I've heard a lot of bad talk about Ryan Miller. I think that he may be one of the most undervalued players in the NHL. I've heard a lot of predictions about how Jhonas Enroth will be taking on a larger role in Buffalo, and Miller may be out the door soon. I think this would be one of the biggest mistakes made for the Sabres.
Ryan Miller is as good as the team around him, plain and simple. There are numerous good goalies in the NHL. However, if the defense and offense aren't that good, the team will fail. Normally the goalie gets blamed. The season where Miller won the Vezina Trophy, the Sabres had a solid defense, headlined by Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder. Miller had a goals against average of 2.22 and a save percentage of .929, best numbers of his career. Plus, Miller played 69 games. He carried them through that season.
Last season, Miller played in 66 games, finally getting rest once Enroth got called up. However, the defense in front of Miller was bordering on abysmal at times. Miller did what he could, but while the team relies on the goalie, the goalie relies on the team. Last season, one could almost see when a goal was coming for Sabres opponents due to Buffalo's failure to get the puck out of their own end, and allowing their opposition to skate circles around them. The perfect example of this would be Ville Leino’s goal to win game 6 of the playoffs last season. Buffalo failed to clear, Chris Butler couldn’t get the puck out of the crease, and the Flyers scored. I wouldn’t blame Miller for that goal.
The other concern has been that Miller’s work load almost seems to increase every season. Buffalo has needed a back up that can play 20-25 games and give Miller a good rest on a regular basis. Since Marty Biron was traded, Buffalo hasn’t had that. If you doubt this, look at Martin Brodeur. The Devils generally play him into the ground. Come playoff time, Brodeur is dead, and the Devils get bounced in within the first two rounds.
The perks of this coming season is that Miller finally has a solid defense in front of him. As seen in the first 2 games, Miller has gotten very good protection in front of him. Plus, he is able to see the shots that are taken. Miller also has Enroth to back him up. Buffalo plays the most back-to-back games in the NHL. Miller needs a capable backup, who Lindy Ruff is able to put in. With Enroth, Miller will get more rest. Plus, he will be ready once the playoffs start.
If any NHL goalie is to be really good, he needs a strong team in front of him, and a solid back up goalie. Miller isn’t the problem. Yes, everyone makes mistakes. However, the team in front of the goalie needs to accept some of the responsibility as well. Also, a reliable back-up goalie is needed as well.
I don’t doubt that Ryan Miller will play fewer games this season than he has the past few years. In past years, he has carried the team, and given them a fighting chance. What’s different this year is that Miller has a solid team in front of him and a more than capable back-up goalie. Miller has made extraordinary saves in the past with minimal support. This year, he has a lot of support and will be well rested.
When I hear people talk about Miller’s time being over, I wonder what they are thinking. Miller finally has solid support, and has always played well regardless of the team in front of him. Miller leave Buffalo? This defense is built around him. No way anyone in their right minds would think Miller would be leaving Buffalo.
In Buffalo, it’s gonna be Miller Time, for a long time.