Can you believe it has been 10 years since Ryan Miller started his first NHL game?
That might depend on how you feel about the Sabres. I think if you have been miserable with their existence, the years kind of drag, but when you are happy, well, time flies when you're having fun, as dorks say.
For me, it has been…kind of a fog.
I've had so many ups and downs with Miller. It really feels like a real relationship.
Strangely, I don't recall many specific Miller memories from 2006-2009. I think it's because the post-lockout teams were so good with so many star players. He didn't exactly stand out from the group for me. Then the 23/48 debacle happened and for the next two seasons, I kind of hated the team because of ownership and the lame runs to 10th place. Then the Olympic year happened. That's when Miller started to stand out for me.
In some ways, I love the guy. I like that he's articulate and really thinks about what he's saying when he answers a question. I even enjoy his arrogant ways with the press. He doesn't strike me as a company guy like the majority of the Sabres higher-ups. He always says what is on his mind and he's the only player on record to ever say that the Sabres played like a bunch of little girls.
At times, he's been a great goalie and someone who can carry not just the team but the NHL brand as well. The Olympic year will probably always be one of my top 5 favorite years for a Sabres player. We saw a guy become a national star and the best part was that he was ours. To America, he may have left the spotlight after the Olympics, but it was only because he seemed to have brought it here to WNY.
On the other hand, I feel he kind of got overexposed here. Buffalo is a small town. It must be hard for a star athlete to live here because it is such a fish bowl. You can't go too far in the Wegmans produce section without being asked about the penalty kill. But really, it is the overexposed part that got me annoyed a bit.
I like to call it the Goo Goo Dolls syndrome. Growing up, I liked the Goo Goo Dolls, but you couldn't go five feet away from a school locker without hearing kids act like A Boy Named Goo was A Boy Named Jesus. It was good, but the constant "They're from Buffalo AHHHHHH!!! You have to like all their songs or else," was just too much for me. I think that happened with Miller struggling a bit during the start of the 2010/2011 season. Miller's W/L record wasn't exactly beaming and his GAA was up. What happened to Miller? I wrote about it and got tons of shit for it on Twitter. "Oh, he's awesome! Leave him alone. The defense is bad and HE'S A STAR!!" Miller finished out of the top 20 in GAA and finished just 18th in save percentage. Those just didn't sound like star numbers. Maybe my critics were right about other issues (Hank/Toni leaving and health). However, I couldn't just not look at the goalie, too. The Goo Goo Dolls effect had kicked in. Miller wasn't Hasek. He wasn't going to be the all-world goalie that a number of people thought he'd be after 2010. He's good. But not great. Also, it was the whole chicken and the egg thing about great defense making your goalie all-world or the other way around.
Then came the start of last year. From the Lucic hit to the questions about the effect of his Hollywood girlfriend, I just started to feel bad for him and in a way, I felt I had added to the misery by calling him out the year before. I know, my little voice has no pull, but it just felt like his stardom was fading in large parts because people started picking on him for little things and that all exploded at the start of last year.
I felt like the character Eugene Levy played in Splash, when he was obsessed with exposing Daryl Hannah for being the mermaid and then felt bad after he exposed her and everyone started piling on her for being a fish. Yes, it is the classic heel to face turn.
Then Miller went on a hot streak for the better part of February and March. He was the main reason for the team making their mini run. He played great and it seemed like all was right in the world with him. However, I still didn't feel that connection like I did during the Olympic year. Yeah, I'm a bad fan
Then the lockout came. While a number of fans were pissed off about it (no problem here), I kind of forgot how big of a cool dick Miller can be. I really enjoyed Miller's defiant takes against the league. I don't know if I necessarily agree with them because of my ambivalence about taking a side during the mess, but the thought of him allegedly telling Jeremy Jacobs to eat shit during a CBA meeting makes me want to pump my fist and say "That's our boy and go fuck yourself, Boston owner!"
Also, his opening to how stupid the lockout was when he returned to camp was great, too. All of this made me do close to a 180 on the guy from 14 months ago. I know, it is weird and I'm sure if he lets in a soft goal, I'll be shouting from the roof tops. However, as a person, I've come to enjoy his crankiness. Sure, Miller can be a crabby guy, but that's what I like about him. He wears his emotions on his sleeve when the shit hits the fan. I think that's kind of unique about him in this era of PR/cliched influenced players.
It has been 10 years since he started his first game here and he may only have a year and half left. His contract is up after next season and no one knows for sure if he's coming back. I know Miller will go down as probably the most polarizing Buffalo player in the last decade so I'm rooting for him to either leave or stay on a good note. You just never know if the next Ryan Miller is walking through those doors anytime soon.