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Nolan: Sabres should build around Miller ‘rather than use him as a pawn’

Dec 5, 2013, 12:11 PM EDT

Ryan Miller Getty Images

Ryan Miller has been the subject of many a trade rumor this season, something Ted Nolan wishes wasn’t the case.

“You look at all the championship teams and it starts from goaltending out,” Nolan told the Buffalo News. “I prefer you build around him rather than use him as a pawn to try and get something to make you better.

“You learn to deal with the now as a coach and we’ve got one of the better goaltenders in the world here and I’d like to build around him myself.”

Miller, 33, is enjoying a quality campaign despite his team’s struggles and a woeful 5-15-0 record. He boasts a .918 save percentage while sitting fourth in the NHL in shots faced, this despite playing in three fewer games than the No. 2 and 3 goalies on the list (Braden Holtby and Ondrej Pavelec) and four games fewer than Phoenix’s Mike Smith, who leads the league with 786 shots faced.

Miller’s also right back in the mix to start for the U.S. at the Winter Olympics, and has re-established himself as a guy that can carry the load (the type of goalie at least a few teams will be looking for come free agency).

Now, it’s unclear if the last few tumultuous years in Buffalo have entirely soured Miller on the organization. He’s been visibly frustrated at times, but did say upon the Nolan/Pat LaFontaine hires that it was a chance for the Sabres to “reset” and start anew.

Nolan said he doesn’t discuss player contracts with LaFontaine, but wants to make Buffalo a place where players want to be — and that includes Miller.

“I talked to Pat about this and I said the one thing we want to do is create an environment where people want to come here and stay here,” Nolan said. “Hopefully he likes what we’re doing. You never know.”

Related: Miller, Hiller top list of pending UFA goalies

  1. ibieiniid - Dec 5, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    “You look at all the championship teams and it starts from goaltending out,”

    ……do I really have to say this? Kane/Toews, Crosby/Malkin, Zetterberg/Datsyuk. 3 of our last 5 champions don’t fit that mold of “goaltending out.” sure, they had good goalies in their championship years, most could be considered top 5 or 10 in the league, but aside from Thomas at the time (and maybe Osgood too, and blomfeld definitely would say Quick lol), none of them really had elite-level goalies in their cup years. I think it’s possible to build teams two ways and both of them have proven to work, but I think building around star forwards produces more cups.

    • blomfeld - Dec 5, 2013 at 2:19 PM


      Friends, you don’t have to be an engineer to appreciate the fact that a hockey team is much like a building structure, with a ‘rock solid’ foundation (goaltender) being the most important component. And so suffice it to say that any ‘flippant’ dismissal of this fact ‘can & will’ only ever lead to upset and disappointment.

      Two years ago, we LA Kings entered the playoffs with barely a hope of success … at least as far as the rest of the league was concerned. Well with the ‘heroic and unflappable’ efforts of Jonathan Quick (Conn Smythe trophy winner) defending our goal, we went on to ‘total and glorious’ victory. Regardless of whatever they threw at us, our back end was like an ‘impenetrable’ fortress throughout … almost like some fool throwing tennis balls at an Abrams M-1 battle tank ! … and in my humble opinion, there-in lies the key to success.

      Obviously you need to score goals in-order to win, as that’s a given. Yet for that all you need are a few sharpshooters who know ‘where’ to ‘strike and ‘when’ … ala Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown. However I contend that in today’s defensively ‘stifling’ game, preventing goals from being scored upon you is even more critical for success. The ‘run & gun’ theory which Ibie refers to does have it’s merits and it’s often been a winning formula in the past … the 70’s Canadiens, the 80’s Oilers, the 90’s Penguins. However that was then and this is now. Being down 2-0 today in 2013, is like being down 6-0 in 2010. The bottom line is that you simply ‘can’t’ allow goals against ! … and if you do, it has to be the absolute ‘minimal’ amount possible. Last year in the playoffs we saw these supposed ‘juggernaut’ teams like the Capitals, Flyers and Penguins giving up 6,7,8 goals or more in games. Well aside from the ‘comedic’ aspect to those scores, the plain truth was that those teams and their hopes were doomed before the puck was ever even dropped … kind of like someone trying to fill a ‘bottomless’ pale with water !

      In summary, Ted Nolan is ‘bang on’ with his assertion that Miller ought to be the cornerstone of a new Sabre’s rebuilding effort. He’s without a doubt one of the ‘best’ in the business today and I can see him carrying his team a long way in the years ahead …

      GO NOLAN !!!

      GO MILLER !!!

      note: had it not been for Tretiak, the ’75 new year’s eve game would be forgotten

      • ibieiniid - Dec 5, 2013 at 2:29 PM

        I mean dude, I just cited the last 5 years and how the slight majority of them are built around their star forwards. I know they both contribute, but I think having some stars on offense contributes slightly more. and nothing you just said really disproves that.

      • blomfeld - Dec 5, 2013 at 2:31 PM

        and by the way, here’s the latest …

        *** NHL’s Top Goalies as per the Sports Desk @ The Hindustan Times ***

        1) Jonathan Quick
        2) Ben Scrivens
        3) Martin Jones
        4) Ryan Miller
        5) Cory Schneider

        28) Tim Thomas
        29) Alexander Ovechkin
        30) Henrik Lundqvist

      • nico9118 - Dec 5, 2013 at 2:43 PM

        So, based off your argument, why weren’t the Buffalo Sabres of last year great? They had Miller as their goalie and a few snipers on the bench (Vanek and Pominville).
        Or why is it the Ducks last year, with their solid goaltending and a few good snipers, lost to the Wings in the first round?
        How could the Hawks win the

      • blomfeld - Dec 5, 2013 at 2:44 PM

        Both Crosby & Ovechkin are the offensive ‘darlings’ of the league today, yet everyone knows that the Penguins and Capitals haven’t got a prayer when it comes to the ‘real’ deal … and the reason for that is quite simple … neither of them have a ‘superstar’ goaltender … and forget about what happened 4 or 5 years ago, as that’s ancient history … unfortunately our game is now almost ‘exponentially’ shifting year/year to a virtual defensive ‘vacuum’ where you simply can’t afford to allow more than one goal against … that is, if you have any aspirations of winning it all …

      • nico9118 - Dec 5, 2013 at 2:45 PM

        I don’t know why that automatically posted but anyways how could an average goaltender in Crawford lead the Hawks to a Stanley Cup if the key to winning is building around a goaltender?

      • blomfeld - Dec 5, 2013 at 3:01 PM

        “So, based off your argument, why weren’t the Buffalo Sabres of last year great?” …

        friend, the Sabres had some serious ‘issues’ last year which persist to this day, hence their recent managerial shakeup … Jacques Plante himself wouldn’t have made a difference ! … as for the likes of Vanek and Pominville being snipers ? … come on, let’s be serious eh ? :) … same goes for the Ducks … as for the Hawk’s, there you might have something, even though I do believe that had we Kings not gone in so badly damaged, then they wouldn’t have won more than a single game against us in the WCF …

  2. bullwinkle88 - Dec 5, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    Thank God Nolan isn’t the GM. That’s all I have to say.

  3. mjw9326mjw9326 - Dec 5, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    If I am Miller, I say no way. By the time this team is really good again, he will likely be well past his prime and ready to retire. He will have zero chance for a cup in Buffalo.
    If I am Enroth, I am VERY pissed off right now. Jonas signed a 2 year contract, expecting to take over as number one some time this year. If Miller is here, he still sits and only gets to shine at tournament time. I would want a trade and now.

  4. sdsabresfan - Dec 5, 2013 at 3:59 PM

    As the great Jeff Marek states, “if you have a good goalie, he’s 70% of your success. If you have a bad goalie, he’s 100% of your problem”.

  5. hazlydose - Dec 5, 2013 at 5:18 PM

    You build a solid defense in front of a average to above average goaltender and it can take you great places. Defense is more important than goal tending. Yes Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick both had amazing postseason runs recently, but the defenses in front of them do not get enough credit. You build from the defense out, not from the goaltender.

  6. muckleflugga - Dec 5, 2013 at 6:19 PM


    risebrough, tremblay and lambert stole the show in that 1975 new year’s eve game…it didn’t hurt les canadiens having bob gainey in his prime for that matter

    i seem to recall the rooskie coach claimed the ice had been doctored, softened to slow them and their precision passing down

    the flyers simply used clubs a year later

    • blomfeld - Dec 5, 2013 at 7:47 PM

      Muckleflugga – Tretiak was the ‘show’ that memorable evening and anyone who saw that game knows that. As for Red Army’s game against the Flyers (ie: played a few days later in early January) … that was a sickening display by the Flyers of ‘thuggery on ice’ at it’s absolute worst … nothing more and nothing less.

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