Coaching seems easy enough, right? Figure out what a player is good at. Put said player in a position to succeed. Rinse, repeat.
Every once in a while though, a Colin Miller slips through the cracks. Despite clocking a record-breaking 105.5 MPH at the 2015 AHL Hardest Shot competition and tallying 19 goals in Manchester that season, Miller could never establish himself on the Bruins power play.
It's not as if Boston didn't give him a chance -- last year, he was the Bruins' second most-used blueliner on the man advantage, after Torey Krug. In 2015-16, his rookie season, he was third most-used, after Krug and Zdeno Chara.
But there's a legitimate question as to whether or not Boston featured his shot enough.
Perhaps the most striking stat from Miller's breakout campaign is his 5v4 shooting rate. His 34.49 Individual Corsi For/60 is second in the league among blueliners to only Shayne Gostisbehere. Compare this to 18.24 5v4 iCF/60 with the Bruins in 2016-17.
Essentially, in Vegas, as opposed to Boston, Miller has been charged to shoot until his arms fall off. In early March, Gerard Gallant might have joked, "One guy I get frustrated with, who I tell to shoot more pucks, is No. 6. I want Miller shooting that puck because he's got a hell of a shot. If people are going to block that shot, they're going to pay a price."
I say "might have joked" because how much more could Miller possibly shoot?
Anyway, Miller fired away enough to lead Vegas defensemen with five power play goals this season; he had one total man advantage marker in two years in Boston. He's become indispensable to the Golden Knights' 11th-ranked power play.
I've pressed Miller about what's changed for him in Sin City -- the most obvious guess is coaches have given him more of a green light to shoot here than in Beantown -- but he's denied that.
Rolling the tape on Boston's 2016-17 power play, one difference is that Vegas does not task Miller with being the primary puck carrier at the beginning of the breakout. This job usually falls on Nate Schmidt (or Brad Hunt), with Erik Haula and David Perron coming up from behind with speed as drop pass options. Here's a recent example, with Shea Theodore taking Schmidt's role:
Notice where Miller is stationed. He's a far option, along the right wall, opposite James Neal, who mans the left wall. This is not how the Bruins used Miller; he'd either be the primary puck carrier or a drop option on the breakout.
Given that Miller skates like the wind -- he also won the 2015 AHL Fastest Skater competition -- his Knights deployment is noteworthy.
However, Miller couldn't pinpoint any resulting difference, "You're still getting up the same time as the power play. It's not too different once you get into the zone."
He poohed-poohed any suggestion that he's conserving energy or able to set up for the shot sooner with less puck-carrying responsibilities. To his point, Gostisbehere leads the rush and shoots from everywhere on Philadelphia's power play.
"I just think it's more opportunity," offered Miller.
So perhaps it's that simple.
In Vegas, Miller's point shot is the go-to option -- his 34.49 5v4 iCF/60 dwarfs anybody else on his power play unit. This wasn't the case in Boston, where David Pastrnak, among others, shot more. And it's not as if the Bruins' power play wasn't successful -- it ranked seventh in the NHL in 2016-17. It was fourth this year.
Maybe Boston didn't need Miller's talent. But Vegas is sure enjoying it.
This is how Brad Hunt was introduced to Colin Miller.
At the 2015 AHL All-Star Skills Competition, held in Adirondack, Hunt and Miller competed against each other in the Hardest Shot contest.
Back then, Hunt played in Oklahoma City, while Miller skated in Manchester. Those cities were in different conferences.
"We didn't cross over," said Hunt. "So I never knew who he was."
Hunt stepped up and fired a 101.2 MPH blast.
"I went before Millsy. No one had got a hundred, and I hit a hundred. I thought I had a chance," Hunt recalled, laughing. "Then Millsy rained on my parade."
On the very next shot, Miller uncorked a still-standing AHL Hardest Shot record 105.5.
Funny enough, Hunt reminded me this wasn't the first time that he had been a runner-up in an AHL Hardest Shot competition to a future Golden Knight.
In 2013, Hunt clocked a 99.5 in Providence. Pretty good, except Brayden McNabb won with a 101.8.
Gallant opened up about Miller's all-around development this year, "Colin's game, it's come a long way from the first game of the season. He's paid more attention defensively. That's why he had trouble in the past."
With that in mind, I talked to Mike Stothers, who coached Miller on Manchester's Calder Cup-winning team in 2015, and Nic Dowd, Miller's teammate that year, about the change they've seen in "Millsy."
HockeyBuzz: From your perspective, what's changed in Colin's game this year?
Mike Stothers: The biggest thing for Millsy, going back to Manchester, was consistency. Applying himself everyday. He has a wealth of ability. Like most young players, it was a little sporadic at times. Maybe a little sporadic with his play, his preparation for practices and what not.
He worked to become a better defender. Now, you see a more mature player, a more reliable guy. That just comes with experience.
Maybe at times, he was a little guilty of trying to do too much. He seems to be pretty well-rounded now.
Sometimes, it takes a little bit of time to round into your game. There's a seriousness that guys get as they get a little bit older too. They know how to prepare for the workdays, the off-days. Maybe even nutrition. You just learn to become a good pro.
Nic Dowd: Opportunity. He's always had the ability to be offensive. He's always had the ability to make plays. He's also been put on a good team, which helps everybody.
Obviously, he's still an offense-first guy. He'll be the first to tell you that a team's not going to rely on him to be a shutdown defenseman.
When you come into the league, it's a big step from the American League. Guys are a lot bigger, stronger, smarter. They take advantage of mistakes much quicker.
Watching Colin play, he doesn't make a lot of mistakes. He gets the puck out of his zone quickly, which eliminates other teams' ability to create turnovers.
He's a good passer, he's got good vision, that helps him a lot with what he lacks as a "shutdown defenseman." He doesn't find himself in that position a lot. Because he's fast enough, he can skate by guys and make a good first pass.
The things which were holes in Colin's game, he's fixed now.
Offensively, he's never had an issue. [Stothers] never told him what to do offensively.
Defensively, there were times [in Manchester] where he's got to play guys harder. He's got to seal guys quicker. But he's tightened that up.
With Stuttsy, the only issues which I could see would be in the d-zone.
HockeyBuzz: What's your favorite memory of Colin in Manchester?
MS: When we went to the All-Star Game, he didn't even know that he was going into the Fastest Skater competition. Matter of fact, he was sitting on the bench, he didn't even have his skates on. They told him, he just threw them on, jumped on the ice and ended up winning.
ND: There was a game in Utica. Might have been on the power play. He just stepped down the half wall, just rifled it top shelf.
There's not a lot of guys who have that hard a shot to beat guys clean. He's definitely one of those guys.
MS: You look at it right now. Right-handed shooting defenseman. Can shoot the puck over 100 MPH. Can skate like he can. They're very valuable. When you have 'em, you certainly want to keep 'em.
This shot, which beat Jacob Markstrom in the 2015 Calder Cup Finals, is what Dowd was recalling:
According to Dowd, however, Miller isn't as smooth on the dance floor as he is on ice.
"He came to my wedding. It was a privilege to see the dance moves on the guy," laughed Dowd. "I can't embarrass him too much. I was right there with him."
"I'm not the best dancer," Miller admitted sheepishly. "I'm glad that he didn't give you more details."
HockeyBuzz: Someone told me, and I quote, that you're a "sneaky good fighter."
Colin Miller: I don't know about that. Did you see my fight this year? Didn't go so well.
HB: I went to HockeyFights.com. You've actually had some good ones.
CM: Thank you.
HB: Your 1st year in the OHL, you had 5 of them. You were an enforcer!
CM: I had to break into the league, Sheng.
Miller enjoyed a colorful second round, which included a crucial stint at forward in Game Five and a cheapshot from the crossbar in Game Six.
"It was weird," said Miller about attacking the point shot off the faceoff in Game Five, which resulted in a Tomas Hertl interference penalty and an Alex Tuch power play goal.
Early in the second period, up just a goal, Miller was whistled for holding.
After a solid kill, which featured only one Sharks shot attempt, Miller came flying out of the box, ready to forecheck Brenden Dillon out of existence...well, in a different league, without no-touch icing.
But icing! This meant on the ensuing defensive zone faceoff, Miller would line up with the Shea Theodore and Deryk Engelland pairing. The other forwards were Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Ryan Carpenter. The draw went back to San Jose's point, where Miller embraced the forward's role of challenging up top with gusto.