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!


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