Back when Marty Biron was traded, most people agreed that it needed to happen - he was getting paid an awful lot to cheerlead from the bench - but there were some rumblings from certain quarters. Rumblings that maybe you needed to know Marty was behind you to take over if your play slipped. Rumblings that you were too soft, too prone to getting tired halfway through the season to be relied on so heavily. Rumblings that the fragile kid who cried after losing in his hometown a few years ago was still too much a a part of you, that you hadn't quite grown up enough. Rumblings that you could be maddeningly inconsistent - great one game, soft the next. Heck, sometimes great one SHOT, soft the next. When the powers that be traded Marty everyone understood that they were saying, "Ryan Miller is the man we want in goal. We believe in him." We all waited to see if you would answer the bell.
Well, you answered the freakin' bell all right. You answered your bell and the bell of every single one of your teammates for most of the playoffs. Listen, us Buffalo fans, we're in a weird emotional state right now. I have about a million feelings jumping around. I'm frustrated that the coaching staff watched the powerplay struggle all season and seemed to feel it would be just fine in the playoffs - one powerplay goal in two of the Ottawa games potentially changes the outcome. I'm angry that the team who swore it was playing all season for the playoffs looked so damn uninterested for most of them, finally waking up when it was too late to do much but fight the good fight. I'm happy that they were able to wake up a put up a fight. I'm optimistic about the future of the team. All that "the Sabres must win now before Drury and/or Briere" stuff the media has been trying to feed us all year is bollocks. There's plenty of young talent on the team and it's possible that they just weren't ready this year. But mostly I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed that such a wonderful season came to such an unenthusiastic thud of an ending.
But you, Ryan... You were the bright spot. You were the joy for every Buffalo fan. You're the guy I feel disappointed for because you absolutely deserve to still be playing. I would almost loan you to Ottawa for the next round because you should be in the Cup Finals. (And anyone in Ottawa who wouldn't take that deal is an idiot. They got the win, but I think we can now definitively say that yes, you ARE that much better than Emery.) You deserved so much better than what you got from your team, even if you would never admit that in public. The Senators defense repeatedly bailed out Emery, making sure they were there when he needed them. Too often you were an island.
Thank you for showing up every night. Thank you for fighting even when no one else in blue and gold seemed very interested in doing so. Thank you for keeping the team in every game of every series. Thank you for standing in front of your locker after all of those games and answering question after question while some of your teammates - even one with a letter on his chest - refused to do so. Thank you for taking responsibilty for losses even though you would've been perfectly within your rights to point the finger of blame at the guys around you. Thank you for stepping up when it mattered, on the ice and off. Thank you for giving us your best, for giving us everything in you. Believe me, we know it and we appreciate it.
Have a great off-season. Try not to think about hockey too much. Training camp will be here before you know it. I, for one, am glad to know you'll be back between the pipes and I hope you're there for a long time to come.
Hey, how do you feel about quarterbacking the powerplay next season? Just something to think about...