Column: Time to toast Miller
Goaltender Ryan Miller and center Steve Ott make the Blues legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup.
Mar. 05, 2014
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
The St. Louis Blues are living the high life.
In a town that celebrates its Budweiser tradition, the Blues made the champagne of moves, acquiring Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller and center Steve Ott.
Opting for Miller might not be the best tasting decision, but it surely puts the Blues as favorites for their first-ever Stanley Cup Championship.
Regardless of your cheap beer preference, how can you not favor St. Louis for the Cup? With a 40-14 record, the Blues sit atop the Central Division in the Western Conference.
The trade, though, did pour out a lot of talent. The Blues will ship winger Chris Stewart, goalie Jaroslav Halak, minor leaguer William Carrier and a pair of picks to the Sabres as part of their end of the deal.
Was there too much head on this trade? Or is this the final piece to the puzzle Blues general manager Doug Armstrong needed to make to finally bring the first Stanley Cup home to St. Louis?
Despite the heavy price the Blues had to pay, the deal will certainly help St. Louis make a long run during the postseason.
The Blues are a solid team offensively and defensively, but there were questions circulating around Halak and goaltender Brian Elliott’s consistency down the stretch with their recent inconsistent play.
Statistically, Miller is an upgrade with a .923 save percentage from Halak and Elliott’s .917. He’s highly touted as one of the best goalkeepers in the game and has been recognized on the international level. Miller served as the netminder for Team USA in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the backup in this year’s games in Sochi, Russia.
Miller also went from the worst team to the second best in the NHL. I’d like to think going from a losing atmosphere to a winning atmosphere definitely motivates a player.
That being said, the Blues, with all their great accomplishments during the regular season, have thrown up a goose egg in the hardware department when it comes time for the playoffs.
Since the 2004-2005 NHL lockout, the Blues have made four playoff appearances, losing the past two years to the Los Angeles Kings, who took home the Cup in 2012.
This year, though, is different. Adding a bona fide goalkeeper like Miller to an already great team, Armstrong is sending a message to the rest of the league that not only are the Blues going for a deep playoff run, they’re going for the Cup.
Let’s also not forget St. Louis has two extremely talented backup goalies as well. Elliott logs more minutes than any other backup in the NHL as part of the platoon swap scenario head coach Ken Hitchcock ran with Halak and Elliott the past few seasons.
Jake Allen is the other backup currently playing for the Blues’ minor league affiliate Chicago Wolves. Allen has clocked in solid minutes for the big league club, and he could see that number rise next season.
Both Miller’s and Elliott’s contracts expire at the end of this season, but with the Blues paying such a hefty haul for Miller’s services, it’s likely they will look to sign him to a long-term deal and let Elliott skate.
This would make way for Allen to become the No. 2 and eventually the starter down the road after serving time under a solid mentor in Miller.
Whether you love the trade or think the Blues gave away too much, with the addition of Miller, St. Louis has become the favorite to win this year’s Stanley Cup.
Step aside, Budweiser. It’s Miller time in St. Louis.