Let's start with an easy point: At the very least, Ryan Miller can't be worse than he was last year. (Note to Hockey Gods: That's hyperbole. It's not a challenge.) At the end of the season, he was clearly gassed but even before that he wasn't very good. He looked off, he seemed to get rattled a little more easily, he was jumpy on breakaways, and just plain awful in the shootout.
Ladies and gentlemen, our franchise goalie!
No, I kid, I kid. I like Ryan Miller. I think he's a good goalie for the Sabres as they're currently built. He's shown that he's capable of handling odd-man rushes and breakaways and he's shown the ability to be patient in the net and let the shooter make the first move. Considering our team defense is an interesting experience even on the best nights - though some of them are getting better - that's important. He's shown a desire to be good which should be a given for a professional athlete but unfortunately isn't. He's also shown a desire to be better than what he is right now. He was clearly disappointed in how last season went for both him and the team. He didn't hide it and he didn't try to make the final result prettier than it was. They underachieved, he underachieved and he copped to both.
I have hope that Ryan is still getting better. When news of his re-signing first broke I was surprised at how many people at Sabres Edge criticized him based on his age. Yeah, at 28 he's a few years older than a lot of the young guys on the team but I think he has a number of years to improve yet. I scoured the internet last night for some info on when goalies hit their prime and came up empty-handed, but I don't think goalies develop at the same rate as skaters, especially forwards. So much of the position is mental and a lot of that is going to come more with experience. Even though he's 28, Ryan's only been the starting goalie for three years. Three years is not a lot of time over the course of a career, and I don't see why anyone as smart and driven as Ryan can't continue to improve especially since he's still kind of figuring out what works for his unique body and frame. And hello, in three years he's had one bad season and two Eastern Conference Finals appearances. In the first one he and the team were this close before being struck down by some hateful power and the Sabres were only in the second one because he dragged their sorry butts that far.
And come on, who embodies hope right now more than Ryan Miller? Did you see his press conference? It was practically a love fest. Even the media seemed happy. (I know!) Ryan loves Buffalo, loves management, loves the coaching staff, loves his teammates and loves us. He believes in what the team is doing and he believes in the guys in the room and instead of just paying lip service to that, he put his money where his mouth was and made a long-term commitment to the organization. That's awesome. I liked the team before this contract, but after a year of other people telling us that no one wants to play here and management has a horrible reputation among players and Ryan Miller was never going to choose to stay with a bunch of cheap-ass losers, it's pretty darn nice to find out those big talkers don't know everything.