Big Ben's Impact Enough to Let the Clock Run Out on Miller Time in LA
Earlier this week, the rumour mill was churning around the National Hockey League as teams were hoping to make a trade or two before the Thanksgiving long weekend. While no major moves were made when it was all said and done, one popular rumour in particular did exist leading up to the long weekend – and that was Ryan Miller to the Los Angeles Kings.
On paper, such an acquisition is logical. The Kings lost their number-one netminder in Jonathan Quick to injury a couple of weeks ago and who better than an soon-to-be-free agent all-star netminder to fill the void? But again, that’s on paper.
I think Ryan Miller is an outstanding goaltender. I always have. But I cannot say that acquiring the Michigan State alum will get my blessing, not the Los Angeles Kings need it obviously.
When Quick did go down with a groin injury, the discussion of finding a replacement in between the pipes was immediate in Los Angeles.
Some believed that since Jonathan Bernier was traded, the Kings were, for lack of a better term, screwed. I could not have disagreed more.
So far this season, the Kings are tied for third overall in fewest goals against with 2.08 Last season, their 2.38 goals against per contest was good enough for a seventh-place tie with St. Louis.
While he did essentially save his team’s hides in 2011-12, Jonathan Quick has been anything but a clutch regular-season performer since then. After his Vezina-nominated campaign where he recorded a miniscule 1.95 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage, Quick’s regular season performances in each of the next two seasons has declined. During the abbreviated 2013 regular season, Quick posted a 2.45 GAA and a save percentage of .902. So far this season, Quick has a 2.35 GAA with a 9.03 save percentage.
While his numbers since then haven’t been terrible, they certainly haven’t been reminiscent of the Quick who finished the year with a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe some 18 months ago.
When Jonathan Quick’s injury was revealed, it was said they he’d be sidelined for a maximum of six weeks which meant that No. 32 would be back in the lineup by December’s end. Some panicked, but others were, like Jonathan Quick in the middle of spring, calm.
When the Kings did trade the aforementioned Bernier to Toronto in the off-season, they got another goaltender in return: Ben Scrivens. Being in Los Angeles, some fans may not have heard much, if anything, about Scrivens who, while not putting up eye-popping numbers, helped end the Maples Leafs’ playoff drought last spring. When Quick went down, I had a strong feeling that the Kings were in good hands in net – and so far, that is exactly the case.
So, why go after Ryan Miller now? No one in Los Angeles has been sitting around desperate for Jonathan Quick to return and that is mostly thanks to the solid play of Ben Scrivens who, since being named the Kings’ interim starter, has gone 5-03 with a 0.66 GAA and a .945 save percentage. As the old adage goes: If it isn’t broken, why fix it? More specifically, why would the Kings trade for Ryan Miller?
Since Scrivens has come on in relief of Quick, the Kings have yet to lose in regulation and, some may not have even realized this, but two weeks of Quick’s injury team has been eaten up. So, for those who are anxiously awaiting Quick’s return to the lineup, it’s closer than you think. For those of you who aren’t, Quick’s coming back anyway so you may as well get used to it.
Sticking with said streak of not losing in regulation, the Kings’ streak is at 11 games, their best streak since Darryl Sutter took over coaching duties two years ago leading the Kings to points in 15 of 16 contests – and we all know how that year ended up.
With Miller’s hypothetical addition, the Kings would have two netminders who are both all-stars and Olympians and while Quick’s laid back persona certainly is a breath of fresh air, Miller may not be as well-grounded should he don the silver-and-black this season. I may be off but if Ryan Miller were to leave the unfortunate situation in Buffalo that is the tale of a lowly hockey club, he would very likely, given his resume, expect to be his new team’s number-one goaltender. In Los Angeles, he wouldn’t even necessarily have that in the interim given how well Scrivens is playing. Plus, who would the Kings have to trade? Given how the Sabres are in a rebuilding mode, it is only safe to assume that they would ask for too much, specifically Linden Vey, Tanner Pearson or, worse, Tyler Toffoli. I may be not a pro scout but I would not trade such assets if I were the Los Angeles Kings.
I feel for Ryan Miller and his situation in Buffalo (made even worse by the unveiling of those hideous third jerseys) but if he wants to move anywhere this season, let it not be to Los Angeles.
It may still be early in the season but I believe the Los Angeles Kings are right where they need to be. As I mentioned more than once, Ben Scrivens has been solid in the Kings goal and during that time, he’s been helped immensely by the defensive unit in front of him.
When Dean Lombardi took over the GM duties in 2006, he was set on building a contender with defense as a priority – ahead of goaltending – and whether it was intentional or not, the defense-first way could give fans solace knowing that it wasn’t the end of the world when one of their goaltenders gets injured no matter how good they are.
Whoever mans the Los Angeles goal I have faith, and much of that faith is invested in the likes of Willie Mitchell, Drew Doughty and Alec Martinez. If this would have happened six years ago, Kings fans would have had to rely on the likes of Mike Weaver, Nathan Dempsey and Joe Corvo. Thank you, Mr. Lombardi.
I cannot stress enough how much admiration and respect I have for Ryan Miller as a goaltender and if he thinks Los Angeles is an ideal team to jump on board with, that is certainly flattering. But like your high-school crush, that flattery is followed by a “but”.
Whether we’re talking goaltender, defense or even offense, the Los Angeles Kings are, in my mind, fine just the way they are – and should anything need resolving in the City of Angels, I’m going to bet that Ryan Miller will not be the one to solve such issues.