A word with the last guy to put up “Ryan Miller numbers”

Anyone who’s been reading this blog over the past three seasons knows the familiar refrain that comes up whenever a goalie is thought to be in the mix for the Hobey.

“Ryan Miller numbers.”

.950 save percentage, 1.32 goals-against average. A tough standard to live up to.

Dave LeNeveu had the GAA and then some (1.20), but the save percentage wasn’t quite there (.940 in that Cornell system that Big Red goalies seem to be penalized for, but we’ll get back to that when a Cornell goalie is in the mix). Brian Elliott backstopped Wisconsin to an NCAA Championship, but Matt Carle skated off with the Hobey. Dave Brown was in the conversation all season long in 2006-07, but Ryan Duncan got it. Dave McKee, Yann Danis, Brad Thiessen…you know the story.

No Ryan Miller numbers, no Hobey.

So of course, when I covered the Rangers-Sabres game on Tuesday night as part of a New York Hockey Journal story I’m working on, I had to get a word with the former Michigan State Spartan about those magical numbers that made him the last goalie to win the Hobey Baker.

“Minus the fact that we didn’t win a national championship,” Miller said, “that was pretty much a fairytale season. We had a great team, and everything seemed to go right except right at the end there.”

As you might expect, Miller has been too busy with the Sabres to keep tabs on exactly how things have been going in the college ranks lately as it concerns his netminding brethren. However, he did say that he doesn’t think it should take a reprise of (or improvement on) his 2001-02 stats to get a goalie the top individual honor in the college game.

“They look at number of goals and assists [for forwards],” Miller said, “but they also talk about who you play against. It comes down to more than just those stats. I think if you factor in the goalies playing against really strong competition, and you can take a team really far in the NCAA tournament, I think you have a goalie who deserves top billing.”

If you really want to read into that, “Really strong competition” could be seen as a dig at the Cornell guys, but I don’t think Miller was really thinking about it that much (and besides, ECAC Hockey is having quite a year, with Yale, Union, RPI and Dartmouth all in the mix for NCAA berths). I will say that I don’t think the next goalie to win the Hobey will come from Atlantic Hockey (sorry, Shane Madolora), but depending on the year, I think another goalie will hoist the Hobey sooner or later, “Ryan Miller numbers” or not.

Probably not this year, though, although I do think that Dartmouth’s James Mello, RPI’s Allen York, Merrimack’s Joe Cannata and Boston College’s John Muse are all worthy of consideration for finalist berths, with one of them getting a spot in the Hobey Hat Trick (and really, with Muse having a good shot at a third NCAA title in four years, he should get a long look).

What do you think? You think Miller has a point about his numbers not being a requirement for future Hobey-winning goalies? Who’s the most Hobey-worthy goaltender on the college ice this season? Leave your thoughts below.