After months of fan speculation, including a prophetic, albeit obvious prediction by Grantland’s Sean McIndoe, the St. Louis Blues have finally acquired goaltender Ryan Miller from the bottom dwelling Buffalo Sabres. The official deal looks as follows:
To St. Louis: G Ryan Miller, C/LW Steve Ott
To Buffalo: G Jaroslav Halak, RW Chris Stewart, Prospect William Carrier, 2015 first-round pick and a 2016 third-round pick.
Let’s face it, the St. Louis Blues and Ryan Miller were destined to unite. The Blues: they had everything going for them except a name between the pipes. Halak and Elliott have been decent; they combined to win the Jennings in 2012. But, in the post-season, the ultra defensive Blues have been a goal too late on most occasions. The Blues were eliminated from the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs in the first round by the Los Angeles Kings. Each of the series’ six games were decided by one goal. The obvious solution is that the Blues need more offence, and that may be true. However, another way of looking at it is: had the Blues had a better goaltender last post-season, maybe they would have won the series against the Kings, and who knows how things would’ve played out afterward?
Much like the 2011 Stanley Cup winning Boston Bruins and 2012 champion Los Angeles Kings, the St. Louis Blues are a team built to defend, more so than score. And up until today, the Blues had a lot in common with the above mentioned recent champs, but one thing they lacked in comparison was a great goaltender. Ryan Miller is a great goaltender, by all accounts. His credentials include: Vezina trophy in 2010, MVP of the Olympics, and some have called him a Vezina candidate this season despite the fact he’s played the entire campaign to this point on the league’s worst team.
The statisticians will argue that Ryan Miller and Jaroslav Halak have eerily similar career numbers, and they’re right. Leafs reporter James Mirtle tweeted:
Halak career save percentage: .917. Miller career save percentage: .916. Hmmmm.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) February 28, 2014
But numbers can be misleading. Halak has spent the past few seasons on one of the NHL’s top defensive clubs, while Miller has spent that time exposed to more quality rubber than the street in Italy where they test Ferrari brakes.
In order to win the Stanley Cup the St. Louis Blues will need to defeat a combination of the Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks. And by doing so, all they may earn is a date with the Boston Bruins or Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup final. The road to the franchise’s first ever Stanley Cup title is laden with obstacles, to say the least. Adding Ryan Miller – assuming he can thrive in a new environment – definitely helps their cause, thus, it was a great move by Blues general manager Doug Armstrong.
I feel your pain if you have Jaroslav Halak in your hockey pool, because I do. Now what are we supposed to do? I guess wait until the deadline; see if Halak is flipped to a better team, even though, all the good teams already have a starting goalie. How many of the NHL’s 30 teams are in need of a starter like Halak? The optimistic answer: few, if any. The real answer: probably none.
This was a great trade because it seems like both general managers got what they wanted. The Blues improved between the pipes, which was their only weakness, and the Sabres acquired assets they can flip for more assets. By the time the draft occurs in a few months, Sabres Tim Murray will be on the podium more often than the master of ceremonies. And they’re not done dealing. It’s thought defencemen Christian Ehrhoff, Tyler Myers and forwards Matt Moulson, as well as, Chris Stewart will be dealt before the March 5 trade deadline that awaits.
Some believe the Blues panicked and gave up too much to acquire Ryan Miller when they didn’t need to upgrade their goaltending. Observe Dave Lozo’s tweet:
Here's a fun scenario. BUF flips Halak to MIN. MIN beats STL in the first round. Halak laughs and laughs.
— Dave Lozo (@davelozo) March 1, 2014