It looks like the Ryan Miller train is not the steady, reliable force it once was; as the franchise goaltender has been on a slow steady decline ever since his Vezina campaign of 2010. He has basically become a cry baby who willingly throws his teammates under the bus in press scrums. Granted, there has been very few positives for him to talk about, but for some reason he feels it is his role to complain to the media on a daily basis. That can't end well. If you don't have anything nice to say Ryan, maybe you shouldn't say anything at all? With one year left on his contract, rumours are that Ryan Miller will be traded before that contract expires. If he is moved, we'll see if they can find a Vezina caliber replacement. Matt Hackett was a great acquisition in the Pominville trade, and Jhonas Enroth played well in 12 appearances this season.
Head coach Lindy Ruff survived many lows to have the longest tenure of any coach in the NHL, that was until 2013 when he was fired mid-season. In all honesty, the GM probably should have been dismissed as well, because when you look at this roster and their contracts, there are many bad contracts, very few good contracts. By far the best move the GM has made was acquiring Cody Hodgson from the Vancouver Canucks (scoring 34 PTS in 48 GP) at last year's trade deadline. He did extract a rich bounty from Minnesota in the Pominville trade, and was smart to pick up Steve Ott. Because of those moves, it's hard to give the GM a failing grade.
I feel sorry for that guy on the Puck Podcast who picked Buffalo to win the Stanley Cup. He picked Los Angeles to win last season and made his 2013 prediction with supreme confidence. He has to be embarrassed. This team was embarrassing.
Preseason Rank: 20th
Midseason Rank: 28th
Final Rank: 25th
GM Grade: D
1st Star: Thomas Vanek
2nd Star: Cody Hodgson
3rd Star: Steve Ott
UFAs: Jochen Hecht, Adam Pardy, Alex Sulzer
RFAs: Cody Hodgson, Brian Flynn, Mike Weber, Jhonas Enroth
Best Contract: Steve Ott 1 more year at $2.9M
Worst Contract: Ville Leino 4 more years at $4.5M
What I said about them in preseason: I'm waiting for this team to be good. They have a high upside and could come out of nowhere to make a playoff run. It's just as likely they suck and don't make the playoffs. It's 50-50.
The future is clouded. It's tough to predict where this roster is heading, especially if the Ryan Miller era is over. This team very much needs Tyler Myers to pick up his game and start earning his $5.5M salary, otherwise the last 6 years on that contract will be an albatross that drags the team down (which when combined with the Leino contract becomes very cumbersome). They lack size up front, so it could be argued that Zack Kassian was more what they needed than Cody Hodgson, but players with that kind of offensive talent are hard to come by. Will they be a playoff team next season? Maybe, maybe not, but one thing that's clear, there is no Stanley Cup waiting in the near future for this franchise.