Ryan Miller is circling the block and is closing in on a spot in the National Hockey League’s high-rent district. The Canucks goalie is nearing inclusion in the top-20 all time when it comes to NHL victories. He needs one more to match Gump Worsley — the Gumpster, how cool is that? — for 21st spot on the career list and then he’s chasing a moving target with Marc-Andre Fleury currently sitting in 20th.
Here is the list updated heading into the NHL All-Star break:
As I looked at the list, I wondered how far up that totem pole can and will Ryan Miller rise? He’d need 70 more victories to reach the top 10 all-time. That seems like a stretch to me to catch Grant Fuhr at 403. With the remainder of this year, plus one more on his contract with the Canucks, he’s sure to have at least one more full season to add to his total. At the end of his current deal, he’ll be weeks shy of his 37th birthday. Will there still be a place in the NHL for the 37-year-old veteran? That’s a big picture question that certainly plays into all of this.
In the here and now, the Canucks have 32 games remaining this season. How many starts will Miller get? It’s hard to imagine him getting more than 75% of the remaining games so that will put him between the pipes in the 20-24 game range. Of those starts, how many wins can he and the Canucks realistically expect? Given the Canucks are pretty much a .500 hockey club, it seems hard to go much higher than 12 victories the rest of the way for Miller who has just two victories in his last eight starts so he hasn’t exactly been plumping up his total of late.
Next year, you have to ask what Miller’s role will be with Jacob Markstrom pushing for more playing time. If it’s a 50/50 split (although it rarely ever is with goalie tandems in the NHL), then Miller will get 40 starts to pad his stats. Of those, how many will he win? What kind of team will the Canucks be next season? Can Miller, who’s been hurt in each of the past two seasons, stay healthy enough to get the bulk of his suggested starts? As you can see, lots will play into this.
Three active goalies — Roberto Luongo, Henrik Lundqvist and Marc-Andre Fleury — are ahead of Miller on the wins list. So they will continue to add to their totals making it tough to pin point exactly where Miller will end up. Miller won’t catch Luongo (423) and is unlikely to reel in King Henrik (362) at the pace he’s on.
Right now, Ryan Miller’s most-realistic target might be the 374 wins amassed by John Vanbiesbrouck during his career. The Beezer sits 14th all-time and holds the record for wins by an American netminder and Miller very much remains within striking distance of that mark. Tom Barrasso with 369 is the only other US-born goalie in the top 20. Should Miller make it past Vanbiesbrouck it’ll be a terrific accomplishment for a guy taken in the fifth round of his draft class. However, his stay in the record books will likely be a temporary one as Jonathan Quick’s age (30) and career trajectory (238 victories) has him positioned to become the all-time wins leader by a US goalie before his playing days are through.
So back to the original question: how many wins does Ryan Miller have left? I’d suggest it’s somewhere between 40 and 50. I think he can win 10-12 more this year and another 20 to 25 next season. I don’t know this for sure, but I do think he’ll pursue at least one more contract when his current deal is done — perhaps he’ll seek employment as a veteran back-up in Southern California to finally live and work in the same city as his wife and young son.
To answer my own question, my best guess will be Ryan Miller finishes somewhere between Vanbiesbrouck’s 374 and Mike Vernon’s 385 putting him into the top-15 all-time among the guys who’ve guarded the nets.
I’ve had my say. I’d love to hear from you. How many wins does Ryan Miller have left in him?