the feet and competing. I think when we get everyone to join, we are a very difficult team to face.
But the follow-up question was the most telling.
“Is everyone buying at the moment?” Drance asked.
What followed was four seconds of silence, a look around the room, and a mumble, “I don’t know,” which seemed to suggest he didn’t know how to answer the question without throwing his teammates under the bus. or tell a bold lie.
But we know the answer.
NHL players usually bristle at the idea that they are not competitive enough. Questioning their team’s level of effort is usually a no-fly zone for players and coaches, and yet this season it seems like an open question.
It was called into question in the fourth game of the season when the Canucks were hampered by the Buffalo Sabers, all teams combined. The Canucks’ effort was called into question again after a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, in which Vancouver needed Thatcher Demko to be sensational in the first period just to keep the game scoreless.
“We’re continuing the game… It’s just not good enough,” Miller said.
Miller has indicated that he’s not worried about the noise outside, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that there is also a lot of noise inside the Canucks’ locker room right now.
Miller cares, that’s clear, and he’s one of the few Canucks forwards this season to produce by his standards offensively, with 19 points in 20 games. But the Pittsburgh debacle must have hurt Miller, from neighboring eastern Palestine, Ohio more. His family was in the crowd.
“I am worried about our team which is playing well, which is competitive and which wins hockey games. It’s the only thing I’m focused on to,“Said Miller. “I don’t care what everyone says. I don’t really care what you guys [the media] say no more. No violation. One thing I’m worried about is winning games.«
No one thought the Canucks could be worse than last season, and yet here we are. They are 6-12-2 after 20 games, which is three points worse than the 8-11-1 start of last season. It’s the worst 20-game start to the Canucks in 24 years.