It’s Miller’s time to fan Flames (with video)

 

Netminder admits feeling nervous as he begins new chapter in a new jersey

 
 
 
 
Ryan Miller says he’s nervous and excited to play his first NHL regular season game as a Vancouver Canuck.
 

Ryan Miller says he’s nervous and excited to play his first NHL regular season game as a Vancouver Canuck.

Photograph by: Jenelle Schneider, PNG

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VANCOUVER — Ryan Miller is one of those goalies who doesn’t speak to the media on game days. He apparently makes up for that the day before games.

Take Tuesday, for example, when he talked at length about what drew him to Vancouver, the debt he feels he owes Canucks general manager Jim Benning and just how strange it is going to feel to open a National Hockey League season not wearing a Buffalo Sabres jersey.

“Yeah, it’s going to feel different,” Miller said after Tuesday’s practice and before he and the team flew to Calgary for Wednesday’s season-opener against the Flames. “It’s the first time in a long time I will represent a different club to open a season.

“These are moments you have to appreciate in life. It’s exciting. You are a member of a great organization, a new member to a great city. I want to get off to a good start and do whatever it takes on my part to give the boys a chance to win … and go from there.”

Yes, it’s Miller Time in Vancouver, and just how well that goes will in large part determine the fortunes of the Canucks this season. Even if veteran winger Radim Vrbata helps re-energize the Sedins and Vancouver’s power play, and even if new centre Nick Bonino gives Vancouver a productive second line, none of that will matter much if Miller doesn’t succeed in his new surroundings.

Miller knows the pressure is on, but really that’s nothing new. That’s the life of a goaltender.

“I definitely have nerves,” he said. “I feel like I care a lot and I want things to go well. That is where you have to use the tools that you have — mental stability and toughness. You have to kind of harness that energy and have it come out in a good way. Or you can let it paralyze you or slow you down. … I have a lot of nervous and anxious energy, but I think I have had that throughout my whole career. To me it kind of tells you that you are awake, you are alive, you are in the moment in a situation and that is how you should feel.”

Miller appears to have settled in nicely with his new team and city. He has spent the past few weeks getting to know his teammates, coaches and new surroundings.

“The city makes it pretty easy,” he said. “It’s beautiful. It’s easy to get around. Good food, good people … but it’s the same thing with the organization. It’s a great organization with good people.”

He said his relationship with goaltender coach Rollie Melanson is solid.

“I think the more we talk, the more we find we have similar ideas,” Miller said.

Miller said his experience at the 2010 Winter Olympics, where he backstopped the United States to a silver medal, played a minor role in him ending up a Canuck.

“I got to see a different side of the city because there was so much walking you had to do during the Olympics. That was actually quite a blessing, because you get to appreciate every little area, every little street, and see a lot of the good side of the city. People were excited and jubilant.

“Yeah, it leaves a good impression on you. I have good memories here and I’m sure it played a small part.”

But the real reason he came — apart from the $18 million US he’ll make over the next three years — was Miller’s belief that the Canucks organization wants to build something special.

Miller felt he had that for a time in Buffalo, where he spent nine seasons. Before the Sabres got really bad in recent years, they were quite good. Miller and some of his teammates with the American Hockey League’s Rochester Americans — guys like Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Paul Gaustad — all became Sabres and for a time thought they were going to win a Stanley Cup. They made it to two Eastern Conference finals before things began to unravel. In recent years, Miller saw many of his former teammates traded away by the Sabres.

“Piece by piece, they moved one guy, two guys, three, four, five — and then I’m the last guy,” said Miller, who won the Vezina Trophy at the end of the 2009-10 season. “Honestly, it was heartbreaking — devastating.”

Miller hopes he can help create something special with the Canucks and said his discussions with Vancouver management before he signed left him with a good feeling.

“They talked about how we were going to accomplish things as a group, how we are going to get to the playoffs, how we are going to become a team that can contend for the Stanley Cup. It was goal-orientated, based on bringing in people who were motivated and good-quality people. They weren’t going to have time to go through a feeling-out process with guys who weren’t going to put the team first. The message was pretty clear that they take this very seriously. I think that was the biggest thing.”

The fact that Benning was Vancouver’s new GM pretty much sealed the deal for Miller. It was Benning, then a member of the Buffalo front office, who helped persuade the Sabres to draft Miller in the fifth round of the 1999 draft.

“It is not lost on me,” Miller said. “I feel like I owe him quite a bit. I am going, to the best of my ability, to try and make this situation a good situation for everybody. I have always taken my job seriously, but I do feel that I have a debt of gratitude to Jim for a lot of things in my career.”

bziemer@vancouversun.com

Follow me: @BradZiemer

Canucks By the Numbers through 40-plus years here

 
 
 
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Ryan Miller says he’s nervous and excited to play his first NHL regular season game as a Vancouver Canuck.
 

Ryan Miller says he’s nervous and excited to play his first NHL regular season game as a Vancouver Canuck.

Photograph by: Jenelle Schneider, PNG

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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