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Mike Schopp's Blog



Schopp: Miller here to stay

Once again, many of the big-name goaltenders are nowhere to be found by Round 2 of the NHL playoffs. One listener tells me that of the top 18 goalies ranked by salary-cap hit, only two (Luongo and Thomas) are still playing. Their teams were 1-2 in the regular season in goal differential, which tells us that they have good goaltending for sure but also a lot more.

There's no knowing whether or not Vancouver or Boston would be in the same position -- one game away from home ice in the conference finals -- with lesser goalies. But it's certainly possible. The last team to win the Stanley Cup whose strength was goaltending was the 2003 New Jersey Devils.

Now we come to the Sabres, about whom so many people say that their strength is goaltending that I might as well just call it a fact. Their goaltending is hardly stupendous, but if goaltending isn't their strength then I don't know what is. No other element of the team had much of a playoff series, I know that much.

More and more fans seem to have bought into my position from years back, that signing Ryan Miller long-term was not the brightest way to build the team. Now, some of those fans are ready to trade Miller and have that amount to a similarly paid player at another position.

I think that's logical, but it wrongfully ignores the same aspect of the situation that undermined the point back when: This isn't fantasy sports. When the Sabres signed Miller in '08, they did so not just to retain one of the league's better goalies. Star players had fallen through the cracked foundation of their ship, and they needed to keep Miller in order to plug the hole. They did that, and he's rewarded them with consistent, above-average goaltending.

Now Jhonas Enroth exists as a seemingly capable alternative to Miller, and the temptation might exist to try to put Miller's money into a $5-6M player at another position. But I don't see it happening, and just like a few years ago some of the reasoning takes us off the ice.

Terry Pegula and Ted Black have set out to create "Hockey Heaven", an NHL destination for players looking for first-rate accommodations to go with the already rabid fan base and relatively cheap living. At the same time, Miller is very well-respected within hockey for his class and intelligence, on top of his play.

This team moving this player at this time doesn't add up.

Perhaps someday Enroth will emerge as a superior player to Miller. Perhaps "Hockey Heaven" will be firmly established and keeping players to help you become something will be moot, as you've already become what you set out for. Perhaps Miller will snap at being scrutinized like he is here and want to move on. Whatever happens, happens.

But for now it's still Miller time.


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