Fine, let’s talk about Ryan Miller

Sure… why the hell not?

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The Vancouver Canucks have been left with an absolute deadly combination for the 2014 offseason: a whole lot of cap space, and a management group insistent on trying to retain as many casual fans as possible. The Canucks have about $17-million to spend on four restricted free agent forwards and Chris Tanev.

Ryan Miller is the new big name that’s circulating. After spending two years trying to get rid of one big goalie contract, the best thing to do, in my humble opinion, would be to spend money on another goaltender. The Canucks currently lack any legitimate young scorers under the age of *checks Nick Bonino’s age* 26 (and even then, Bonino likely had his career high shooting % with 13.8 last year in Anaheim) so the natural way to spend all the cap space would be to go towards Miller.

He’s a fine-enough goalie, I guess. He might have won a Vezina Trophy last year if he’d stayed in Buffalo and Buffalo wasn’t utter dogcrap offensively and defensively. While it has been found that teams don’t really have as much of an impact on goalie save percentages as we’d think, facing close to 36 shots a night, no matter who you’re playing behind, is going to lead to a high goals against average and a poor wins-losses rate. Luckily, most smart people have learned by now that there isn’t too much you can infer about a goalie based on GAA and wins.

But… there also isn’t much you can infer by save percentage. Typically, save percentages in the first half of a season will have no bearing on what happens in the second half, so aside from small patterns of detectable talent, goaltending performance is pretty random. Miller, of course, took his .923 save percentage in Buffalo to St. Louis, where he dipped to a .903 and an .897 in the playoffs.

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I’ve kind of made goaltending my pet project over the last two years and no matter how I slice it, there just isn’t a way you can predict goaltending performance, especially in the short-term. While it’s true that you’d rather have a Miller or a Carey Price or a Henrik Lundqvist, the reality is that goalies come out of nowhere all the time to match the performance of the perennial all-stars, and the perennial all-stars have poor seasons with astonishing regularity. There honestly aren’t many goalies you can say are a long-term solution in net (how many times do teams fail in finding “the goalie of the future”?) and those that are are locked up to high-priced deals with Eastern Conference teams and they aren’t moving.

Right now, the Canucks have a terrible roster. They also, however, hold an advantage over many other teams in the league, particularly the West: they don’t have a long-term goalie contract on the books, unless you count the salary retention on the Roberto Luongo deal (which is just a little bit more than the minimum salary of a roster player). The Canucks have $3.15-million on the books for their goalies next year, and as long as you’re going to make no effort to improve the skaters up front, it’s not worth it to lob the money Miller can command on the free agent market to shore up a position that never has any guarantee of improvement, whatever resources you throw at it.

If Trevor Linden and Jim Benning are so totally enamoured with the idea that Eddie Lack can’t conceivably be a starting goaltender, being just 26 years old and only having four seasons of pro success in his career, then I get it. I just don’t see the fit. The Canucks have ten forwards under contract, and other than Chris Higgins, all of them will be playing one line above their skill level. Miller, at his best, is going to bring this team from 11th in the Conference to 9th, all while depleting the Canucks’ war chest. Sure, he’s a guy whose picture you can print on tickets and Average Joe will recognize his name on highlight packs, but I don’t see how Miller helps the Canucks towards their goal of either making the playoffs or finishing so poorly in the standings that they’re awarded a draft pick that they can’t possibly screw up.

This is based on a bit of hearsay, and I’m not sure what’s substantiated or not when it comes to “Canucks courting Miller”, but the Canucks new management team have made a lot of predictable moves that haven’t gone towards helping the hockey team where it counts: on the ice.

Key stat: over the last four seasons, Miller is 15th in save percentage out of 26 NHL goalies with at least 150 games played.

My suggestion is that a fraction of that $17-million in cap space goes a long way towards locking up P.K. Subban or Ryan Johansen on an offer sheet. You’d instantly improve the team for the present, future, and you wouldn’t even have to spend to the cap!

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  • jeremywilhelm

    Offer sheeting PK would cost us 4 first round picks for PK subban at 9 million per year. No thanks…. This team isn’t a PK subban or a Ryan Johansen away from being a contender unfortunately. As for Miller, you make some good points. Perhaps hiller would be a better fit?

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    What the hell? Why not talk about it, indeed.

    But you kind of answered your own question in the last paragraph: I imagine the least Miller will ask for is $6 mil and a stable (read: longer term) deal. Benning might be able to get him at a little less due to coercing a, “Hey, punk: I made you and I can unmake you,” discount. But even still, I imagine him taking on more term for less cap hit. With Miller about to turn the dreaded number 34, this would be less than ideal.

    However, I don’t see him accepting a one year trial deal with Vancouver, which is probably the best fit for the club right now. Hiller is probably a better bet, but as you also pointed out, goalies are a unique position and evaluated as a, “team of one,” of sorts and therefore extremely unpredictable. As such, it’s pretty much as good a bet as any to stick with Lack and use the cap space to fix the glaring (lack of a) second line problem.

    As long as the $6 mil isn’t spent on Iginla, that is. High price players over 34 in age aren’t really the best way to spend money for a retooling/rebuilding team.

  • jeremywilhelm

    I am understanding that Willie D’s style of play is going to probably result in a lot of two on one breakaways, but I hope we don’t throw big money at a Tender right now.
    Please, no Miller.
    Please, spend the money on D or scoring.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    How about getting Christian Ehrhoff back? The Sabers just bought him out.He played great for the Canucks the two years he was here.(the Sedins best years),quarterbacked their powerplay,lead the team in plus minus.Twice voted their best defencemen.

    Probably get him 3.5 mil or so.That`s where I`d spend the money.

    • Defence77

      Although he probably would be a good fit I seem to remember Bieksa and one of Sedins took slight shots at him when he left along the lines of ‘we lost nothing’ when he didn’t sign with the Canucks. It may have been taken the wrong way but suspect that he wasn’t part of the the core group

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    1) A cheap Miller is good! 🙂
    2) An expensive Miller isn’t!
    3) Rather spend my money on Hiller!
    4) Come on, we don’t have a “terrible” roster! 😉
    5) Leave Iginla alone and spend the money on the future. Sign Stastny!! 😀

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    Your logic on goalies is flawed…. they dont just ‘appear’ out of thin air. They are highly touted and developed coming through the draft into a system, once the process of development begins from a professional club the most likely to succeed begin to stand out. The reality is many factors hinder any player or goalies process of development, injuries, work ethic, focus, personality, even the choices they make (luc Bourdon)

    Just because Rennie was drafted in the 9th round because he played behind Nicklas Backstrom (who was never drafted but established himself well in the Finnish league) on two championship teams doesnt mean he just appeared out of thin air or all of a sudden got good when he got to North America. Had he started for those two championship teams he would of been drafted 1st or 2nd round. All that says is scouts around the eague weren’t really doing their job, and or GM’s didn’t want to risk a pick.

    Also analysing a goalie through GAA is pointless because it doesn’t tell the quality of a goalie but more of the team playing infront of the goalies ability to keep the puck out of the net over the course of the year. You want to look at their save percentage, .920 is world class numbers, .910 is average, .900 is bad, anything below that and your looking at guys like Dubnyk (who was also held in high regard but for whatever reason couldn’t transition earlier success to the NHL level)

    So when you take snippets of Millers save percentage over the course of 2 bad months and 6 playoff games played against one of the most gifted teams offensively and then compare it to the league average over the course of 5 years from the top 15 goalies in the league your not doing him any justice, he is still a top 15 goalie(accoring to you) in the top league in the world. Your just over analysing stats to make your opinion seem at all unbiased.

    You just dont want the Canucks to allocate 5+ million to the goaltending position, because you want that cap space used on a big time forward. Which is fine, but the Canucks need to upgrade their goaltending position because as it stands Lack will be in the bottom 15 in save percentage because he isnt ready. The Canucks aren’t tanking next year and through free agency and trades they will try to get competitive again as quickly as possible. and to be competitive you need a goalie that will put up .910+ save percentage over the course of the year….

    Now the question is, its not every year a top 15(accoring to you) goalie in the league lands on your lap, are you that confident in a rookie goalie who clearly lost his focus after Luongo was traded to keep you competitive this year?

    Because I can assure you, once the season begins, whatever top 30 goalies are available via trade is going to cost you…. and this isnt a knock on Lack because I think he can be a good goalie, he has all the tools to put up elite numbers, which he has done in the AHL, but he hasn’t proved that at the NHL level…. If your going with Lack and he hits a wall and struggles a little and loses his confidence we could end up with Dubnyk 2.0 and hes already 26, if he falters with us and we lose confidence in him, he might get another shot with another team but if that doesn’t go well he’ll be 28 and no one will give him a shot after that, and we can continue the long list of goalies we buried in our graveyard.

    I think Benning and Linden are smart and exploring their options, the cap isnt a issue, Linden knows the revolving door of goalies post Mclean, pre Luongo…. we dont want to want to go through that again. Miller is a safety net in that regard. 1 year 6 million or 2 years 11 million would be ideal… Honestly though, Hiller would be the better goalie to go with.

    • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

      Problem with Hiller/Miller is you’ll pay a premium for a name, in cap hit and term, when they’re no better than the other options – Greiss, Vokoun, Reimer etc.

      When everyone’s saying: “sure, if the cap hit/term is good” you know it’s probably not a great idea.

      • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

        I totally agree with you.

        My fear is, that since the theme of this season’s post season seems to be “Fan Service”, there’s no way Benning will bring in an obscure, undervalued, or bad reputation goalie.

        I fear that JB would be more likely to sign Brodeur than Reimer.

  • Defence77

    To date, I have the impression that Benning and Linden are smart guys.

    If they sign Miller for more than 3 years at $5.5 million per, in my mind, they become not-so-smart guys, or Aquilini capitulators.

    I don’t what’s worse.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    Eddie Lack will be fine in net but he needs an experienced, mature mentor, not a guy who will push him back to a backup which in turn could undermine his confidence. IMO we should bring in Brodeur for a year or two to mentor Lack and start 15 games a year.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    If these Canucks were the 2012 Canadians, it might make sense to target one of the top 10-15 goalies in the NHL instead of going with one of the worst tandems in the league.

    However, since it’s abundantly clear after a sobering weekend that this organization is more than a solid goaltender away from returning to contender status, it doesn’t make sense unless Miller’s market completely collapses.

    If Benning wants to target his former draftees, Thomas Vanek or a short term flier on Derek Roy (yes, that Derek Roy) would make more sense.

    This team is a first line winger, first line centre and respectable goaltending away from contending.

    A goalie should be at the bottom of the pecking order…

      • Defence77

        Derek Roy at 1/4 would be a lot more palatable than Miller at 3/18 or whatever he ends up getting.

        Come to think of it, this is the ideal strategy for an ownership group and management team that want to pretend they are trying to make the playoffs next year.

        Approach veterans like Roy/Hiller/Iginla and offer 1 year deals.

        If/when the Canucks fall behind in the Pacific division race, trade these veterans for picks/prospects.

        This would be a hell of a lot better than going after middle of the roster players and offering them 5-7 years contracts…

  • Defence77

    I agree with @Gored1970.

    With the current roster problems, the cap space should be used to fix the second, third and fourth line holes. If the intention is to allow a few of the younger players (Bo Horvat, Shinkarak, Gaunce and others) to play in the second and third line, that would be great, but they should have quality veterans to help teach them.

    Our fourth line need to improve and be a quality line that can kill minutes and keep the puck our of their zone.

    I don’t agree with bringing in Miller, even though I like the guy as a goalie, because of the assumed high cap hit and/or term he will demand on the market. We need to bring in a quality veteran goalie that can teach Lack and or Markstrom. However, saying that the only one that is really available is Broduer and that signing is unlikely to happen.

    That leaves the Canucks in a position where they should start the season with the goalie duo they current have, and working to upgrading the forward lines. Maybe later in the year or next season they can upgrade the goal tending if Lack is under performing.

    What I do want to see from the Canucks this season is exciting hockey. I am less concerned with wins/losses as I don’t expect the team to make the playoffs. So they better make it exciting to watch and play freaking hard each night. That is about the only way they will keep fans (excluding myself) in this fickle market.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    The plan should be to half heartedly fill a somewhat competitive team to give the illusion that we are not tanking the season (on purpose). When the inevitable slide down the rankings happen, it won’t take too much convincing to persuade a few of the veterans to waive their NMC to contending teams for their 2015 first rounders at the deadline. Our best bet for a quick rebuild is in of the top 2 picks (McDavid or Eichel).

  • Defence77


    I respectively disagree that the Canucks are a first line winger, first line centre and respectively goalie away from contending.

    That might get them to the dance, but they would get rolled over in the playoffs.

    They need those players, but they also need a more physical third and forth line to keep the puck out of the zone and physically intimidate the other team.

  • Defence77

    Were you serious about offer-sheeting PK Subban? Or Ryan Johansen for that matter? I realize that after this past Friday most of us would like to keep draft picks as far away from the Canucks as possible, but given what next year’s crop looks like, how bad this team could conceivably be and what it would cost the Canucks to acquire either player, do you really feel it’s worth it?

    • Defence77

      The offer sheet idea is ludicrous.

      Teams rarely allow players to leave via an offer sheet.

      And they certainly do not allow players like Subban and Johansen to leave on an offer sheet.

      Benning should learn from the (many) mistakes made by his predecessor.

      The last thing the Canucks need is to throw out a dumb offer sheet and have another team quid pro quo and offer Kassian 3 years and $9 – $12 million…

  • I’m totally down with the Canucks pursuing a goalie who can form a tandem with Lack – Lack may not be ready to be a 60-game starter, but he’s shown that he can play if he’s given some support. Find a guy in the 2-3.5 million range and sign him to a couple years (names like Reimer and Vokoun were mentioned above – sounds good to me).

    Miller’s going to want money and he’s going to want term. That seems totally nuts to me. If the Canucks could get Miller for 2 years at $4 million, or something similar, I’d say do it, but I imagine he’s going to want $5+ million and 3+ years which would be a terrible match for this team.

  • Defence77

    Good, let’s get Miller. Then we can have the Sedins impersonate Iginla and Miller can impersonate Kiprusoff. They can lead a roster of questionable talent all in the pursuit of ‘winning now’. And when they’re broken down and worth nothing on the trade market we can trade the Sedins at the end of their contracts in some last ditch effort to bring any one of talent here. #Flames2010

  • orcasfan

    I’m not sure what “thoughts” in the article to take seriously, or not! It does seem that too many commentators are using the team performances from last season as the new yardstick to measure the quality of the team going forward. Not only unfair, but also short-sighted. When all the players (well, with a couple of exceptions) suddenly crap the bed, I would say the problem was not so much the player quality, but, rather, the coaches and/or the systems they were employing. Obviously the problem was Torts, etc. (And if you want confirmation that the coaches can really make a difference, take a look at the Rangers under their new coach!).

    So, I do not think this team is as bad as Cam and others make out. Of course, they are not contenders, nor will be for a while. But, if management’s objective is to make the playoffs next season, they do need a couple of additions as insurance. The problem, though, with getting a couple of UFA’s is that leaves very few roster spots for youngsters. I like the additions of Fey, Bonino and Sbisa. Those players have potential to fill roster spots.

    Actually, for this off-season, I would target a top six winger. Top two centers are just not available. And, rather than over-committing to a goalie like Miller (which could be a problem down the road!), why not look at Johnson over at Boston? He looks like a guy who could split the starts with Lack, and wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg! I think the idea of an older, more experienced goalie acting as a mentor is vastly overrated!

    • Barnabas

      This is one of the few areas of “new” NHL research where economics profs are ahead of the bloggers. The short version of the article is that NHL teams that under-perform are as likely to rebound under their current Head Coach as under a new one.

      I do agree that bringing a veteran ego-I mean goalie-into the room is probably not the best plan; however, I’d go for Reimer over Johnson. He’d cost more, but he’s a better goalie. If the Canucks filed an offer sheet for him at his current salary for 1 year, the compensation to the Leafs would be a 2nd round pick next draft. The Leafs would be happy with that return on Reimer. Or they could use the threat of an offer sheet to trade an AHLer for him.

      I would not go after a UFA this year, unless Moulson can play with the Sedins and Mr. Everything can make Bonino look like a bona fide 2nd liner (both of which I find doubtful). Personally, I’d see what we can get from Philly, the Bruins, or LA; all are in dodgy territory, cap-wise. There is room to make a deal or two.

  • Yeah I actually agree with NM00 about that…

    Also, Derek Roy was a pretty good player who, like half the other Canucks that year, had a terrible four games. Judging him solely on four games, rather than on the previous eighty, is foolish.

  • Barnabas

    The fact is that offer sheets never work and wouldn’t work on those guys at guess is that Benning and Linden don’t want to get caught up in over paying for guys like Vanek. Miller probably would be a shorter term 3 yrs-ish at a reasonable number.

    If they do anything I would hope it is to target trade possibilities like Erickson in Boston. A cap strapped team that needs relief to sign Iggy. Take him in a cap trade and pair him with the Twins. The team would have a true first line and more depth all around. Also to say goalies just fall out of trees and become all stars is ludicrous. More goalies become flashes, then return to sub par levels . Miller is consistently good and that can only help the team.

    I’m amazed at this sites negativity towards everything Benning has done, and they haven’t finished yet?

  • Barnabas

    Charron your negativism is disappointing. First, not all 10 forwards are playing 1 level up. The Sedins are still first line players, maybe not top 5 in the league but I can think of at least 15 teams that would take them on a first line. We don’t know whether Kassian, Jensen or Vey can play 2nd line. I think the decision on Goal will depend on the length and cost of the contract. Personally I would like to see them bring in Hiller on a 2 or 3 year deal at $4.5 million. They need one scorer, perhaps Moulson at say $4.5 and one more d-man, perhaps Ehrhoff whom I think they could get for $3million. That leaves money for Tanev and Kassian.

    IS there risk, yes, but I see this as a lot more positive than the other Canadian teams efforts. Lighten up on the negativism and wait to see what happens.

    • Barnabas

      I agree 100%!

      This team had a very very down year and most if that could be laid at the feet of one John Torts Torterella! The guy came in after destroying NY….. See what AV did with pretty much the same team? Torts tried to make the Canucks fit his system, rather than implement a system that fits the teams skill. The defense looked lost in his Zone scheme and the Forwards were playing defense most of the time.

      Last year was an anomaly as far as I am concerned. Are they the President Cup team of ’11, no but they are the wreck they were last year.

      Add Ehroff Hiller or Miller and a forward and the team will bounce back. Bonino, Vey, Horvat and Sibisa should bring new energy to a team that needed it. Willie is a players coach that works hard and demands his players work hard. This teams makeover started with two thoughts.. Hard work and respect and I for one am looking forward to a much more enjoyable year. Still puzzled at the negativity towards everything form Draft to FAs….