(Note: This will be a series leading up to the start of the scheduled NHL season. I will look at each player who will definitely be, or could possibly be, on the opening day roster for the 2012-13 Sabres and speculate on their potential strengths and weaknesses during the year.)
Do you remember the calls for Ryan Miller to be traded?
“Why pay a goalie $6 million a year,” was the sentiment among a group of Buffalo Sabres fans at the beginning of last season when Miller was not his usual, all-world self.
What made that thought process even remotely possible? Jhonas Enroth’s play from the end of the 2010-2011 season until that point.
Before a loss to the New Jersey Devils on November 16, 2011, Enroth had not lost in regulation in 14 starts, posting a 13-0-1 record in that span. His last recorded lost was November 24, 2010; almost a full year before.
His fundamentals in net were solid and everything seemed to hit him.
So why “overpay” for Miller then? Many fans called for Miller to be traded for a number one center because Enroth was the next franchise-caliber netminder in the stable.
But then the wheels fell off. It was as if the Sabres called Patrick Lalime again and asked him to win zero games for them.
Pucks just found their way to the back of the net when Enroth was in net, and Miller started playing lights out again, eventually starting basically every game from February on. After starting the season 7-1, Enroth finished with an 8-11-4 record and Miller became the all-world goalie in the hearts and minds of Buffalonians once again.
So which Enroth will we see this year? Well, the likelihood is you won’t be seeing much of him to begin with. Lockout-shortened or not, expect Miller to play 75-80 percent of the games next season. While Enroth has showed he has the potential to be a solid goaltender, Lindy Ruff likely remembers what happened at the end of last season much clearer than he does what happened at the beginning.
But while he may not be the next all-world level goalie for the Sabres, Enroth is an extremely solid backup and should earn the Sabres his share of wins next season. Assuming Miller is to stay healthy, he will likely not get many chances, but look for him to make the most out of the ones he gets.
Prediction: 15 games played, posting a 9-4-2 record with a .912 save percentage and a goals against average of 2.60.