A Not-So-Instant Analysis

By Chris

Another thing I’ve been meaning to get around to is giving a more detailed analysis to the news of Ryan Miller’s signing. Without further ado, here it is (it’s tough trying to post anything of real substance when you’re at work).

What excites me most about the Miller deal is that, if we’re to believe him, there wasn’t any doubt in his mind that he wanted to stay in Buffalo. And from his interviews over the years, Miller has really been nothing but honest. He said he wanted to stay here and laughed at the Detroit Destiny rumors because his heart was here all along.

He wears his heart on his sleeve. When things are going well, he’ll let you know and when the going gets tough, he’ll let you know then too. It might be harder to get a hold of the goalie after a tough loss, but generally, his mindset his pretty much on par with that of the rest of the team’s. As a vocal leader, he’s been as much a captain as anyone that’s worn a letter in the last season and a half.

The contract itself is a great deal for the Sabres. There are a slew of free agent goalies available next offseason including Nicklas Backstrom, Tim Thomas, Manny Fernandez, Martin Biron and Martin Gerber, which would certainly drive up the market price. While Miller is the fourth highest paid goalie in the league with the new contract, that may not be the case by the time 2009-10 rolls around. Goaltender salaries are due to explode.

Miller is set to begin the prime of his career and is ready to carry this team for the long-haul. There’s no question that last season was not Miller’s best. He was spotty at times but he was also learning. He had never taken on that kind of workload before and stretched himself beyond anything he had done before professionally.

Luckily, Miller is a smart guy and has used the experience of playing in 76 games (the last 34 consecutively) to help him prepare for the rest of his career. Miller is near the top of the list of players that the Sabres are banking on a lot to bounce back from a down year (Afinogenov and Tallinder also come to mind). I don’t see Miller being the type of player to crumble under the pressure of a new contract. If anything the distraction of not having a new deal in place this season would have been what hurt if he were to struggle in 2008-09. But, thankfully, that won’t be an issue.

Miller is an All-Star goaltender. Had it not been for him, the Sabres wouldn’t have made it to two straight appearances in the conference finals. He was pretty much the only bright spot for the team in the postseason two years ago when they ultimately fell to the Senators.

The face of the team is now Ryan Miller. If you see a Sabre in one of those NHL commercials, most likely it’s going to be Miller representing our city. The long-term signing of a solid player and franchise goaltender bodes well for public relations. Not only is the front office slowly regaining the trust of its fans, but locking up key players has to look good to potential free agents looking to sign with a winner.

Yes Darcy and company have made some questionable decisions but they’re quickly taking the steps necessary to keeping a winning team on the ice. In addition to Miller, they’ve got Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek under contract for a few more years. They’ve added potential studs like Nathan Gerbe and Tim Kennedy to their farm club. They’re also going to start working on a deal to keep Lady Poms in Buffalo before he hits the restricted market.

We may still be questioning whether or not the team has enough veteran leadership come October, but with another year to grow and solid goaltending, this team probably should make the playoffs, even if it is as a seventh or eighth seed.

At least now we can put the Jhonas Enroth Hype Machine to bed for a few years.