Originally posted on Buffalo Wins  |  Last updated 2/26/12

ATLANTA - JANUARY 14: Goaltender Ryan Miller #30 of the Buffalo Sabres against the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena on January 14, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

 

 (Joe's note: Sorry to interrupt Brandon's most excellent post, but Talkamania is running wild once again. This specific podcast is all about the Sabres and the trade deadline. We have three guys in the Talkamania break room to dive into the abyss of Sabres trade talk. We got Matthew Stewart from the Dailytorch.com and Dave Davis from Sabres Observer joining me to talk about deadline Monday. Good stuff, good arguments and my giant ego. Listen and keep reading Brandon's post)

So you're wishing for a trade that would put Ryan Miller in another team's sweater? The cornerstone of the franchise. The centerpiece to what some still hold out to be a Stanley Cup-contending roster in the making.

Be careful what you wish for.

Whichever player(s) the Sabres could return in the package for Miller would surely provide a substantial upgrade to the sorry group of forwards they currently employ.

But would it really be worth it in the end?

If owner Terry Pegula and Ted Black are holding true to their "three-year plan" to the Stanley Cup, it's in their best interest to make sure Darcy Regier keeps Miller in tow for the foreseeable future.

The trade would be the "core shattering" move everyone has been clamoring for. Dealing the face of the Sabres would satisfy those who conversely see Miller as the face of everything that's been wrong with the team since Chris Drury and Danny Briere bolted.

However, deep down, even those fans know it wouldn't solve the Sabres' issues that are much greater than that. Frankly, the negativity most fans feel towards Miller is because he doesn't give a [expletive] what anyone thinks, rather than his play.

We all know the story. Miller's numbers have staggered throughout his career compared to other NHL goaltenders, with the exception of one Vezina-garnering season. For all intents and purposes, he's been slightly above average, at best, over that span.

And while his numbers have hovered around league average, Miller's contract is anything but. With two years remaining on the $31.25 million extension he signed back in 2009 and an annual cap hit of $6.25 million to boot, if his numbers stay where they're at, it's an easy argument to make to remove Miller from the team.

But Miller's a rare goalie, in a sense that he possesses the ability to take over a game when he's on top of his. You can only say that of a handful of other goalies around the NHL, and it's precisely why the Sabres would be foolish to deal him away.

You can make the case that to win in the NHL, you don't need an elite goaltender. But are you really sure about that?

The argument is a tired one, originating in large part due to the Chicago Blackhawks' Cup run in 2010 with Antti Niemi between the pipes.

The problem with the argument is that people don't realize just how talented that Blackhawks' roster was that season. Rarely in the NHL is a team so sound in all aspects of its game. One could argue that the '10 Blackhawks didn't have one single weakness in their entire roster.

Since Chicago won it all, Tim Thomas won a Vezina and subsequently led the Boston Bruins to their first Cup since 1971-72. Thomas' cap hit? $6 million. Before that, the Penguins employed Marc-Andre Fleury at a $5 million cap hit in 2009 when they won it all. And the list of championship teams with high-priced, top-tier goalies goes on and on over the past decade (J.S. Giguere, Cam Ward, Nikolai Khabibulin, Martin Brodeur, Dominik Hasek).

Not only were these guys at the top of their game throughout the season and playoffs during the year their team won the Cup, but most also anchored a top-10 ranked defense that year, as well.

So don't you find it a bit curious when a contending team like the Blackhawks has been searching for a quality goaltender they can win with ever since shipping Niemi out after their Cup run? No? It's been popping up all over, where poor goaltending play results in a drastic change at the position. It led to the Flyers trading core players Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to clear up some space to ultimately hand Ilya Bryzgalov a monster contract. Has it worked out for them to this point? No. But they still went out and made the move; and that's the point. Teams around the league still recognize good goaltending as an important aspect to building a contending team.

Most recently, Corey Crawford isn't getting the job done, which has left many Blackhawks fans crying for a trade for a goalie. Enter the Miller for Patrick Kane (ridiculous) trade rumors a few weeks ago.

Albeit its utter stupidity (which is common at this point in the season), the idea behind dealing a franchise goaltender, like Miller, for a scoring forward, like Kane, seems to be a popular one. Especially for those who support a team that seems to be going nowhere fast with its current makeup.

Of course, those rumors surfaced following a stretch of abysmal performances from the Sabres goalie and an even worse string of games by the team itself.

The idea behind the trade was that the Sabres have a seemingly competent goalie behind Miller in Enroth. Until recently, the Sabres' offense has been anemic this season. (By the way, no one can say Enroth could handle much of anything, at this point).

Naturally, the rumors have died down. Mostly because Miller has been the key factor in the Sabres' revitalized play.

It just goes to show that when the Sabres are winning, more often than not, Miller is the man behind it all. And if they're losing, well, Miller is likely the cause of that, too.

But no matter how much some Sabres fans may want to deny it and no matter how bad things get, the truth of the matter is that a goalie is the most important player player on the ice, bar none. 

And Ryan Miller is the most important component to this team right now, and will continue to be until the Sabres really begin to fall apart.

It seems that, for fans, goalies are a lot like lawyers -- everyone hates them until they need a good one.

That's not to say there are strong rumors he'll be dealt tomorrow (there's not), or anytime soon, for that matter. It was simply time to put to rest the absurd idea of shipping Miller out of town with the hopes it will make the team better. I'm all for the "no trade is off limits, as long as it improves the team in the end" approach, but the return the Sabres would get for Miller wouldn't even come close to benefiting the team as much as still having him between the pipes.

It won't happen anytime soon, but if you trade Miller, chances are it won't be long before he hoists the Cup with another team. I don't know about you, but I'd rather see him do it in blue and gold.

You almost certainly don't agree with Brandon's opinion on this matter, so please, let him hear about it in the comment box or be sure to follow him on Twitter @B_SchlagTHW and express your distaste.

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