Ryan Miller’s Still Got It
I’ve noticed a slightly odd trend developing across the NHL landscape – a suggestion that Ryan Miller is somehow not an elite netminder anymore.
To the contrary, Miller is still one of the league’s strongest stoppers; but may well be in need of a change.
Miller is currently 1-10-0 backstopping the truly awful Sabres. His 3.03 GAA might suggest the 33-year old is to blame, at least in part, for Buffalo’s woes.
His save percentage on the other hand sits at a healthy .919 – better than his career average (.915) and good enough to place him 14th overall in the league right now, ahead of Roberto Luongo, Henrik Lundqvist and 2013 Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky.
No one is suggesting Lundqvist is not an elite netminder anymore, despite a poor start to the new season, or that Luongo is somehow being carried by the Canucks.
So why is Miller’s stock apparently dropping?
Perhaps part of the problem is he set his own benchmark so high in his Vezina winning 2009/10 campaign; where he was practically unbeatable for parts of the season helping the Sabres over achieve and Team USA reach the Olympic final.
Since then Miller has ‘regressed’ to what you’d really describe as his ‘normal level’ – but why, if he was a star before, is he not now?
Has that one exceptional season skewered people’s view of the Michigan native? Or is it more to do with the situation in Buffalo right now?
Buffalo is far from an ideal environment in which to shine right now. Stars like Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek have departed, and the team is dead last in the NHL without a home win and one of the worst defensive records in the entire league.
Saying the Sabres are a mess right now feels like an understatement. They have a legitimate shot at recording one of the worst seasons in NHL history!
It’s a situation which makes everyone look bad, regardless of whether they actually deserve it.
The other major factor in Miller’s career is the souring of his relationship with the Sabres. From being hit by Milan Lucic to the sale of his Buffalo home, ties with the franchise have become weaker and weaker – to the point where many were shocked that he even started this season in Buffalo at all.
And this is where we come to my opening paragraphs – is any player more in need of a fresh start than Ryan Miller?
Miller is a UFA in July, whilst Buffalo is in full on rebuild mode with picks and prospects the order of the day.
Miller has a partial no trade clause, with his 8 team list apparently already nixing a deal with Edmonton, so Sabres trade partners may be thin on the ground – but it feels inevitable he will leave by one method or another.
With the cap highly likely to go up; a netminder of Miller’s calibre will almost certainly interest a number of clubs – especially as he has been one of the most durable and consistent netminders in the NHL.
Perhaps in new surrounds, Ryan Miller will again be seen as the star he still is.