Ryan Miller, in his evolution toward becoming an elite goaltender, has evolved into something else. He's unquestionably become the face of the franchise, a leader for the Sabres on and off the ice.
The NHL and its fans have taken notice. The Buffalo goaltender has been named one of five finalists in the reader portion of the Mark Messier Award, presented to the player who "exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice during the regular season."
The other nominees for the award, named for the longtime Edmonton, Rangers and Vancouver captain, are Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom, New Jersey's Jamie Langenbrunner, Philadelphia's Mike Richards and Washington's Alexander Ovechkin.
"I’m happy to be a part of that group," Miller said today. "There’s definitely some great leaders. I especially look up to Jamie, being able to play with him a few months ago at the Olympics.
"I’ll just try and live up to the billing, I guess, keep things consistent here. It does help to have a group of guys I’ve played with for a number of years."
Messier selects the three finalists and winner, but fans can participate by choosing their favorite. Voting takes place at ultimateleader.nhl.com through April 11.
Miller is equally adept at letting his play do his talking and voicing his opinions, though he says performing on the ice leads to more chatter.
"You try not to say too much as a goalie because you’re not in the trenches, in the corners, like some of the boys are. It’s hard to jump on them all the time there," Miller said, "but definitely when it applies to preparation and taking the attitude where we want to win every night, put ourselves in the best position possible, I can step up and speak there. For me, though, it is about going out and executing. It’s really hard to do those things without performing."
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff agreed.
"Ryan has grown into becoming a leader of our team," Ruff said. "I think first and foremost before you can lead off the ice, you’ve got to be a leader on the ice. His example with his play and how his game has grown over the years is a great example for our players."