Kukla's Korner Hockey
by @DaveDavisHockey on 10/05/10 at 04:52 PM ET
While it certainly can’t be said with a straight face that Ryan Miller doesn’t get enough respect, there are some pundits out there who have declared, almost as a foregone conclusion, that the 30-year old Sabres franchise netminder will still be solid but won’t be able to duplicate his Vezina-worthy magic of 2009-10.
Whether because of changes in the Sabres defensive corps, having played too many games, or simply from the difficulty of maintaining such a high level of play in an ultra-competitive league where the difference in the talent level of goaltenders has shrunk significantly, discussions by many about Miller’s prospects for the upcoming season are accompanied by buzzwords and catch phrases like “dropoff” and “coming back down to earth”.
Interestingly enough, the same things were said about a 30-year old Martin Brodeur after his stellar 2002-03 Vezina campaign when he posted a 2.02 goals-against average. There were rumblings that he had played so many games and had such a phenomenal season that he’d be hard pressed to match his numbers again.
The geniuses were right. The following season Brodeur had to play 75 games - and as a result his GAA skyrocketed to 2.03. His ‘declining numbers’ were still good enough to earn him his second of four Vezina Trophies in five seasons.
Is it that hard for some people to believe that what Miller showed us during his recent graduation to elite status in this league is actually enough to make him worthy of making a serious run at a second consecutive Vezina Trophy?
And did the changes to the defense in front of him really make it worse? In exchanging Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman for Shaone Morrisonn and Jordan Leopold, the Sabres on the blue line got younger and more productive offensively.
Tallinder told a New Jersey writer that last season wasn’t about him making Tyler Myers better, but actually the other way around. Lydman nets half as many goals and takes twice as many penalties as Leopold - and the Ducks defenseman just turned 33, which we’re finding out is the new 43 by NHL standards.
Sabres GM Darcy Regier has admitted that Miller was a bit tired as his club was entering the 2010 playoffs. With no draining Olympic tournament this time around, and with the Sabres returning fresh from a longer than expected offseason, there just isn’t a solid reason to anticipate a dropoff that will prevent Miller from challenging guys named Luongo, Lundqvist, Rask and the aforementioned and ageless Brodeur for the league’s top goaltending honor again.
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