Feb 15, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller (30) looks down on injured defenseman Andrej Sekera (44) (not shown) during the third period against the Boston Bruins at the First Niagara Center. Sabres beat the Bruins 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Miller: Whiner, or the Smartest Man in the Room?

Unless you live in a cave – and perhaps even then, if you have a strong 4G signal out there – you have probably heard about Ryan Miller‘s little rant to the media following yesterday’s loss to the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins.  Just to establish some context, here is what Miller had to say:

“It’s just a [bleep] way to lose,” Miller said. “I don’t understand. Your guard has to be up at all times. They get right back in the game. And a broken play to seal it for them. Just preventable and not what we need to be doing right now.”

But wait: there’s more!

“We’re neither competent enough nor experienced enough with the lead in the third period,” Miller said. “That burned us. It’s not acceptable. It’s 3-3, get to overtime. It’s 3-2, [expletive] make them come all the way down. We worked too hard.”

The goal that had to burn Miller the most –  the broken play that resulted in his expletive and “make them come all the way down” reference – was the game-tying goal that Pascal Dupuis scored at the 7:06 mark of the third period:

Anyone who has watched the Buffalo Sabres this year feels Miller’s pain.  Rather than clear the puck and force the Penguins to retreat and have to come back down the ice, the Sabres allowed the puck to remain in their zone for too long, which has burned the Sabres countless times this year.  Failing to clear the puck just makes life way too easy for the other team’s offense, and with an offense like Pittsburgh’s, that’s essentially like scoring on your own goal.

Not helping Miller’s mood, I’m sure, was the fourth goal that Pittsburgh scored, this one a blast from Paul Martin:

Miller never had a chance to make that save, mostly because he could not see the puck, but also because the puck caught a piece of Christian Ehrhoff‘s stick and was deflected into the net.  Being screened by his own teammates is another problem Miller has to overcome far too often this season, and while I cannot find too much fault with Ehrhoff on this particular play, Miller’s anger is stemming from a season’s worth of miscues similar to this one.

So Ryan Miller spoke his mind to the media, calling his team out in the most public way possible.  Many people have taken to the Internet to trash off on Miller, calling him everything from a whiner to, well, a whiny “beotch,” as one person proudly posted over at SI’s website.  (Ah, the perks of being anonymous!!!)   Others have gone out of their way to defend him, pointing out that Miller has been playing great in between the pipes lately but has very little to show for it.

I don’t normally endorse an athlete who calls out his teammates in the media, but I’m on the fence on this one.  In the piece I wrote the day after the Bruins first visited Buffalo this year, I wrote that Miller is undeserving of the losing record attached to his name, and I still feel that way.  He has overcome some shaky play from the beginning of the season and has managed to give Buffalo a chance to win every game he is in between the pipes.   I cannot count the number of goals he’s allowed that are the direct result of his teammates’ inability to clear the puck, get a body on a man, provide Miller with a clear line-of-sight, or other failures that he has no control over.  Miller’s frustrated, and he has damn good reason to be.

And yet, does blasting his teammates in the media light a fire under their butts, or turn them against the man?   I’ve seen that go both ways, but more often than not it seems to fracture a locker room and cause resentment, all of which only helps a team with a losing record lose complete control of their season.  Of course, I seem to remember the great Larry Bird using an interview as a forum in which he called his teammates “sissies,” which resulted in the play below and his team winning three out of four games to win the 1984 NBA Finals:

So what the hell do I know?

I want to hear your thoughts on this: should Miller have kept his mouth shut, or is blasting his team in front of the media what it takes to make them come together and turn this season around?  Leave your comments below, and follow me @theaveragedick so you can share your Tweets with me!


Tags: Buffalo Sabres Ran Miller

  • PaulR

    In the unlikely case Miller “loses” his teammates by calling them out – so what?

    Its not like he would cause the team to go much lower. They already are one of the worst in the league.

    He’s got only next year remaining on his contract, and I am sure he will make a serious attempt to to move to another team that he feels has a better chance of winning the Stanley Cup. I can envision another Drury situation – that Miller doesn’t even entertain an offer from the Sabres.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Drunkenribeye Rich Spalding

      I was thinking the same thing – he probably doesn’t care much, since he can head to greener pastures after next season – but then again, a lot of clubs start thinking twice about bringing a guy with chemistry issues into their mix. Right now, I don’t mind what he did; it’s not like he named individuals. I don’t know if it help motivate the team to start communicating better, but it’s a story worth following for a game or two.

      • Craig C.

        “Chemistry issues?” C’mon, Rich, you’re smarter than that. “Millsie,” as his teammates refer to him, is a well-liked and respected player on the Sabres. He will have no trouble – a la Hasek – finding a Cup contending team once he leaves here. As long as you have Regier-Ruff running the show, things ain’t ever going to get better. Miller has to know that.

        • http://www.facebook.com/Drunkenribeye Rich Spalding

          Hey Craig! I guess I should have been clearer: I was thinking ahead: say this year continues to go downhill, and next year is not much better. If Miller starts making it a habit to use the media to call out his team, knowing that he won’t be returning to Buffalo, it could wind up giving him a black eye. I’m not saying he will, but I was continuing with that “What if” scenario Paul kind of brought up. Spending the last two years in Buffalo blasting his teammates to the media would cause teams to think twice about adding him to a locker room, frustration or not. Should have been more clear about the “What if” part!

          • Craig C.

            Yes, that would certainly be true then, Rich. I would expect Miller to have more sense than that, but who knows? Obviously, losing is getting to him. Can’t blame him, and he doesn’t have the tact to be gracious to press all the time like Pominville. At least he cares and I would hope his comments would be viewed as such by the team.

          • http://www.facebook.com/Drunkenribeye Rich Spalding

            I think that, given the team’s record, struggles, and the way they lost on Sunday, everyone in the locker room understands his comments come from a good place. Even though I rarely like to hear an athlete call out his team, I give Ryan a pass on this one, because his motivation is clear. I just hope that you’re correct, though: should the season continue to be disappointing, and should his frustration continue to mount, will he be able to bite his tongue lest his reputation take a hit? He’s a smart guy, so I hope he does, because after a while this sort of stuff just gets labelled sore losing.

  • Andrew

    Millers voice by this point is probably heard about as well as Lindy Ruffs – the rest of the team ain’t listening.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Drunkenribeye Rich Spalding

      Which would explain why this team isn’t fixing any of the problems they have exhibited since day one.

      • Andrew

        Apparently, Pegulas plan was to say that he wanted to win Cups, and not make any consistent moves towards that.

  • Troy Berkely

    I guess, besides Miller’s frustration, one would argue that maybe it is a good thing for this team to hit rock bottom before the FO wakes up and realizes that changes are needed to be made. Miller’s frustration can exacerbate that conversation starting with HC and GM. It is evident that the same approaches are no longer working for this team, and while the Sabres have a owner who is committed to winning, he also has no experience what so ever on how to manage a Hockey team! I am holding out hope that he will come to his senses at some point. Regier is the Grimer Wormtongue that has poisoned the well. Can a sleeping king wake up in time to save his kingdom from doom?

    • http://www.facebook.com/Drunkenribeye Rich Spalding

      Enjoyed the literary references! I hope someone in this franchise wakes up and does whatever it takes to turn things around.

  • davidmuscalo

    Miller is no whiner, but he is an excellent analyst with respect to what is wrong with this team. He didn’t say it, so I will, this is a poorly coached team. Again, Ruff was out coached by his opponent. Over and over again, he has had the wrong personnel on the ice at crucial moments. It happen Sunday, just as it has happered many other times. Why is that his teams have such a difficult time holding a lead?

  • J Osmond

    I have absolutely no problem with Miller calling out his team. He’s the only one on the team putting in a full effort for 3 periods of hockey. What does Miller have to lose, the team obviously isn’t listening to Lindy (how he keeps his job befuddles me)! I’m starting to reach the point where I hope Miller does a Hasek and bolts this joke of a franchise at the end of his contract and wins a Cup with a new team. He deserves it but won’t win it with this bunch, players, coach and GM included!

    • http://www.facebook.com/Drunkenribeye Rich Spalding

      After last night’s game, I’m starting to wish the same for Miller. That’s too bad – I seriously don’t think this team is that far from being a legitimate threat – but I want to see Miller have a shot at winning the Cup.

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