So, when Buffalowins.com’s head honcho, Joe, and I were talking about what my upcoming column would be about, the topic turned to Ryan Miller. Right now, Miller is the central cog behind the Sabres’ current push to the playoffs.
Our consensus was that it’s so strange/interesting/kind of sad how Miller went from being the poster boy of USA hockey after the Vancouver games in 2010 to receiving a Bronx cheer from his own crowd.
It was only two years ago that he was the world’s top goaltender and now, while he still certainly shows signs of brilliance, fans that heard trade rumors before last month’s deadline started to think a parting of ways was the best option.
Joe likened this fall from grace to a movie that he couldn’t think of — and I agreed. Miller’s polarizing personality, from condescending post-game interviews to openly criticizing the trade of a former teammate, has certainly — at times — caused a disconnect between the franchise goalie and the franchise fans. But every time he shields us away, he pulls us right back in with a stretch of spectacular play.
Going off Joe’s suggestion and with a little help from an Internet article titled, “How to Write a Movie Proposal,” let’s take a look at how Miller’s journey as a Buffalo Sabre would play out on the silver screen:
Ryan Miller — If money is no problem (and it isn’t since the premiere is taking place in my own head) then Miller will be played by Jon Hamm. Just imagine: John Vogl of The Buffalo News asking Don Draper how he felt on the ice after being shellacked by the New York Islanders. Draper puts down his Old Fashioned, takes one last drag from his Lucky Strike (blowing the smoke all over the group of reporters,) looks back and says, “I don’t know what you’re going with here John.” Note: This will be the scene played during the Oscar for Best Actor.
Noureen DeWulf — Ryan’s new wife. She is a model and actress who lives in California and looks as if she has never once been asked to shovel a foot of lake effect snow in her life.
Drew Stafford — Drew is in this movie only for pure comic relief. He is often seen in the background of intense locker room scenes, always with a different mustache and sometimes carrying an aluminum pole. Drew will be played by Bill Hader. Duh.
Lindy Ruff — Ed Harris
Milan Lucic — Sasha Baron Cohen
Overview: In his first full seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, Ryan Miller helps lead his team to consecutive Eastern Conference Finals with the world finally seeing his full potential in 2010 when he leads Team USA to a silver medal performance at the Winter Olympics. But early playoff exits and uncharacteristically poor performances start to show their wear and tear and Miller finds himself at odds with Buffalo sports fans. But the roller coaster doesn’t end there as Miller’s stellar play has the Sabres roaring back toward a playoff spot in the season’s waning moments. Is it enough to secure a playoff spot?
Major plot points:
2006: The film opens with Jason Pominville’s overtime winner against Ottawa that sent the Sabres to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2006. This was a monumental win for the organization, but also for Pommer, Miller and the group of players that came up together through the Rochester farm system. Miller, Roy, Vanek, Goose and Pominville all played roles, but were not the stars of the show for this team as Drury and Briere were. This young core got to taste success and see what it takes to contend for a Stanley Cup. But how would they act two years later when it would be up to them to lead the team?
2010: After watching co-captains Chris Drury and Daniel Briere walk via free agency, Miller was looked to as one of the leaders of the Sabres in the locker room and on the ice. Miller held up his end of the bargain, logging long stretches of consecutive starts while still posting his average numbers. While the team started to struggle — no playoffs from 07-09 and two first round exits — Miller’s individual achievements were celebrated at the 2010 Olympics and the NHL Awards Show. But being a national hero and Vezina-winning goaltender only ups the ante for the next season.
2011: The 2011 season begins with heightened expectations for the Sabres and Miller. New owner Terry Pegula breaks the bank to try and put together the best lineup assembled in Miller’s time here. Buffalo is renamed “Hockey Heaven” and pundits name the Sabres as a trending pick in the preseason to win their division and perhaps the conference.
But the season does not get off to the glorious start that was predicted. Buffalo is finding it difficult to win in front of its home crowd and booing from the fans who packed the First Niagara Center becomes commonplace. For Miller, this culminates in a lackluster performance in which he allows three goals in under seven minutes to the Philadelphia Flyers. When Miller makes an easy save, fans sarcastically cheer.
Miller is pissed at his team’s lack of chemistry. He is pissed at the fans for their waning support. But mostly, he is pissed at himself, knowing that he is better than his current play and determined to be part of the solution instead of being a large part of the problem.
With this newfound determination, Miller steps on the ice of the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston to face the Bruins. But once again, he does not make it to the end of the game as an open ice hit from Milan Lucic sends Miller flying, resulting in a concussion. Fade to black.
2012: The story could have easily ended there. Down and seemingly out, the Sabres could have called it a season. Given up as failures on a season where greatness was expected. Miller and the core of his former Rochester teammates were thought to be blown up and traded across the country for draft picks aimed at rebuilding the franchise. Miller found himself in the midst of swirling rumors as outsiders believed he needed a change of scenery to reach the level of play from the Vancouver games. But Miller stood his ground and stayed defiant. If there is one thing to be said about the goalie, it is whether Lucic is bearing down on him, the fans are berating him, Jordan Tootoo is jumping into him or trade rumors pester him: Ryan Miller will not stand down.
And as a trip to the West Coast sees Miller’s play return to it’s dominant state and the Sabres climb back into playoff contention, those same fans that mocked Ryan in the beginning of the season are now singing his praises…
Look: There will always be a group that stands by Miller no matter what and there will always be a faction who criticizes the netminder. That comes with the territory of being a high-paid superstar in a city desperate for a taste of glory. What makes Miller such an intriguing character is, even within the confines of one season, he — and the Sabres — take us on a roller coaster of emotions.
Go to Twitter and tell Alex who else should star in Ryan Miller: The Movie. (Also, better movie title suggestions are greatly appreciated.)