Hey, fans: how do you spell the Buffalo Sabres?
Simple question, right? R-Y-A-N-M-I-L-L-E-R.
For ten years now, Ryan Miller has been the primary net minder for the Sabres’ franchise. He has set numerous franchise records, including breaking Dominic Hasek’s record for most games played by a Buffalo goaltender lat week versus Pittsburgh, and besting the Dominator’s record for most saves Friday night against Ottawa. He has won 30+ games in seven out of the ten seasons he has spent in Buffalo, and has endured through both the good (making it to the Eastern Conference Finals two consecutive years from 2005-2007 ) and the bad (failing to qualify for the playoffs in four of the last five years). He’s spoken his mind freely, giving us such memorable quotes as when he said this about Milan Lucic last season:
“I’m not really going to get into that,” Miller said in TD Garden. “I just stuck around because I wanted to say what a piece of **** I think Lucic is. Fifty pounds on me, and he runs me like that? It’s unbelievable. Everyone in this city see him as a big, tough, solid player. I respected him for how hard he plays. That was gutless. Gutless. Piece of ****.”
(He was right, too – Lucic is a piece of **** for what he did.)
In short, Miller has been the face of the Sabres’ franchise for a decade now, and has provided us with many memories on and off the ice.
You’ve got ten more games left to enjoy him, Buffalo Sabres’ fans. Because once this season ends, he won’t be wearing blue and gold any more.
I guarantee it.
You know it: GM Darcy Regier was very up front right before the trade deadline when he told the media he would listen to offers for anyone on the roster. The media knows it: Miller’s been the subject of more articles before and after the trade deadline than Janet Jackson’s nipple was following its Super Bowl coming out party. Everyone in the Sabres’ organization including Miller himself knows it. Did you see the interview he gave following Friday night’s win against Ottawa? Did he look like a man who was thrilled with the victory, or the team record he had just set? Or did he resemble an emotionless Terminator sent from the future to bore us all with its monotonous sound bites? Here’s a sample of what he had to say following their victory:
“It hasn’t been easy . . . maybe a little tougher on some of the guys who have been here a little bit longer. Just kind of trying to figure out what the temperature is and what’s going on . . . Doesn’t stop the fact that we had eleven games left and now ten. There’s points on the table and trying to be professional and prepare. That’s just kind of what I was trying to do, put everything aside. Everything else can wait.”
Trying to be professional. Put everything aside. Everything else can wait. Those are the words of a professional athlete who has resolved himself to the fact that there will be a change of scenery in his not-so-distant future. And why wouldn’t he be preparing himself for the winds of change? With the acquisition of Matt Hackett from the Minnesota Wild, a kid who most people believe could be a starter in the NHL today, the Buffalo Sabres have all but given Miller an eviction notice. ”You have 30 days to remove your belongings from the premises. Don’t let the Zamboni run your ass over on the way out.”
So yeah – Miller won’t be on the Sabres roster next year, and everyone under the sun knows that. The question is then, why didn’t the Sabres get rid of him now?
I know a lot of Sabres’ fans were upset that the organization only pulled the trigger on the Jason Pominville trade last Wednesday; many of you wanted to see Drew Stafford, Thomas Vanek, and Ryan Miller moved, with the hopes that the Sabres would rule the next two or three NHL draft days. Truth be told, from the sound of it, neither Vanek nor Miller are too thrilled that they were not moved, either; both requested a meeting with Regier in order to discuss the Sabres’ vision of the future, and the fact that they will both be babysitting one of the NHL’s youngest teams for the remainder of this season does not seem to be sitting well with them.
And yet, what we would we be saying about an organization that traded Miller away BEFORE he broke those records that he was oh-so-close to? Had he ended his career as a member of the Buffalo Sabres last Tuesday, he would have ended that career tied with Hasek for the record of most games played by a goalie, and would have fallen short of Hasek’s save record. I may be guilty of being sentimental, but I like to think the Sabres wanted to give Miller a chance to further cement himself as one of the best players in the history of the Buffalo Sabres organization. I suppose if Regier had been presented with the mother-of-all-trades he would not have let something as old-fashioned as loyalty get in the way of moving Miller, but I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he did not aggressively pursue making a deal for his net minder due to the history that was about to be set. And if that is the case, I would like to personally thank Darcy Regier and all of the Sabres’ brass for allowing Miller to break those records Friday night.
I’m sure it is difficult, maybe impossible, for Miller to appreciate the records he has been allowed to set; hopefully, after some more time has passed, he will be grateful that the Sabres gave him the chance to further cement his legacy with the franchise. The Buffalo Sabres and Ryan Miller have done everything together except win a Stanley Cup, so it is fitting that he was able to set a few more records before he leaves to pursue his dream of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup next year. The Sabres did right by allowing him to establish his claim as one of the best Buffalo goaltenders ever; now, they need to finish doing right by spending the offseason finding a Cup-contending team that can give Ryan Miller the chance to retire as one of the best NHL goaltenders ever.