Loyalty is considered a virtue in many walks of life. The ability to stand by people and teams even in times of trouble is one of humanity's better traits.
Loyalty is also something that everyone has a right to expect, particularly those in pro sports. But some players get to the point where they abuse the privilege.
Kevan Miller has probably just about reached that point this season.
The B's defenceman has probably caused more screams of anger and frustration from B's fans this season than any player has a right to. His ability to be in the general area of an opposition forward whenever they score a goal, or have his man be the player that scores or plays a crucial part in doing so has become legendary.
There are innumerable gif floating around out there of Miller making the kind of defensive errors this season that cause coaches to scream in anger, netminders to start planning the perfect murder or forwards to circle playing against him on their calendars with a big red pen and a smiley face in the corner.
For example, gifs showing his amazing transition play in his own zone:
Kevan Miller, everyone. pic.twitter.com/vCQAG0dcyu— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 10, 2015
Go home, Kevan Miller. Go home. pic.twitter.com/NEhunApE3s— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) November 13, 2015
Or gifs showing his outstanding ability to spot the most dangerous threat in front of his net and...er...go somewhere else
Or, of course, his incredible positional savvy and calm, graceful way of protecting his own net effectively:
Yet this is a defenceman not only merely being around, but thriving under Claude Julien this season. Miller is currently paired with Zdeno Chara on B's top pair, playing 20 minutes a night in all situations and third on the B's in ice-time.
Something is wrong here.
Statistically, Miller isn't doing THAT bad. He's +3 so far this season (no doubt in a large part due to being on the ice when B's top offensive threats are also on the ice), and has 9 points in 31 games (2+7).
But then you compare him with players who are sitting in the press box in Boston-players like Colin Miller (2+10 in 29 games with an average of four minutes less a GAME of ice, including four powerplay points and a better +/-).
Or those waived by other teams...players like Brandon Gormley (waived today by Arizona despite being 5 years younger, carrying the same salary and having a ton more upside at 23 than a 28-year-old who's probably as good as he's going to get) or David Rundblad (again, a player who is younger and still has room to develop, as well as likely contributing a ton more at the offensive end).
The thing with Kevan Miller isn't so much that he's statistically bad-he's among B's leaders in blocked shots, for example, and up in the higher reaches of the NHL for both hits-per-game and blocks too.
It's the fact that he somehow ALWAYS manages to make mistakes in crucial situations - mistakes like those above. In the Winter Classic three B's goals were directly or partly attributed to Miller losing his man in front of the net or being beaten at speed. Teams with small, fast forwards know they can attack his ponderous skating style and draw him out of position - a trait that happens so often it's now led to the in-joke on Bruins Twitter of "Miller Watches A Goal".
It gets even more mind-boggling when you realise that EVEN CHARA can't make Kevan Miller better when partnered with him - the only Bruins D-man he fails to do so with. DJ Bean has taken a look at this recently - K.Miller is the only B's dman who somehow is made WORSE by playing with Chara...that takes some effort.
And yet, Claude Julien has reacted to this by PROMOTING him to this slot. Not only are the B's org taking a so-so 3rd pair D and giving them far more ice-time than warranted while leaving statistically better players sitting in the press-box or comparable players with more upside on the waiver wire...they're not even using him in his most effective position (which, as DJ points out, has been paired with Torey Krug).
Think about that. The B's coaching staff are overvaluing Kevan Miller so much that they're placing him in a position far above his realistic ceiling while ignoring red-flag after red-flag, and not realising or simply refusing to take into account that doing so ACTUALLY MAKES HIM PLAY WORSE.
At this point, we're through the looking glass when it comes to loyalty. Now we're at the point where whatever justification the Bruins staff can use is sounding increasingly hollow.
Kevan Miller is a player currently being used beyond his ability and capacity to contribute by a team that is struggling to accept the evidence of its own eyes. At this point, loyalty is actively costing the B's goals against and by extension games. Certainly in the case of the Winter Classic it directly cost them three.
Let's be clear, here...Kevan Miller has a role in the Bruins organisation - but it's a different one to the one they're asking him to play, and for whatever reason Claude Julien can't (or won't) accept it, nor the fact that there are better options to take the spot he's currently in that are being overlooked, in a move that will continue to hurt the B's.
Loyalty is expensive, and right now, the B's are using it as an excuse to pay far too high a price.
Eventually, even loyalty has to have its limits. The B's need to accept they may have reached that limit with Kevan Miller.