Ryan Miller looks to turnaround once bright career in Vancouver as training camp begins


Feb 25, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller (30) during a stoppage in play against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

For new Vancouver Canucks starting goaltender Ryan Miller a new start in Vancouver as the man to replace the Roberto Luongo, Cory Schneider saga in the often difficult goaltending city is a chance to get his career back at the elite status that he once held as the face of United States goaltending while with the Buffalo Sabres. During his decade in Buffalo there were times when Miller was considered at least one of the best goaltending options in the game, peaking at the international level when he nearly helped lift the Americans to the Olympic Gold in Vancouver 2010.

Because of that resume that Miller has it may be hard to believe it has been seven full years since one of the greatest American goaltenders of all time has won a playoff series. Miller’s career also reached an all time low last spring when after he was traded to St. Louis as a rental that went wrong for both parties his stock reached an all-time low.

That doesn’t mean that the 34 year old netminder wasn’t going to be sought after a team in need of a proven goaltender that has been to two Conference Finals (2006, 2007) and the Olympic Gold Medal Game to give them a chance at making the playoffs. Exactly the position that Vancouver was in when they signed Miller to a short three year contract worth $18 million this summer. An opportunity for Vancouver to stay competitive while building towards the future while also giving Miller an opportunity to rewrite the end of his career with what he hopes will be a successful chapter in what will be his first Canadian NHL stop.

Talking to Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun Miller touched on his disappointing end to his career in Buffalo where he was one of the few pieces left on two teams that went as close to the Stanley Cup Finals as the Sabres have gotten since their infamous loss on the Brett Hull in the crease goal. Miller even outlasted Sabres coach Lindy Ruff in Buffalo, but even with the lows in the past seasons there is no denying that the Miller will go down as one of the best Sabres goalies of all time. Miller told MacIntyre he hopes to capture those playoff memories in Vancouver after “unfinished business” in Buffalo to hopefully end his career as a starter with a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals to cap off his accomplishments.

From the Vancouver Sun: 

"“In a lot of ways I feel like I have some unfinished business in a lot of areas of my career,” Miller, who took the Sabres to the Eastern Conference final in 2006 and 2007, said Friday. “You don’t always go in a straight line and just get to your goal. It’s been a lot of highs and lows and Vancouver (in 2010) was definitely a high. I’d like to recapture some of that feeling. But it was five years ago; I’m not expecting to just pull it out of my pocket.“But there is some confidence there, knowing I’ve been entrusted with jobs in the past and feel like I’ve handled those jobs fairly well and been close to reaching my goals. I’m going to use that experience and hopefully reach the goal this time.”"

Part of those experiences in Buffalo included learning how to compete when things weren’t going his way on one of the worst teams in the league with the Sabres, telling MacIntyre that after his initial high expectations turned into disappointment he learned to get into a mental place of competing even when things got extremely tough to deal with after seeing playoff highs turn into last place lows. 

“It got a little harder every year as more and more of the guys you consider to be the core group, guys I kind of came up with, started leaving and going to other teams,” Miller said to the Vancouver Sun. “To be one of the last guys left, it was tough. You have high expectations, you have high hopes and dreams, and it’s pretty apparent you’re not getting it done (with the Sabres). It hurts. It feels terrible.

“You question everything you thought … and feel a little bit down. Last year, I just had the mindset that I was going to get myself into a good place mentally and compete every night. It was a good reminder to myself that that’s what it really comes down to: you just go out and compete and do your part and whatever happens happens.”

Miller’s stay in Vancouver is probably his last chance at getting to the Stanley Cup Finals, something that will take some great efforts from not only Miller but head coach Willie Desjardins and general manager Jim Benning. Coming to a team that likely is going to be competing for hopefully a playoff spot before trying to make some sort of Cinderella run (Think the early 00’s era of the Canucks), Miller is going to have to once again deal with hopeful expectations turning into realistic ones. Things can’t get much worse than his last two seasons so the hope in Vancouver is that playing in the arena where he had his greatest success will lead to a comeback for a player who at his peak was one of the best in the world. If that happens and Miller finds his form, those bad memories in Buffalo should quickly vanish.