Oh what fun is to be a goaltender in Vancouver, hey! Unless you’re Ryan Miller.
It hasn’t been such a good holiday for Vancouver Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller. After starting his second campaign with Vancouver holding a 10-11-6 record, .909 save percentage and 2.74 goals against average, Miller (35) succumbed to yet another injury leaving Jacob Markstrom a chance to steal the spotlight. And that he did.
In comparison to Miller’s less than dismal season thus far Markstrom (25) has posted a 3-3-3 record during eleven appearances. He has a .924 save percentage and a 2.33 goals against average. Move aside Miller, there is yet another young swede taking the reigns in Vancouver.
Markstrom has won two games in a row allowing just two goals during that time. Meanwhile Miller’s save percentage over his last four games is .862. Of course one should take into account the fact that Miller has played 73 NHL games in the time that Markstrom has played 14. Nonetheless Miller is a six million dollar man and his stats should be but aren’t vouching for that price tag. For reference’s sake Ryan Miller is tied for the eighth highest paid goalie in the league. He, Corey Crawford and Cory Schneider. Crawford currently has a record of 18-10-2 and a .925 save percentage not to mention his two Stanley Cup Championships in the last three years. Cory Schneider is sitting at 15-10-5 with a .924 save percentage.
Miller and Jim Benning’s Long History
In 1999 Ryan Miller was drafted in the fifth round (#138) of the NHL Entry Draft by the Buffalo Sabres after being heavily scouted by Jim Benning and endorsed by him in every way. From ’99 to ’04 Benning and Miller were together in Buffalo until Benning found a position with the Boston Bruins as an assistant general manager beginning in 2006. Miller’s shot at glory came while Benning was in Boston and after the 2006-07 season Miller began to seem unhappy in Buffalo.
After playing a half season in St. Louis in what seemed like a power move to propel the club into the Stanley Cup Final, Miller struggled in the playoffs and was cut loose come free agency. But after Mike Gillis’ dying antics in Vancouver, Jim Benning came aboard the club to revamp the franchise. With that power Benning decided that through career loyalty Miller was the guy for the job. Unfortunately his friendly loyalty backfired in his face.
Since joining the Canucks Miller has his lowest cumulative save percentage (.910) since 2007-08. Now .910 isn’t terrible, in fact that would be solid for a 20-30 game backup goalie but for Miller to be in the upper echelon of goaltender salaries and be recording stats like that doesn’t bode well for his future.
Move Aside Ryan Miller, Markstrom’s Making a Move
Enjoy the alliteration? Good. Now for the substance.
Markstrom was once considered one of the brightest goaltending prospects in the NHL. He was to be the future of the Florida Panthers organization, their next Roberto Luongo. But after three years of struggling at the NHL level Markstrom was finally dealt to a new locale. For who? Roberto Luongo… we’ll save the irony of that for another day.
When Markstrom arrived in Vancouver it wasn’t without scrutiny. The club now had Ryan Miller, Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom under contract. Lack ended up as the casualty of that trio and thrust Markstrom into NHL backup duty this year. However fans in Vancouver weren’t so excited about it.
In 2014-15 Markstrom spent the majority of the year with Utica in the AHL where he led the team to a Calder Cup appearance. His three NHL caps weren’t so glamorous though. Regardless Markstrom went back to the drawing board this year and developed his play even more.
A rough start to the season and an injury hindered his early contributions but now that Markstrom has been healthy and in the lineup for an extended period of time, and the Canucks have clearly shown a commitment to youth players, it’s quite obvious that it’s Markstrom’s throne to take.
Unless the Canucks can find a suitor willing to take on Miller’s $6 million contract for another year and a half, the team will be stuck wasting a huge chunk of their spending money of a goaltender who was never meant for the Western Conference.