Over the last few months, I think it is safe to say that I haven't exactly been a huge fan of Ryan Miller. No, I'm not going to state that Ryan Miller is overrated. No, I'm not going to say that Enroth should play. No, I'm not going to try and playback his interview after the Flyers game like it's the Mark Fuhrman tapes. No, I'm not going to figure out what is or isn't a soft goal like figuring out what side JFK's fatal bullet came from. That sh#t is played out on my part and everyone else's.
For the record, I don't think there is a goalie controversy because it is too early in the season to have one. I also think that we are only 11 games into the season. It is way too early to fire people. Let us not forget that this team almost beat Philly with a bunch of injured players in the playoffs and made a great run just to get in. Yes, I think the Millermaniacs are crazy and always find excuses for Miller's shoddy play. However, Miller and the Sabres deserve at least 30-40 games to figure out what the problem is between them.
Miller's also a Montreal game away from everything going back to normal. I mean, we are talking about 11 games here. It's the same stuff. Fans/media overreacting to one game. It's the norm in the sports world.
(On a sidenote, some people in the media have a lot of gall to tell the fans that they were out of line for booing/going after Miller two nights ago. Really? We are the ones jumping to conclusions and being irrational about a player? He who has not sinned, cast the first stone....Still waiting on that stone)
Talk to me in January about a panic attack.
As for the 650 lb. gorilla in the room lately, Ryan Miller's problems go beyond the ice.
The problem that seems to be growing is the disconnect between Miller and I guess, a lot of Buffalo. The innocence of Miller being a young, well-spoken kid from his rookie year is being replaced with a guy that some fans find to be quite arrogant. I don't know Ryan Miller, but I'm starting to think the pressure of being the face of the franchise is getting to him. I think of all the stories/rumors I heard about how Drury didn't like being bothered at Wegmans and Briere's wife not liking it here, and I wonder if Ryan is just getting sick of being a big fish in a small pond.
When I hear quotes like this:
"I don’t really know where to go because what I need to work on is a longer explanation than you guys are going to put on the air and I don’t really care to share it because it’s a process I do on my own. I’m obviously frustrated with certain elements and that’s pretty obvious. I’m just trying to figure a good [place] to be in, get rid of the last few games and move on. That’s what I want to start doing after this interview. It’s more mental ”-Ryan Miller in TBN-
It makes me wonder if Miller is burning out in WNY. You just don't like hearing a goalie say "Mental" after just 11 games.
Is the pressure of having to answer the same questions daily getting to him?
Like I said, maybe being the big fish in a small pond is getting to him. After Saturday's game, this was around 2am in the morning, I was watching my Twitter feed, and all of a sudden 4-5 tweets came in about Miller and his wife being at the sushi spot, Encore. I don't know what it was, but I put myself in Miller's place for that second. How many eyes in that place were glued to Miller and his wife? Sure, it was probably not the first time, but I wondered if that sort of stuff gets old. If Miller was the goalie in NYC or even Boston, I'm not sure if he'd get that sort of eye treatment.
People can talk all they want about WNY being hockey heaven. What makes it hockey heaven? The fans who cheer the team on? Winning? New lockers? You know what I think a player's idea is of Hockey Heaven? They don't get bothered. They don't asnwer questions. They play hockey and get paid. They win, lose and leave. Maybe some of them love being bothered in Wegmans or at Encore, but I think most guys want privacy. I tend to put Miller in that category.
This really isn't about the first 11 games, this is about what I've seen over the last year or so.
Miller seems to be a guy who reads and listens to everything when it comes to criticism. I'm sure he knew that the WGR postgame show made a huge deal about his comments after last night's game. You can tell by the way he sounded yesterday morning. Some guys feed off the criticism. However, I don't think Miller feeds off negativity all that well. I point to how Lindy Ruff has a hit list of his own players that he's called out. He's gone public with criticism of Vanek and other guys. I really can't recall Ruff burying Miller. Maybe if he did it in public, he would lose Miller. Yes, I believe that Ruff fears Miller.
I remember what happened last year with Vogl/Sully/Miller and there have been other instances like that. I think the press has grown tired of him and vice versa. I think it will get to the point that if Miller gets traded down the road, there might be a backlash from the press corps, burying his attitude on the way out. I'm not saying Miller doesn't deserve it. He does at times come off as a jerk. Yes, Miller would probably have it worse in Toronto, but if you don't have thick skin, it doesn't matter what town you are in.
As for most fans, Matthew Stewart made a good point on Twitter 2 nights ago about how Hasek and Miller are almost identical in years played in Buffalo and how Hasek's relationship with fans started disengrating about this time. It got me thinking about Jim Kelly. Yes, THAT Jim Kelly. About how a number of fans/media wanted him out of here towards the end of his career. Yes, they were cheering for Todd Collins. Same goes with Pierre Turgeon, Alexander Mogilny, Dave Andreychuk, Willis McGahee, Drew Bledsoe, Marshawn Lynch, and Doug Flutie.
Fans get tired of players.
I also think fans in this town relate to players off the ice more than anywhere else. They want to view their star player as a blue-collar, beer chugging, tough guy. Go and clean up Elmwood Avenue and fans/media members will love you (see: Losman). They want the guy to be Buffalo. They want the underdog story. They want the tough guy. Miller? Eh, I don't see him fitting that Buffalo stereotype. Maybe he's better suited for NYC, where they love starlets and athletes hanging out together. I also think fans look at money a lot more in this town than they do in other regions. I'm sure Miller let in soft goals during the first four years of his career. No one made a big deal about it until he started getting paid.
This just jumped in my head and since this is a blog, I'll go with it. I can't help but think back to what the city and Miller had five years ago. Even going back to the Olympic run. There seemed to be this bond between both parties that was very special. I always thought of Miller being the kid on the Drury/Briere teams. He was the happy rookie. A guy that we all thought was going to get better, a man we could hitch our wagons of hope to. The guy's popularity was soring. I remember reading a piece by Heather B. during the Olympics about how she was so excited that Ryan Miller was a part of this team. This was only 18 months ago. That was the point where I thought Miller surpassed Hasek's popularity. Hell, throw in LaFontaine too.
Now, it seems like people are trying to bury him or are just over him. Maybe he deserves it. I've been on his a$$ for a while now. But even though I tend to be a cynic or a$$hole (take your pick), I kind of find it sad in a way.
Sometimes, I think back to being a kid. At 13, I thought I was pretty knowledgeable when it came to sports. Would I be trying to kill off #30? No. Because he'd probably be my hero. Kids cheer for the individuals more so than the adults. When you get older, I think we all fall into the trap of being a cynic or overreacting. I've done it A LOT. When I was 25, I didn't have this great connection with Miller, but I know the city did.
Right now, I feel like a dad who is witnessing his daughter (WNY) having issues with her husband (Miller). I remember what it was like seeing them together for the first time. The happiness they had with each other. The first dance. First win. First kiss. Pretty much picture a really bad Hallmark movie.
Now...are we heading to divorce court?
#30: You really want to throw me on my ass for a guy who has played 18 career games?
Fan: You can't take responsibility for stinking?
These all sound kind of petty, but that's what happens when you can't stand each other anymore. You accentuate the negatives. It's like watching a relationship where it was so happy at first and everyone loved each other, and now, it's getting old. I'm not saying it's anyone's fault. It could just be a case of irreconcilable differences. I just think that if things keep going down this road, it will get uglier. I think both parties are getting tired of each other at this point.
However, winning does cure it.
My word of advice to #30: I think he needs to go and find his smile somewhere. He needs to turn off the radio. Burn a copy of The Buffalo News. Stop giving a sh#t what anyone in the media or community thinks of him. He needs to go home and look at his hot wife. Maybe he should pull a Romo and go to Cabo for a day or two. I don't care if Miller is a d#$k. I don't need him to be like the majority of the Bills players, who have embraced the Bills Mafia. I don't care about his quotes after games. I don't need him to cry at his locker room. I don't need him to kiss a baby's cheek. I don't need him to stay in WNY during the offseason. I don't need him to get a tattoo of a Buffalo on his back.
I want him to get back to being a great goalie.