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Ryan Miller’s Place In The 2010-11 Vezina Discussion

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.

twitter: @DaveDavisHockey

Filed in: NHL Teams, Buffalo Sabres, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: henrik+tallinder, jordan+leopold, martin+brodeur, ryan+miller, shaone+morrisonn, toni+lydman, vezina+trophy


PuckStopsHere's avatar

When you have a 30 year old goalie like Ryan Miller, generally you have a pretty good track record to figure out what to expect from them.  In Miller’s case you have one season as a Vezina candidate (last year when he won the award) and a bunch of years as a good goalie who is not seriously in the Vezina race.  Probably the bunch of years are more representative than the one outlier.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 10/05/10 at 05:08 PM ET

clownfat's avatar

Really? His numbers over his career in the NHL don’t really look that much different than Brodeurs over the years. Should we not consider Brodeur that way too? Even when Brodeur was winning the Vezina they weren’t really better than what Miller has done over the years apart from his GAA being lower. I don’t know if you have ever watched a Devils game in the past decade or so but there might be a reason for that apart from Brodeur. I don’t mean to be sticking it to Brodeur…

Here, career stats for some elite tenders:

Brodeur: 2.21 .914
Luongo: 2.57 .918
Lundquist: 2.33 .918
Miller: 2..57 .914
Kiprusoff: 2.44 .914

So… was last year really a fluke? No. No it was not. Especially if you take into consideration the way the Sabres were playing the game the first two years after the lockout which make up a large chunk of Miller’s stats.

Posted by clownfat on 10/05/10 at 06:42 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

When I look at your comparison, I quickly notice two things.

1) Five goalies are included in the comparison.  At most only one of those five goalies can win the Vezina in a given year.  So most of the people in your five men comparison are going to not be serious Vezina candidates.

2) Miller has the worst career numbers out of all of the five guys.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 10/05/10 at 08:40 PM ET

clownfat's avatar

1)  Okay, so who should I be comparing him to? I tried to add goalies who have good career stats since I thought you said that Vezina candidates are basically Vezina candidates all the time and Miller isn’t one all the time. He had a good year last year, no doubt, but it isn’t like it was a giant fluke. For the most part since he became the starter he has played better and better. Maybe he peeked but I gotta think you get more than one year of close to that performance out of him. He was 29 all of last season. When do goalies typically start their decline? Lets ask Rick DiPietro.

2) Barely. Which is kinda the point I was trying to make. His stats are not far off from goalies you might consider being a Vezina goalie. Well, maybe not you specifically…

I should have added Hasek, that would have made them all look bad.

Posted by clownfat on 10/05/10 at 10:44 PM ET

Primis's avatar

1) Five goalies are included in the comparison.  At most only one of those five goalies can win the Vezina in a given year.  So most of the people in your five men comparison are going to not be serious Vezina candidates.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 10/05/10 at 06:40 PM ET

And yet 3 of the 5 mentioned have already won Vezinas.

Kinda’ makes your argument seem… dumb… doesn’t it?

Posted by Primis on 10/05/10 at 11:59 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

He hasn’t stopped a single puck in the regular season and people are already sizing him up for goalie of the year. sigh.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 10/06/10 at 12:25 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar


4 of the 5 on the lst were not serious Vezina contenders last year (Miller being the exception).  That is my point.  In any given year, most of those guys on that list wont be Vezina candidates.  Picking out the one with the worst career stats of the bunch as a Vezina candidate before this year begins isn’t really a smart move.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 10/06/10 at 12:29 AM ET

clownfat's avatar

“Probably the bunch of years are more representative than the one outlier. “

Seems like you are saying last year was a fluke. Is that not what you were saying? No idea if he will get it again, but his past suggests he has just as good of a chance as anyone else. My list wasn’t supposed to be who has a shot at it this year my list was just a list of who I consider to be some of the top consistently good goal tenders in the league right now and as you can see Miller hangs in there in terms of numbers. I certainly could add a few more with lesser stats if that will help you envision where in the list his career stats sit.

Posted by clownfat on 10/06/10 at 02:17 AM ET

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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.

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