By LOU KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Blues players were on hand Wednesday to clean out their lockers and belongings one final time after their season ended in the Western Conference First Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Blues goalie Ryan Miller was acquired near the trade deadline to upgrade the team in goal, and after going 2-4 with a 2.70 goals-against average and .897 save percentage in the playoffs (Miller was 10-8-1 with a 2.47 GAA and .903 save percentage in the regular season), goals fell well short. He answered questions on a variety of season-ending issues, including if he would welcome a return to the Blues despite the opportunity to test free agency July 1:
Is it any easier?
You try to just take a few days, but in my experience it never really helps. It takes a few weeks, a few months. It’s not fun, especially with the expectations moving forward and having a positive progression for this team. From what the guys are saying it feels a lot like the year prior.
It's frustrating not to be able to contribute to a step forward and it feels like a missed opportunity. It’s going to take a while.
Does criticism bother you after Blackhawks series?
You're the goaltender, you're going to take a lot of the focus of everything. Just the way everything worked out, the trade and the mood around this making a step forward ... it's pretty much inevitable unless we had won the Stanley Cup there was going to be a lot of criticism. I knew what to expect coming in and I'll take my share of the blame. I could have played better, but it is what it is.
Even the last game people look at the score, 5-1, it’s 1-1 going into the third period. We played essentially what I feel were six one-goal games. We won two of them and didn’t get the job done in the other ones.
It was a good series against a tough opponent who went through their own bumps and bruises years ago to learn how to win. I remember watching Chicago against Vancouver a few years ago before they won and you could see that they had to make a pretty big adjustment in the way they approached teams like that. I guess our adjustment is going to be how we play teams like Chicago. Once we get that mindset and that adjustment, I can see that there can be a step forward. Sometimes it takes something kind of painful to inspire a little bit of that change.
Still interested in the Blues?
Yeah, I don't close any avenues with anybody, especially in this kind of profession. I'm just trying to make my best impression wherever I’m at. I know it didn't work out in this playoff series; I think it’s a good group here and it’s up to management to make decisions about my situation going forward.
I really didn't know a lot about the city coming in here. I had visited a few times when I was younger just to play hockey, you know you're kind of in, then you're out. I spent some time here and got to know a few people. I love the area and it’s nice, it’s funny how a different part of the world unfolds and opens up for you. Good people, very passionate and as pissed off as they probably are at me right now, it's good. It shows they're sports fans and they're committed to their team. They have passion, they have pride, it's the kind of people you want to play for. If it works out that management wants me back ... if it works out I'm back here, that's the kind of people you want to play for. I hope they would appreciate the effort I try and bring and I hope they continue to support the Blues because they have a great group of guys here. Tremendous upside and I know that people wanted it to be better this year and we wanted it to be better. This team is going to be better.
Would you like to get something done with the Blues relatively soon or take it to free agency?
I'm not sure. I have to have more discussion with management on where they're at with everything. It's not something we're going to do two or three days after we lost. It's something where you kind of want to get away from the situation by a few weeks probably. I'm sure they'll want to have something, an answer on their side, before the draft. It's more directed towards Doug (Armstrong) and the coaching staff and how they kind of see this team being built. That being said, I liked my time here, (I'm) open to staying. I think it's a solid organization from the top down. We'll just see what happens.
At this point in your career, is length of term more important or the team?
Just (the) team, honestly. It's something where I want to do my part to contribute to a team that's going to build and have a chance to win. These are frustrating times when you bow out of the playoffs, so it's just not the time to talk about it. We'll get around to it.