Can Sabres Build Bridges With Miller?
It’s fair to say that Ryan Miller’s relationship with the Buffalo Sabres has been strained in recent times.
But a change in the clubs front office in mid-November might provide the foundations from which the Sabres can rebuild not only the franchise’s dreams of Stanley Cup glory, but also ties with the Team USA puck stopper.
Interim Head Coach Ted Nolan certainly believe it would be in the teams best interests to mend some bridges with Miller.
Nolan, who won the Jack Adams Trophy as Sabres Coach in 1997, spoke to The Buffalo News yesterday, extolling the virtues of having a goalie like Miller at the club:
“You look at all the championship teams and it starts from goaltending out. … I prefer you build around him rather than use him as a pawn to try and get something to make you better,” Nolan said. “You learn to deal with the now as a coach and we’ve got one of the better goaltenders in the world here and I’d like to build around him myself.”
Nolan said he doesn’t discuss contracts with players but has spoken with President of Hockey Operations Pat LaFontaine about creating a culture that draws in the best players.
“I talked to Pat about this and I said the one thing we want to do is create an environment where people want to come here and stay here,” Nolan said. “Hopefully he likes what we’re doing. You never know.”
Many felt that the Sabres management shake up was long overdue. With LaFontaine at the helm, keeping Miller in Buffalo would represent a significant endorsement of the new direction he (and Nolan) are hoping to take the club in.
I don’t believe Miller’s ability should ever have been put in doubt, but previously a change of scene seemed to be what was needed.
Miller’s desire to be closer to California is common knowledge, but the Sabres hopes of keeping him feel significantly better now than they did a month ago.
Much may still hinge on who takes over as Buffalo’s General Manager, a position that remains open after front runner Rick Dudley signed a contract extension with Montreal, but Miller is one of the NHL’s elite goaltenders and if there is the slightest chance of keeping him, the Sabres would be wise to do everything in the power to make it happen.