Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

May 9, 2007

TIM SCHMITT: Miller's not a captain, but a leader

COMMENTARY

The captaincy in Buffalo, as has been well documented, is a furry two-headed monster.

Chris Drury is the silent wunderkind, leading by example. Daniel Briere is the battery that keeps the young legs churning.

But Briere brought up an interesting point during Wednesday’s NHL media conference call, one that’s not lost on the guys in the Buffalo locker room.

“Ryan Miller could be a captain,” Briere said.

In fact, he couldn’t. It’s not allowed by National Hockey League rules due to the logistics of dealing with referees and linesmen; the last goalie to captain his team was Montreal’s Bill Durnan in 1947-48.

But while Miller shares personality quirks with fellow goaltenders, he has an uncanny ability to lead from the back of the pack. Miller’s focus, much like that of Drury’s, is always on the collective. When he gives the media a few good minutes after games — and every media member knows that window closes quickly and absolutely each night — he always keeps the team at the forefront of the conversation, whether it’s that he felt he let the guys down a little or that he was happy to make some stops to keep the guys in it.

Make no mistake, Miller is as aloof and brooding as a rock star, but he’s the Sabres’ rock star, and they know as the set list starts to wind down, he’ll do his best to keep hitting the high notes.

On the few occasions when poor play required a leader’s stern words, Miller was the one who stepped up and demanded a better effort. And he’s been more than willing to speak as critically of himself, a trait not always found in today’s athlete.

“(I feel) like I have a good rapport with everybody and, further, if I’m going to say something, which isn’t too often, I hope it carries some meaning,” Miller said. “I have to be cognizant and aware of what’s going on and I just want to carry myself as a professional this year and when there’s been situations, you know, I tried to handle them as best I could.”

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