(HockeySTL)-- It’s not easy being a goalie. If Ryan Miller didn’t know that before coming to St. Louis, he certainly does now after he and the Blues bowed out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the first round.
Miller received harsh criticism from fans following last week’s elimination. Most of the criticism was unfairly placed upon Miller, but he understands that it comes with the job.
“You’re a goaltender, said Miller. “You’re going to take a lot of the focus of everything. Just the way everything worked out, the trade and around this making a step forward….it’s pretty much inevitable unless we had won a Stanley Cup there was going to be a lot of criticism. I knew what to expect coming in and I’ll take my share of the blame. I could have played better, but it is what it is.”
Miller was acquired by the Blues in a move that was perceived as the addition of the final piece to the Stanley Cup puzzle. The goaltender went 2-4 in his first postseason since 2011, posting a 2.70 goals against average and a .897 save percentage against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. Most of the criticism is backed by Miller’s poor statistics; all of it was sparked by frustration.
The 33-year old goaltender is bothered by the criticism, not by the fans. He knows he could have been better, and he knows what comes with his role on the team. He holds nothing against the fans and their criticism, and says it’s a sign of just how devoted the Blues’ fan group is.
“(They’re) good people, very passionate and as pissed off as they probably are at me right now, it’s good,” Miller said. “It shows they’re sports fans and they’re committed to their team. They have passion, they have pride. It’s the kind of people you want to play for. If it works out, if management wants me back, that’s the kind of people you want to play for.
“I hope they would appreciate the effort I try to bring and I hope they continue to support the Blues because they have a great group of guys here. I know people wanted it to be better this year. I wanted it to be better. This team is going to be better.”
St. Louis has hardly become a home for Miller, who has been in the city for less than three months. But it is much more familiar to the goaltender now than it was in late February when he was traded.
Miller grew up a Blues fan, but had only made brief stops in the city and had never become acquainted with the area. Knowing that there was a possibility he would re-sign with the Blues in the offseason, he wanted to get to know the city and its inhabitants better before heading to his offseason home in California.
“I really didn’t know a lot about this city coming in here,” Miller said. “I had visited a few times when I was younger just to play hockey. You know you’re kind of in and then you’re out. I spent some time here and got to know a few people. I love the area and it’s nice. It’s funny how a different part of the world unfolds and opens up for you.”
The goaltender would not be against returning to St. Louis, but at this point, the prospect is up in the air and will be for several weeks. However, the goalie is expected to listen with an open-mind to the Blues’ plans, and a decision will be made after that.
“Yeah, I don’t close any avenues with anybody, especially in this kind of profession,” Miller said. “I’m just trying to make my best impression wherever I’m at. I know it didn’t work out in this playoff series; I think it’s a good group here and it’s up to management to make decisions about my situation going forward.”
General manager Doug Armstrong will be sitting down with Miller in the coming weeks to let the goaltender know which direction the club is headed. It is believed that the Blues would welcome Miller back for the right term, which would likely be in the 1-3 year range. According to Miller, the term and the money are two of the more insignificant issues when mounted against the idea of signing with a winning team.
“Just the team, honestly,” said Miller when asked what he will be looking at before signing his next contract. “It’s something where I want to do my part to contribute to a team that’s going to build and have a chance to win. These are frustrating times when you bow out of the playoffs, so it’s not the time to talk about it. We will get around to it.”
Miller made north of $6 million this past season and will have to take a pay decrease to remain with the Blues. He also would not get much term on any deal signed with St. Louis due to the club’s plans to utilize top prospect Jake Allen in the coming seasons. Nonetheless, if the pieces fall into place, there is a chance Miller returns to St. Louis.
“I have to have more discussion with management on where they’re at with everything. It’s not something we’re going to do two or three days after we lost. It’s something where you kind of want to get away from the situation by a few weeks, probably. I’m sure they will want to have something, and answer on their side before the draft. It’s more directed towards Doug (Armstrong) and the coaching staff and how they kind of see this team being built. That being said, I liked my time here, and I’m open to staying. I think it’s a solid organization from the top down. We’ll just see what happens.”