We Need Miller

by Corey

That was always my favorite picture of Ryan Miller. Most of them are of him in this intense “I am about to shoot someone right now” zone. This one taken with Marty Biron looks like its a promo shot for a new buddy cop series on USA Networks. One stops pucks, the other can’t stop talking! Netminders, after Psych on USA!

So James Mirtle writes an article for The Globe and Mail about the acquisition of Tim Connolly by the Toronto Maple Leafs, from the specific perspective of a reaction piece to rumors and accusations of Connolly being soft. Reacting is his agent, which is to be expected. Also reacting is Miller.

Miller has no problems letting members of the media know when he finds something they have written or said displeasing. This is not one of his shortcomings. Apparently he has found the criticism of Connolly to be displeasing in the most displeasing way that one can be displeased. Dude is hella unpleasntized.

What seems to be the main sticking point are questions regarding Connolly’s interest in competing and his overall quality as a teammate. Miller feels that this in unjustified, and that those who are doing the criticizing do not understand Connolly’s true nature as a teammate and friend because they do not see him work.

I am not going to get into Connolly here. This isn’t about him. This is about the make of Miller.

Does Miller have an argument here? I did a very cursory search of the Buffalo News archives looking for mentions of Tim Connolly, specifically in opinion pieces.

This from Bucky Gleason, June 29, 2011:

In case you were wondering, there’s no room for Connolly on my roster. He’s fragile and disappears in big games. I’m not enamored with his talent. I don’t want my young players seeing a veteran taking nights (weeks?) off and waking up when it suits him. I don’t need highlight-reel plays offset by a greater number of giveaways.

This from Jerry Sullivan on May 3, 2011.

There will be several prospects in free agency. Pegula should instruct Darcy Regier to get a proven commodity who can step in and be one of the top two D. It will cost $5 million or more in salary. But we’re talking about a team that paid Tim Connolly $4.5 million this season. A top defenseman is well worth the investment.

This from Gleason on April 28, 2011.

In case you needed a reminder, Danny Briere just torched the Sabres for six goals and seven points in the playoffs. He was the same guy the Sabres were prepared to kick to the curb if it came down to him and Chris Drury. They ended up losing both.

Instead, Regier placed his bets on Tim Connolly and Maxim Afinogenov, two players among many who could win beauty pageants but not much else. He trumped keeping Connolly by giving him a two-year contract extension, all but setting a match to $9 million. He kept Afinogenov for far too long when it was obvious he needed a change in scenery.

Well, it was obvious to many others.

That is two columnists at one outlet in a two month span making it pretty clear that Connolly is no good because of lack of skill, lack of heart, and fragility and is way overpaid. That’s a lot of flak in little time.

To be fair, his contract is up nearing a free agency period where big change and action is expected. If the guy is the whipping boy, you expect him to be shown the door. These columns advocate for that.

Miller’s reaction is pretty fierce for an athlete. He doesn’t take the route Connolly did on his way out, which was to say “all the right things” – the fans are great, I enjoyed my time there. Miller is sticking up for his boy. He is attacking. Something sucks, and he says so and doesn’t really care what the consequences are.

There are times when I thought that the Sabres locker room was as dead as Quincy M.E.’s basement storage. Zero gumption or moxy. Nothing. Dial tone. When the playoffs showed up, there would be be no surge of emotion or energy. You would think it was a game in October if you weren’t paying attention all the way.

This playoff run against the Flyers showed me something else. Ryan Miller decked Mike Richards (shortly before the Flyers front office did HEEEYYYYOOOOO!) Tyler Myers got all sorts of nasty on several Flyer type people both on and off the ice.All of a sudden the Sabres seemed halfway interested in playing, for lack of a better term, playoff hockey.

Not only that, but the edge provided by Miller in the locker room that has for the most part had no public edge to it at all is refreshing. We live in a town of under performing sports teams. I actually like to see players get nasty within the bounds of reason. This isn’t Donte Whitner thinking he is better than he is. This is a guy sticking up for a friend he thought got a bad rap.

I think Miller’s statements will play well in the locker room both because someone stuck up for a teammate against a press corps that has had icy relations at best with the team, and because he was being honest. Even typing playing well makes it sound like there is some kind of calculated angle to this, which I don’t think there is.

I want my hockey team to have this edge. When a writer asks a dumb question, say so. When a columnist spouts what you think to be crap, say its crap. Then go out onto the ice and get nasty. So far, the only Sabre who has done this is Miller. That’s something you can’t develop in the system – its a part of your personality.

There has been a level of dissatisfaction in Miller’s game recently. It has been posed by some that Miller is tradeable (not crazy) and maybe should be (probably crazy.) His numbers, for most of his career, are that of an average to above average goalie. He has had great performances and one amazing stretch of hockey two years ago. He can step up in big moments. Now I think it is clear he is the heart and soul of that room, and that soul is starting fight.

We don’t need to trade Miller, we need more of him.