Saturday, November 27, 2010

Me and Ryan Miller, An Odd Relationship

I'll just come out and say it since it's probably pretty obvious anyways.  I don't like Ryan Miller.  Actually, I should rephrase that.  I don't like Ryan Miller beyond liking him because he is a Sabre.

It wasn't always this way, I used to love his snarky postgame interviews and get just as excited as all the fanboys and girls with every big save, but now things are different.  I think in terms of preparation, no one beats Ryan Miller.  I think in terms of knowing the game, no one beats Ryan Miller.  I appreciate what he brings to this team, but he is definitely not one of my favorite players, or even one of my favorite Sabres.

I'm not really sure what happened.  I think it's two-fold.  At some point I feel like Miller stopped being Ryan Miller Sabres goaltender, and started being Ryan Miller, National Icon.  He does ESPN photo shoots and national interviews now when before he was only known in Buffalo and East Lansing.  I'm not one of those fans who is bitter and wants their fringe sport to remain a fringe sport just so I can be "cool" or whatever.  I think popularity and growth is good for hockey, and I think Miller being nationally recognizable, if only for a short period of time, is good for hockey.

But perhaps his visibility comes at an unfortunate time, contrasted with poor performances by the Sabres in the 2010 playoffs and at the start of the 2010-2011 season.  There is probably no relation there, but I can understand how fans can be ticked off when they see the Sabres sucking and Miller putting on a goofy hat and playing Caddyshack.  I'm really torn on this one because I hate it when fans think that players should "only concentrate on hockey" and not have a shred of personality or fun.  But I'd be lying if I said the Caddyshack thing didn't irk me a little.  I'm not saying my lack of Miller love is justified or logical, but this may be a part of it.

The second part is that after seeing various players get the scapegoat label, Max, Vanek, Hecht, Rivet, Vanek, Tallinder, Vanek, Stafford, Vanek, Lalime, Vanek so often and seeing Miller constantly escape that label is frustrating.  Look Miller is a great goaltender, and his mistakes are few and far between, but everytime he lets in a soft goal, it's "oh well Miller bails us out all the time so he's allowed once in a while."  It's kind of like if I were to say about Vanek, well he's one of the all time leaders for the Sabres (9th) in game winning goals and bails us out plenty so he's allowed to screw up every once in a while.  Or if I were to reference Pominville's Iron Man streak, or Stafford jumping Neil after the Drury hit.  None of these are valid excuses, and the fact that Miller usually plays well shouldn't be either.

Earlier in the year after seeing Miller yield goals to Hossa (2), Kovalchuk, and Byfuglien, I made the comment that Miller as a superstar himself should not be shitting the bed against other superstars (at least not consistently).  A few people had an issue with this and I don't understand why.  If Stafford or Vanek or Pominville gets stoned by (say) Brodeur, they get ripped apart.  If Montador is made to look like a fool by Byfuglien, it's his fault.  If Miller is sniped twice by Hossa, it's oh, well Miller is usually good.  I call bullshit on that line of thought and not many others do.  I suspect this is the reasoning behind about 80% of my apathy and "meh" attitude about Ryan Miller.

But such things are always subject to change.  I was once high on Max and Pominville and I didn't always harbor a love for Vanek.  Perhaps Miller will punch Stajan again and earn his way back into my good graces.  Maybe he'll make another priceless comment about how he likes beating the leafs because he likes the thought of them riding two hours back to Toronto miserable.  That would be pretty awesome.

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