Now, he is sidelined by a concussion and possibly on the trading block.
Sabres fans seem to have soured on Miller a bit after an inconsistent start to the season, and have instead embraced backup Jhonas Enroth. There is currently no concrete timetable for Miller's return to action after being hit by the Boston Bruins' Milan Lucic, but Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal has heard that Miller wouldn't mind being traded.
While this has yet to be confirmed, the Sabres' front office most certainly shouldn't cave in under pressure from the fanbase. Rookie backup Enroth has generally played well in Miller's absence, but there is no reason to believe that he can sufficiently carry a starter's workload.
Enroth has a record of 8-4-1 this season with a goals against average of 2.27 and save percentage of .926. While those numbers are impressive, they have come over a small sample size. The same can be said for his 9-2-2 record last season.
In the NFL fans like to label certain quarterbacks like Tim Tebow as "winners," the same can be said for goaltenders in the NHL. The fact of the matter is, though, that no quarterback or goaltender is going to win if its supporting cast is playing poorly.
Enroth may have had a great record last season, but his 2.73 goals against average was fairly mediocre for an NHL goalie. He was picked up by a Sabres offense that was among the best in the league down the stretch last year, though.
The offense has been inconsistent over the past few weeks and the defense has been shaky, and because of that, Enroth has begun to wilt a bit. The stats don't paint the true picture of how Enroth has performed recently, as he has often been out of position and gotten lucky with shots hitting the goal post.
Ultimately, the overarching point is that while Enroth is a good to great backup, he isn't necessarily capable of being a successful starter. Sabres fans have wanted a reliable backup for the past several years, but the second one emerges, they want the starter out of town.
What should the Buffalo Sabres do with Ryan Miller?
Enroth has proven to be serviceable over a very short period of time, but Miller, while a bit of a head case at times, has been productive for several years now. There is no question that dealing Miller and his $6.25 million-per-year salary would open space to address other needs, but it isn't worth it.
When Miller is on his game, he is one of the best goaltenders the NHL has to offer. While the fans and even Miller himself may be frustrated, there is no reason to overreact.
While Miller was winning the Vezina two seasons ago, Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas was in a similar situation that Miller is in now, with backup Tuukka Rask gaining favor with the fans. Rask turned out to be flash in the pan, though, as Thomas regained his starting spot and led the Bruins to a Stanley Cup championship last season.
I'm not saying the same will happen with Miller, but I would take the steadier and more proven option at goaltender any day of the week. Enroth may eventually prove to be the better goalie, but that isn't the case currently.
Provided the Sabres' supporting cast can get healthy and figure things out as the season continues, it will be Miller, and not Enroth, who leads Buffalo into the playoffs.