Celebrate Ryan Miller’s Return with Highlights

The inevitability that Ryan Miller was going to be traded two seasons ago was something I was aware of even before the season had begun. A looming UFA, Miller held value across the league as a quality starting netminder and didn’t fit well with the Sabres rebuild.

That didn’t make it any easier the day he was traded.

Miller received a fair dose of criticism during his time in Buffalo and, to this day, I don’t understand how he was so under-appreciated. Perhaps it was because he was living in Hasek’s shadow for many fans. Maybe it was simply because a “Ryan Miller Shoutout” was unacceptable for some. Either way, when I look back at his time two years removed from his trade, I appreciate the talent we had even more. The post-Briere and Drury years were rife with under-achievement and, frankly, wasted some of the best hockey of Miller’s career.

By no means do I think the Sabres should have kept him, however. Tim Murray made the right decision in moving Miller when he did. It was the right move for the Sabres and it was the right move for Miller as well. I’m glad to see that Miller is playing well in Vancouver and I’m looking forward to seeing him on the ice at First Niagara Center once again.

Perhaps this period of Sabres hockey in which the answer in goal is somewhat cloudy will help clarify Miller’s worth to the organization during his tenure. In the meantime, enjoy this collection of Miller highlights. Continue reading

Sabres deadline solidifies foundation for rebuild

It may have taken a late flurry, but Tim Murray put his stamp on the organization with a firm, aggressive series of trades around the 2014 trade deadline.

A look at the players that have come and gone since the start of the 13-14 season.
A look at the players and picks that have come and gone since the start of the 13-14 season. I consider a lateral move one that saw the Sabres acquire and flip a player for additional assets.

He got started early by sending Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to St. Louis on Friday and threw his hat in the ring with one of the earlier trades on Wednesday. Murray shipped Brayden McNabb, two second round picks and Jonathan Parker to Los Angeles for Hudson Fasching and Nicolas Deslauriers.

Murray’s punctuated his first deadline with two 11th hour deals involving three of this pending UFAs that ensured previous investments would continue to pay dividends. After finding a dance partner to take Matt Moulson (and Cody McCormick), Murray managed to flip Jaroslav Halak for a younger goaltender with term.

It was a productive deadline that provides the framework for the way Murray will shape the roster through the 2014 and 15 drafts. Two drafts that will see the Sabres make four (possibly five) first round selections. Continue reading

Gone but not forgotten

The Word document for this post sat blank for quite some time. Probably because it’s still difficult to put to words exactly what I’m feeling regarding Ryan Miller’s departure.

Miller’s departure was something I was prepared for and expecting dating back to last year’s deadline. It was clear that the Sabres were moving in the direction of a full rebuild and a 33 year-old goaltender typically isn’t a major part of those practices. Having a full calendar year to consider his landing spot and prepare emotionally probably made Friday – and yesterday for that matter – much easier to stomach. Continue reading

Don’t rule Miller out despite Quick being named starter

Maybe you’ve heard, but Ryan Miller will not get the first start for Team USA in Sochi. Jonathan Quick will go against Slovakia in the first round robin game and it would appear that many a fan is up in arms over the decision.

There shouldn’t be too much cause for concern that Miller either a, won’t wind up being the go-to guy for the US; or b, won’t see any ice at all during the Olympics. While Quick is getting the nod against Slovakia that doesn’t rule Miller out of either of the following round robin games, nor does it mean that he isn’t in line to see significant time in the tournament.

What is known is that Quick was the prohibitive favorite to not only make the US team but carry the squad based on the USA Hockey meetings that began this summer. This much was spelled out clearly in the behind-the-scenes coverage granted to Kevin Allen and Scott Burnside. Based on the coverage, Quick’s hold on the number one spot, in the eyes of the USA Hockey management team, maintained throughout the year and even through his injury. However, Miller’s play not only elevated him to the forefront of the goaltending conversations, but from fourth to second in the eyes of the decision makers.

Since Quick entered the year with what appears to be a large lead over his fellow countrymen, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they’re expecting to get him a game and an early one in the tournament. He certainly deserves a start and having him go against a team like Slovakia is a good choice for Bylsma. The Slovaks have an impressive roster and should make some noise in the tournament. However, you’d also expect that they’re still out matched by the US which will allow Quick to play against a formidable opponent with what should amount to strong support from the team in front of him. Continue reading

Leveraging assets may be the key to Sabres deadline deals

The Olympic trade freeze will lift in two weeks and the ten days to follow will be filled with a flurry of rumor mongering and transactions as the NHL trade deadline nears.

Tim Murray is going to be more than a little busy both during and after the Olympics as he maneuvers to swap some of the talent on his roster as he continues to steer the Sabres rebuild. It’s no secret that his primary focus will be on his trio of pending UFAs with Ryan Miller’s status being of the utmost interest to observers.

The end game with those three is all but decided. They’ll be sold off to the highest bidder with Murray attempting to net at least two assets in return for each. In the case of Miller, the asking price will likely begin with four pieces and could end up at three or two depending on what the market bears.

I feel that the Sabres are nearing a stage in which picks will not benefit them as much as prospects or players who are nearly NHL regulars. While first round picks are obviously valuable currency, the stockpile the Sabres have been going through should allow Murray to be creative with some of his non-first round picks.

Additionally, I’d be in full support of Murray extending some of Buffalo’s younger talents to the trade market in order to make a hockey trade or two in the coming months. This particular strategy being available as an option to him both between now and the deadline and leading up to the draft and summertime.

Continue reading

NHL talent will soon trump picks, prospects on Sabres shopping list

At some point in the near future the Sabres will reach a critical mass when it comes to their rebuild. Eventually Tim Murray and the front office will be at a point where picks and prospects are trumped for the need of talent with NHL experience.

That point won’t likely come this summer nor is it likely to occur immediately after the 2014-15 regular season. But with the way Buffalo’s pipeline is expected to balloon in the coming months, Murray and company will soon need to find a different type of asset to add to the puzzle that is the Buffalo Sabres roster.

It was something that had come to mind somewhat recently with the hubbub surrounding Ryan Miller, Matt Moulson and Steve Ott along with the reported return each player will bring. Add to that the comments from an unnamed Western Conference GM in Pierre LeBrun’s article on Murray and it’s clear that the next step of Buffalo’s rebuild will need to come soon.

… I have always believed that you need some good veteran players to help [the young] ones along. You don’t need tons more draft picks when you have as many as they already do. There comes a point when you could have too many young players [and] picks… I would personally not just get more picks and prospects back since they have lot of those already. I would look for players that can play so you don’t rely on rookies so much.

It’s a take I agree with wholeheartedly. At some point your roster can’t just be comprised of 18-22 year old rookies. There will need to be a veteran presence on the roster and it needs to come from various directions. Continue reading

Revisiting my US Olympic Hockey roster projections

Earlier in the summer I took the time to project who I felt would be donning the red, white and blue for the United States in the 2014 Olympic Games. With a quarter of the NHL season in the books there is a potential for a number of players to have cemented their spots or even opened the eyes of the USA Hockey executive team.

Considering the US doesn’t have the mountain of talent that is touted by the Canadians to pull from, there are more than a few assumed locks for the team. Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel are both enjoying strong starts to the season and will certainly be counted upon to continue their elite scoring ways in Sochi. The story remains the same for many of the forwards I assumed would be making the squad.

What it will likely come down to is who has the strongest resume as the games near. While the orientation camp and preseason rosters were based on career resumes and the assumed growth of players, others have shot out of the gates and bear watching as the season progresses. Due to that, there is likely to be some shuffling amongst the names who already were considered favorites.

Max Pacioretty has only played 15 games and has accounted for nine points (7+2) in that span. His absence from the lineup and the slower start could bump him off the roster as could be the case for James Van Riemsdyk. He has 16 points (9+7) in 22 games and has a natural chemistry with Kessel, but he could also be supplanted by a new face should the executive staff go with who is playing best.

JVR is probably more of a longshot to be left off the roster than to make it at this point and Ryan Callahan’s injury issues to start the year and Dustin Brown’s unimpressive offensive output won’t win them many favorites. However, Brown and Callahan both serve incredibly well in a checking and leadership role, which will likely cement their spot on the roster.

My original roster only accounted for 13 forwards and seven defensemen as I didn’t account for the two extra roster spots made available for this year’s games. Given that my original roster now has two gift openings, there isn’t nearly as much trouble trying to narrow down who should and shouldn’t be packing up for Russia.

The players who have motivated me to revisit my picks include; Jason Pominville (13 goals already), TJ Oshie (21 points) along with a few others who I originally considered little more than darkhorse candidates (Alex Galchenyuk, Brandon Dubinsky and Cam Fowler).

I truly believe that most of the American roster was decided early on as players like David Backes, Kane, Kessel, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were all but decided the minute the orientation camp roster came out. Others would certainly be favorites but would need a solid first half of the year to cement their spot, this is where I see some opportunity for turnover. Here’s my new roster with new names highlighted in blue: Continue reading