Kukla's Korner Hockey
by @DaveDavisHockey on 02/15/11 at 03:04 PM ET
An American-born goaltender from Michigan has a career year, leads his team to the Northeast Division title, wins the Vezina Trophy, injures his hip early the following season and proceeds to stink up the joint. Sound familiar?
As you probably deduced, I’m referring to Tim Thomas.
While the numbers have been eye-popping for the Boston Bruins goaltender in his comeback season, the Sabres have a pretty talented goalie of their own who finds himself in a similar situation to where Thomas was a year ago.
And now, after a nightmarish performance by Ryan Miller Sunday against the New York Islanders, things here in Buffalo have gotten a little crazy. It’s amazing what one awful game in a 12-4-2 stretch will do to people.
A local radio station ran a poll on its website yesterday asking Sabres fans whether or not new ownership should move forward with Miller as their goaltender. Pundits are enlightening us with the notion that non-elites like Antti Niemi, Marc-Andre Fleury and Chris Osgood winning Stanley Cups somehow translates to Miller being expendable.
When Jhonas Enroth goes between the pipes tonight for the Sabres at Centre Bell in Montreal, it’ll be the first game Miller hasn’t started since we were all sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner. Many of the franchise netminder’s antagonists have either forgotten or ignored the fact that he was battling hip and knee injuries at the time.
Are we to assume that three months later the reigning Vezina Trophy winner is playing at 100%? Noone lacking a medical degree should dare touch that one, but perhaps history can give us a lesson.
Thomas went through most of last season unsure of what was wrong until he aggravated his injury right after the Olympics. He eventually had to resort to offseason surgery to resolve the problem. Put another way, a 36-year old with a surgically repaired hip currently leads the league with a 1.97 GAA. How would the Bruins feel right now had they not fought off the urge after last season to trade him?
Wouldn’t it be kind of foolish for Buffalo to even consider making a rash move based on an assumption that Miller’s Vezina season was just a fluke? That’s the type of thinking that has gotten guys like Mike Milbury jobs as television analysts.
Miller may be injured, tired, neither or both, but one thing he’s not is dispensable. Unless the Sabres have discovered some grand scheme to get Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby and Pavel Datsyk onto their roster this summer, they aren’t winning a Stanley Cup in the near future without a rejuvenated Miller in net.
Free agent pickings will be slim this coming offseason. And sorry, Sabres fans, but trading for Jarome Iginla, Dustin Brown, David Backes, or anyone else that your silly rumor site is telling you is headed here won’t be enough to put this team over the top without the healthy and fresh version of the franchise goaltender playing well.
To the 25% who voted ‘no’ in that poll yesterday, shame on you. But based on how you voted in the Drew Stafford poll last summer, it’s not surprising.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org