Shortly after arriving in Vancouver, Jim Benning and Trevor Linden took stock, and decided they had 99 problems, but a trustworthy starting goaltender wasn’t one. It’s a defensible conclusion: Eddie Lack probably has what it takes, but as the wheels fell off the Canucks’ bus last season and he was dropped into a situation where there was no one behind him and, really, no one in front of him either, he didn’t look good. Hence, Benning and Linden decided to target a goaltender at the draft, and again in free agency.
In both instances, they got the biggest name available. At the draft, it was Boston College alumnus Thatcher Demko. In free agency, it was former St. Louis Blue nee Buffalo Sabre Ryan Miller.
The Canucks have signed the netminder for 3 years at $18 million dollars. It’s important to note that he vaguely resembles Roberto Luongo, so this should be an easy transition.
You might remember Ryan Miller from such incredible performances as the 2010 Olympics, when he backstopped Team USA to a silver medal, and very nearly a gold one. He was the standout goalie of that tournament, and at that time, was briefly believed by some to be the best goalie in the world.
But that was four years ago. Since then, his numbers have notably fallen off. There are two ways to explain this: the first is that Miller isn’t particularly good anymore, at the age of 33. The second is that Miller was playing in the wretched confines of Buffalo, a team that’s tanking so hard you’d think they were playing Battle City. As Eddie Lack demonstrated last season, it’s tough to stop shots when your team is woefully ill-equipped to keep good ones to a minimum.
Granted, Miller didn’t look much better in St. Louis, but he wasn’t there that long, the Blues didn’t play all that well down the stretch, and then they ran into the very good Chicago Blackhawks in round one of the playoffs. So it’s tough to read too much into his brief stint in Missouri.
Either way, I don’t expect Miller to be a game-changer for the Canucks. Fortunately, he doesn’t have to be. Forget the money for a second. At $6 million a season, Miller is making much too much. That goes without saying. But the Canucks have the capspace to stomach it without hurting their ability to build for once, and 3 years isn’t too bad. It’s hardly twelve.
More importantly, Miller/Lack is a better tandem than Lack/Markstrom, so the Canucks have improved. It’s that simple. Ideally, this doesn’t relegate Lack to proper backup mode, either. I’d far rather the Canucks platooned the two guys, and let them work off each other. Hopefully both are amenable to such a setup.