Ryan Miller is a what now?

When NHL 13 rolls out next month, Ryan Miller will sport a 92 rating. That is a rating that comes in above such tenders as Henrik Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne, Jonathon Quick and every other goalie in the league.

Yes, Miller is the highest rated goalie in NHL 13 based on what is probably a crazy algorithm developed by EA Sports based on performance, stats and perhaps a spousal hotness x-factor. This rating was determined by a bunch of coding experts who developed that algorithm and poured over results from the past few years to determine the number.

The best part of all this is how infuriated all of Miller’s detractors will be.

Somewhere along the line a number of Sabres fans have developed the opinion that Miller is required to perform at a level that is either equivalent or even above that of Dominik Hasek during his prime. Naturally that is the most unrealistic set of expectations ever, but when were Buffalo sports fans ever considered to be level headed about anything? This is a city of frustrated fans desperate for a championship, having high expectations isn’t unfair.

Miller established himself in 2005-06, performing admirably in a run to the Conference Finals with a patchwork blueline. He rode a powerhouse team to another Conference Final in 2006-07 while turning in a sparking 2.22 GAA and .922 SV% in the playoffs. He has amassed 30 wins in all seven of his full NHL seasons and has suffered a pair of injuries during two non-playoff seasons. Coupled with his Vezina and Olympic Tournament MVP award in 2010, it is safe to say that Miller has set the bar high for himself.

Regardless of how many soft goals he gives up, Miller has done plenty to prove himself as an effective NHL goaltender. His body of work is easily indicative of a goalie within the NHL’s top-15 and shouldn’t even see debate putting him in the top-10.

While this isn’t meant to vindicate Miller from his detractors, it is meant to prove a point. Miller isn’t the best goalie in the world, at least not this year, but he is worthy of more respect than he usually gets in Buffalo. To put that in perspective, here are 13 of the league’s best goalies: Lundqvist, Quick, Rinner, Luongo, Thomas (not playing this season), Miller, Kiprusoff, Backstrom, Ward, Fleury, Howard, Price, Brodeur. While there is no particular order to that list, Miller certainly falls in line with that group and would likely be slotted above many if a proper ranking was put together.
Still, Miller doesn’t fall atop that list, nor does he deserve to get a higher rating than those players in an arbitrary video game. What kind of rating Miller is given in a video game should render at -2 on a scale of how much you should give a damn. This is a video game and putting too much stock into such a thing is rather ludicrous. Especially when you consider that the prime motivation for the game will be inspiring teenagers and whiner line callers to think that Bobby Ryan is worth Nathan Gerbe and a second round pick.

The only reason that this does register, for me, is with regard to how people in Buffalo view their sports teams; and by extension, the athletes. Familiarity breeds contempt. It is plain as day and is especially true in sports. The more you see of someone, the more you realize their faults and shortcomings. When it comes to sports you realize that your favorite goalie isn’t an impenetrable wall; that pitcher your team picked up doesn’t hit his spot every night; and that All-Pro left tackle gets beat inside an awful lot.

In Buffalo, that means realizing that Miller does lose focus late in games when he holds a shutout or that he gives up a sofite now and then. The same goes for fans who think Thomas Vanek is lazy. Just wait until Mario Williams goes a few games without a sack. He will be the most overpaid, overrated waste of money this side of Ville Leino. That is, until he goes on a run like Miller did after New Year’s last year and re-instilled confidence in his game.
It is easy to think other players are superior when you’re only watching highlights. For example, watch 82 games worth of Bobby Ryan, Shane Doan and Thomas Vanek and then decide which one you would prefer. Even better, put the other two with the linemates and coaching Vanek has had and watch 82 games. After seeing players who light up the highlight reels for every shift of a season you will probably realize that the grass isn’t always greener.

That doesn’t mean to give a Sabre or Bill a break if they’re under-performing. Just realize that the popular opinion in Buffalo is probably skewed towards over-analysis rather than the middle. It is important to realize that Miller is indeed worthy of the credit he is getting from the hockey community, no matter how bad you think he is. If nothing else, enjoy using him as your goalie on your quest to fictional Stanley Cup championships.


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