Getty Images“It may only be a 5 or 6 percent upgrade, but it is an upgrade," said Blues general manger Doug Armstrong about the massive trade Friday that brought Ryan Miller (and to a far lesser extent, Steve Ott) to St. Louis. "That's how I feel you get better, in small increments.”
That seemed like a very curious quote, for a few reasons.
The first and most obvious of these is that an upgrade of 5 or 6 percent over the Blues' current performance would be massive. Prior to having made the swap, the Blues had 84 points from 59 games, or a pace for a little less than 117 points. Adding even 5 percent to that bumps them up to nearly 123, the equivalent of three wins. To make up those three wins, Ryan Miller will have to stop nine more shots over the remaining 23 games than Jaroslav Halak, for whom he was traded, would have.
St. Louis allowed just 26.6 shots per game heading into Sunday night's contest versus Phoenix, Miller's first with his new team. Based on that number, we can extrapolate that into, say 18 of the 23 remaining games. That's about 479 shots over those 18 starts, give or take; Halak's save percentage to this point indicates that he'd stop roughly 439 of those, and allowing 40 goals over 18 games isn't really that bad. Thus, Miller would need to stop 448 to meet Armstrong's apparently-meager 5-to-6 percent improvement. Unfortunately, if you stop 448 shots out of 479, your save percentage is .935, a whopping 12 points higher than the current number Miller has posted in 40 games behind the Sabres.
Is it reasonable to expect that he'll see an inflation of his save percentage? Sure it is. The Sabres are terrible and bleed high-quality chances, and the Blues are one of the most stalwart defensive teams in the NHL. Miller's save percentage rising to even .926 would likely be a boon and maybe win the Blues an extra game. Getting an extra win out of this trade would be huge.
But would it be worth the freight given up? And would that make it worth having done it at all? Let's not forget, the details of this trade are a little convoluted; the Blues get Miller and Ott, who presumably adds “grit” (and has a potentially negative impact on possession due to his not being very good), and the Sabres get Halak, Chris Stewart and his contract (at least for now), a well-regarded prospect, a first-round pick, and a conditional pick that might likewise end up being a first-rounder.
Another reason this was a curious trade is that it failed to address the Blues' real issue, which is to say that they're probably not doing enough offensively to convince anyone who's paying real attention that they're true contenders in the Western Conference, let alone for the Stanley Cup. Tyler Dellow had a post over the weekend about the quality of the various teams considered to be elite, and which are actual contenders based on the depth they bring to the table. In short, the Blues are scoring more goals at even strength than they actually deserve basically across the board, with their bottom six forwards enjoying a 56.9 percent goal share despite corsi of just 51.4 percent; that is to say, it's probably not sustainable.
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