JT Miller and the New Normal

stats for this blog provided by corsica.hockey

Take this blog with a grain of salt, but I did some digging tonight, and figured it would be worth it to put it on paper. There really isn't enough evidence to justify this one way or another.

There's no denying that JT Miller had his best season as a pro during the 2015-2016 campaign. As Gorton and the Rangers front office turns their eyes from unrestricted free agents (ahem, as I write this, Nakladal is still out there), to restricted free agents, they will of course evaluate JT.

And what to do with JT. 

As the bridge deal begins to become obsolete, teams instead opting to sign their young talent longer-term, giving up some of the "leverage" teams have in the RFA process, I think Miller is a prime candidate for a bridge deal.

Let me explain why.

Last season, JT recorded an individual Fenwick shooting percentage of 11.18%. Among forwards who played in over 500 minutes of 5v5 time last season, it ranked 19 out of 353. Pretty high. Slightly encouraging here is that of those 19 players, Miller recorded the 6th highest individual Fenwick for per 60, so it wasn't a fluke because of a low amount of shot numbers. 

Here is where it becomes discouraging.

Miller's aggregated iFSh% from 2012-2015 (three seasons) was just 5.38% His increase from 5.38% to the 11.18% is a 107.81% increase. Among all players who played at least 1000 total minutes 5v5 from 2012-2015, and 500 minutes 5v5 in 2015-2016, only 6 players saw an increase of 100% or more, JT included. 

To see how this effected players in the past, I used the same parameters for players from 2011-2014, and the 2014-2015 season. In this sample, there were 11 players who increased their iFSH over 100% Gomez, Bouma, Tootoo, Bernier, Desjardins, Dubinsky, Comeau, Beagle, Winnik, Sheppard, and Downie. 

Of these 11 players, 6 would play in at least 500 minutes of 5v5 hockey in 2015-2016. Very unfortunately, every single one of these 6 players saw their iFSh% decrease from their number in 14-15 (the number that was 100% higher than their 2011-2014 numbers) to their 2015-2016 iFSh%

Tootoo: -81.8%
Desjardins: -38%
Dubinsky: -33%
Comeau: -50%
Beagle: -15.8%
Winnik: -31.7%

So, the question then becomes, is this the new normal for JT, or should we expect a regression closer to his career iFSh%? Is this something the Rangers can or should gamble on by giving him a four-year deal or longer? Of course, the opposite is also a gamble. Give JT a two-year deal, if he keeps up this shooting, he'll be due for a raise in the 2018 off-season, two seasons earlier than he would be if he was given a four-year deal today.

JT had 152 individual unblocked shot attempts last season during 5v5 play. He scored 17 goals to bring his iFSh% to 11.18%. If JT's shooting percentage decreases 33% from 15-16 to 16-17 to 7.45%, he'll score 11 goals at a similar rate of shooting.

Is this the new normal for JT? Let's see what the Rangers think.