It’s been a long, seemingly never-ending road to recovery for Kevan Miller.
After missing all of the 2019 postseason and then the entire 2019-20 season due to multiple knee surgeries and additional complications, the 33-year-old Miller returned to the ice in 2021 and skated in 28 regular season contests between knee discomfort and the first four games of the 2021 postseason. That was until a high hit from the Capitals’ Dmitry Orlov put Miller back on the shelf, this time with a concussion.
Miller would then miss the final seven games of Boston’s postseason run, though he would’ve been cleared and ready for a winner-take-all Game 7 had the Bruins been able to extend their season in a must-win spot on Long Island.
Still, that’s a lot of wear and tear on a body that’s already had a ton of it, and enough to make you wonder about just what the future holds for the seven-season veteran.
“Obviously, you want to play every game you can,” Miller said during his break-up day availability. “That was my goal this year, it didn’t happen. I got some good hockey in and I really was holding out for as much as I could for the playoffs. It’s something I’ll talk to my family about and make a decision and go from there.
“I think it’s something I’ll go home and have a conversation with my family about. Haven’t seen my kids for a while. I want to spend time with them, my dad and my mom. We’ll go from there. I haven’t really put too much thought into it, honestly.”
And this is a weird spot for the 6-foot-2 Miller.
At this point, it probably makes sense for Miller, who had some outright terrible injury luck even before he battled these knee issues and May’s concussion, to consider his long-term health and life after hockey.
But as we saw this season, a healthy Miller still has something to offer to the team. Utilized as a third-pairing leader during the regular season, Miller put up four points to go with 64 hits and 37 blocks in his 28-game sample, and his 19:04 time on ice per night was actually the second-highest nightly average of his NHL career. And in his four-game postseason run, Miller proved to be a solid roadblock for the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin, and his penalty-killing contributions were certainly noticeable.
The problem, of course, is what happens when Miller isn’t available. And the fact that his role is almost too important to be played on a part-time basis, especially when the playoffs roll around, as this year’s collapse out of the postseason proved.
“It weighs on you,” Miller said of repeated injury recoveries and layoffs between games. “It’s not easy.”
The Bruins are also in an interesting spot here in regards to their defense.
Barring a surprise player left exposed, and despite what the mocks may say, it feels likely that depth defenseman Connor Clifton will be the Kraken’s pick in the expansion draft. Clifton’s a right shot defenseman who can also play the left side, is under contract at an affordable number, and has significant playoff experience in his career.
Second-pairing shutdown man Brandon Carlo is also coming off another concussion (his fourth in the last 50 months), and the Bruins have targeted adding another high-impact, minute-eating defenseman as their top priority this offseason.
Given that uncertainty, there’s a definite reason to bring Miller back into the mix for another run. Even if it’s just as an insurance policy on the backend. And Miller made it clear that he still believes in this core as being legitimate Cup contenders.
“It’s something that, as we get a little bit older, there’s a still a lot of life in all the guys,” Miller, a veteran of 352 career games, said. “I think we can do it again next year.”
But whether or not that bid includes Miller remains to be seen. And for a variety of reasons, as Miller knows better than most.
“You want to be out there with the guys and helping them win,” Miller acknowledged. “I think I could have helped. Just get one more game. That’s how it goes sometimes, that’s hockey. That’s life. Just have to turn the page.”
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.