Ryan Miller was supposed to be one of the final pieces to the St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup-winning puzzle.
However, he and the Blues were ousted by their rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks, en route to another first round exit.
The trade was loved by some St. Louis fans as many thought Miller was the final piece of the puzzle in that fan base’s long quest to finally hoist the Stanley Cup. Goaltending had long been a question for the Blues as Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott had yet to take a solid hold of the top spot, while the highly touted Jake Allen was still seen as a year or two away from grabbing the starting job.
However, there were some fans and experts thought nothing changed and the Blues weren’t that much more of a contender than if they hadn’t made the trade.
It seemed that Miller was motivated to prove that he was still a top-tier goalie. Miller managed to have 2.72 goals against average despite having to deal with a porous defense and anemic Sabres offense. Miller and the Blues got off to a good start together, but faded towards the end as he ended up 10-8-1 and a 2.47 GAA in 19 games played.
The Blues ended up taking second in the Central behind a surprising Colorado squad. St. Louis then faced Chicago and got up 2-0 in the series before the wheels came off. The Blackhawks won the next four before eliminating the Blues in six.
Miller finished with a 2.70 GAA in the series, but struggled in some stretches. It seems that St. Louis paid a steep price for just 25 games of goaltending, and general manager Doug Armstrong decided to cut his losses and not re-sign Miller. (The team decided to let Allen and Elliott duke it out for the starting job.)
Once again Ryan Miller was a goalie that was uncertain of where he’d play until Vancouver signed him to a three-year, $18 million deal. Questions were immediately asked about why the Canucks would go after a goalie that may be in the twilight of his career. (Roberto Luongo, anyone?)
Some say that Miller is overrated and that his career .915 save percentage is an indication of how he’s not really that good. Miller has won in big spots, but it’s very interesting that the Blues would not keep him despite goaltending being somewhat of a question. He hasn’t been the stellar goalie that once was in the last four years. He’s not had any serious injury issues, but the age factor is a problem.
Miller is also the antithesis of the Canucks’ offseason plans. The team traded Ryan Kesler and Jason Garrison in what seemed to be the start of a rebuild. However, the team gave out the deal to Miller. Even the Vancouver media said that it could be a rehash of the goalie controversy between Luongo and Eddie Lack that caused the trade of Luongo at the deadline.
There are some positive aspects to the Miller deal as Pro Hockey Talk drew comparisons to the 2011-12 Maple Leafs, when the club acquired Jonathan Bernier to give the team protection in case James Reimer got injured. The gamble paid off and the Buds made the postseason in 2013 and Bernier seems to have cemented himself as the number one goalie.
Miller is also an indication that the Canucks are going to try for the playoffs and not enter the Connor McDavid lottery. The Canucks hung around despite the problems that they had with injuries, the controversy and how they seemed to struggle under the tutelage of the fiery John Tortorella.
Vancouver is an intense market to play in, but Miller understands that. He may not have had the best stretch in St. Louis, but he’s still one of the better goalies in the league. Are the Canucks a playoff team? That’s to be decided because the Western Conference is going to be a meat grinder with the Central Division being so stacked. The Pacific Division has the defending-champion Kings along with the Sharks and Ducks.
If Ryan Miller can recapture that 2010 Olympic magic, the playoffs aren’t out of the realm of possibility.
That’s it for today. Who would you like to see featured next in the Summer Spotlight? Comment below or tweet @Hockey_Sentinel or @DanMountSports for suggestions.
Dan Mount is the editor for The Hockey Sentinel. He also covers the Rangers, Islanders and Devils for NYSportScene.com.