Raise a glass, Blues fans, and bid adieu to lingering ghost of Ryan Miller trade
ST. LOUIS — Blues fans, take heart. Your long national nightmare is almost over.
OK, one of them.
Just before the NHL trade deadline in 2014, the Blues made a move that became one of the most frustrating of the Doug Armstrong era: They sent Chris Stewart, Jaroslav Halak, two draft picks and a prospect to Buffalo, for which they received Sabres captain Steve Ott and goaltender Ryan Miller. Miller was the centerpiece — the Blues, frequently maligned (fairly or not) for not having a marquee goaltender, gave something of a king’s ransom to ensure any issue going into the 2014 playoffs would not be in net.
Of course, as we all know now, the plan flopped worse than any dive you’ll make into a pool this summer. The Blues lost their first-round playoff series that year 4-2, and Miller’s contributions were considered inconsequential enough to have him playing in Vancouver the following season. Of the four NHL players involved in the trade, Ott is the only one still with either franchise. And after all that reshuffling, the Blues went right back to the goaltender they had before acquiring Miller, the long-suffering Brian Elliott.
This is, of course, nothing particular against Miller, since the Blues can’t get past the first round with or without him. It’s also nothing particular against Armstrong, whose track record with the Blues’ roster remains impressive. But just to prove what a non-factor adding Miller was in that 2014 playoff run:
— Matt Sebek (@MattSebek) April 26, 2014
In other words, the Blues paid for a game-changer who failed to change a single game (except Game 6, where the team gave up five goals, three worse than the year before).
The fiasco would be almost funny at this point, a year removed, except for one costly detail: The Blues are still paying for it. The two draft picks they gave up to get Miller included their first-rounder in 2015 and a third-rounder next year. It’s hard to bury the folly of a past trade when it has present-day consequences.
But after tonight, Blues fans can breathe a little easier.
Yes, the third-round 2016 pick may sting them a little when it comes around next year, but it’ll be the equivalent of a mosquito bite compared to what they’ve already endured. The real blow is having to sit silently this evening — the first round of an NHL Draft featuring impressive young talent.
There is, of course, a chance the Blues won’t go softly into the night. They could always make a trade and snag a pick. But it will cost, and it’s the price of not adequately evaluating several things during the Miller trade. First, the Blues failed to adequately assess what Miller, named MVP of the Olympics in 2010, was capable of contributing in 2014. Second, the Blues failed to properly evaluate the talent they already had on their bench. The franchise may or may not be sold on Elliott, but it cost them two draft picks to figure out a guy they already had was a better fit than the one they traded for. The team’s inability to commit to a goaltender has become a bigger hurdle in recent years than actually finding one (Ben Bishop, anyone?).
But after tonight, Miller’s ghost will be well on its way out the door in St. Louis. The team is scheduled to pick six times this Saturday in the remaining rounds of the draft. Blues fans will shift their focus to the future, instead of dwelling on the mistakes of the past.
Or, maybe, they’ll choose to start a bit early. Maybe, when the 25th pick comes off the board tonight, they’ll be ready, favorite beverage in hand, to raise a glass — half-full, not half-empty — and celebrate their near-release from one of the more frustrating trades in the Blues’ recent history.
They may think twice, however, before choosing a Miller Lite.