A little while back, I remember hoping that Jhonas Enroth would turn out being the diamond in the rough I thought he could be. Praying that if he would put up great (or even good enough) numbers, Darcy would find himself in an unavoidable pickle: having to choose between the "franchise" goaltender and the younger, less expensive one.
I'm never going to claim that I'm smart or savvy enough to make it in the big leagues as a general manager (I'll save that for my brother), but if you look back at that post, I sounded pretty qualified for the job on that day (assuming things stay how they are currently, of course).
I'll be completely truthful: I in no way ever thought we would see the demise of Ryan Miller build up to this kind of magnitude. I've always been more of the "he's not that great" type of person, but even this surprises me.
Back when I lived in Pittsburgh, I'd get into conversations with strangers about hockey all the time -- after all, I was a bartender. The most common thing a typical Pittsburgh hockey fan would say to me after finding out I was a Sabres fan was, "sorry." Sorry? Fuck off, I would think to myself. It always pissed me off that someone would lead off a conversation with something as ignorant as that, doubting another man's fandom because of a lack of championship rings.
The warm sensation of anger usually wore off pretty quickly though. Looking back, most Pittsburghers I've ever met were ultimately some of the best people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. Those people love their sports, and I would sometimes find the ribbing a little annoying, but most of the time they didn't mean any ill will by it.
But let's get back to the whole "ignorance thing." So after the hate was gone and I realized that whoever I was talking to wasn't Satan, we would get back to a normal conversation. The second thing that would come out of these people's mouths more often than not was, "You guys got a hell of a goaltender though." That's what always puzzled me. Pittsburghers are always so caught up in their own teams, how the hell would they know how good Ryan Miller is?
I just started telling myself that they were all fucking crazy. Like I said, I was never a fan of the guy and I had my reasons. So I would let them know it. In turn, they probably thought I was fucking crazy too.
Hopefully, we can all now finally agree that Ryan Miller is worthless, right? I'm sure there are a few people left on the Miller bandwagon, but from what I hear and read, his popularity is wearing thin from just about every angle. Trust me, I'm not happy about this. As much as I would love to say "I told you so" sometimes, turns out I'm not that much of a selfish prick. It's all about the team, and this team is now left with a goalie who is severely underperforming, and whose cap hit is over $6 million dollars.
Regier has already botched the possibility of trading Miller at the point where he held any substantial value, so I wouldn't be surprised if he refused to waive him also (assuming the option would even cross Darcy's mind). It seems unlikely that anyone would actually pick Miller up even if he were waived given his cap hit and poor performance, but that point is moot.
However, the Sabres need an overhaul. More importantly, they need to free up some cap space in order to complete this overhaul. And Miller has to be one of the primary targets. (Again, assuming this crazy idea of an overhaul would even be an option for Regier.)
Think about it, Tyler Myers's big boy contract goes into effect next season: a brand spanking new $5.5 million cap hit. Do you really want to carry around both of those contracts? Especially when one of them isn't being properly earned? I know that Hecht's, Boyes's and Gaustad's contracts end after this season (freeing up about $10 million), but that still leaves very little negotiating money for free agency.
So what's wrong with Jhonas Enroth as our starter? Why has he been so overlooked this season? It's obvious that he's not the next Dominik Hasek (at least not yet, who knows?), but on the other hand, the criticism he has gotten this season has been completely unwarranted -- as if the media are trying to stave off the embarrassment of their 6-year man-crush.
Just the other night, I heard Brian Koziol from the WGR 550 post-game show say, "We still have two mediocre goaltenders," or something like that. I'm not worried about getting the exact quote correct, it was a stupid one in the first place.
I'll admit it, he had two terrible games this season: one against the Coyotes, one against the Rangers. Both, if you ask me, were excusable losses. Well, as excusable as a loss can get. The loss to the Coyotes came less than 20 hours after he shutout the Hurricanes in Carolina, where he was bombarded by 40+ shots after his team gave up on him. And the loss to the Rangers was just one of those games where nothing went his way, and the Rags were surging to the top of the conference at the time. Everyone has a game like that once in a while. Just ask Ryan Miller.
Every goalie needs a little help once in a while though. During the 9-game span where Enroth relieved Miller due to his concussion, the Sabres averaged 2.2 goals per game. But it was Enroth's poor play that led the Sabres to a 3-5-1 record in those 9 games, right? Well, Mr. Koziol seems to think so. That is an absolute joke.
Let's have a little fun and compare Miller's and Enroth's stats side by side.
Miller: GP: 24 W: 10 L: 11 OTL: 3 GAA: 3.05 SV%: .901
Enroth: GP: 20 W: 8 L: 7 OTL: 4 GAA: 2.46 SV%: .923
Note: Miller's 24 games played were all starts. Out of Enroth's 20 games played, 17 were starts. I don't think that makes too big of a difference when it comes to overall statistics, just figured I'd tell you anyway.
Honestly, judging by how poorly the offense has performed all season, you can't take into consideration either player's win/loss record. So I won't actually bang up Miller for having a below .500 win percentage. But outside of that, there's no comparison.
Now I don't like to get into numbers too much, but they usually tell a pretty factual story. Especially in the realm of GAA and SV%. The separation between these two in those categories are fairly dramatic. So dramatic, that Enroth will have to start playing extremely bad, and Miller will to have to start playing extremely well for their numbers to get anywhere close to each other before the season ends.
Either way, the numbers Enroth has now are technically worthy of winning a Stanley Cup someday: See Marc-Andre Fleury.
It's been made clear that Darcy has been on the phone for the last 3 weeks trying to make trades. Derek Roy's name has made it to the forefront of those rumors (at least that's what came out in the media). Obviously no one wants him. If they did, he would've been gone yesterday.
The Sabres seem very desperate to make a move though (duh, completely understandable). I know Darcy was just quoted saying "no trades are imminent," but I don't believe that means he's necessarily stopped trying. The problem is, no one wants to pick up any big contracts for underperforming players.
I'm no GM, but I'm not stupid either. All of these GMs know how good Jhonas Enroth is (or could be someday)... I mean, if I know it, so do they. This is where I start to worry: In order to get any substantial return in a trade, I fear that these teams may want Jhonas Enroth to be packaged into the deal as a pot sweetener.
If this is the case, and Darcy Regier hasn't pulled the trigger because of it: good, I'll give him credit for at least doing something right. It still doesn't excuse him from the trainwreck he's created up until know though.
The obvious wish most of us have is for Darcy to magically turn into a GM that stops undervaluing his young talent and stops overvaluing his veteran talent. Will he ever turn into that? That's anyone's guess. I'm going to assume that he won't. Hopefully that will cost him his job one day, but I'll also assume that would be anyone's guess also (since it hasn't happened yet, of course).
But I've gone down that road way too many times (just click on Darcy Regier on our categories list, his desired firing is the topic of most), I don't really want to turn this post into another Darcy bashing one.
Whether it's Darcy or somebody else at the helm next year, I just hope they realize that not every winning team's success boils down to whether they possess a goaltender of elite status or not. Capable goalies with small price tags can be key ingredients to a championship recipe too.
So, maybe Jhonas Enroth's face doesn't belong on a $1 bill as of yet (maybe a fiver -- inside joke), but his great attitude, low cap hit, and most importantly, his exemplary play despite being stuck on a dog shit team, should solidify a future for him in Buffalo. If not, I just hope to not see him cleaning up for someone else in the future.