Drew Miller is one of the Wings most successful acquisitions – right up there with picking up Kris Draper from the Winnipeg Jets for one Canadian dollar in 1993.
But Miller would rather not discuss it, thank you.
To be sure, Miller has more flattering things to talk about regarding his NHL career than the time the Tampa Bay Lightning dumped him – just threw him out on the trash heap of the league’s waiver wire.
Even a positive spin on the story – getting picked up by the Red Wings and becoming one of its most important and reliable defensive forwards on a line that could rival Draper’s renowned Grind Line couldn’t interest Miller in a conversation about it.
“It’s a non-story,” he said. “Everything was different then (in Tampa). Now you have new ownership, management. I’d rather not revisit it.”
OK, so it wasn’t the highlight of a nine-year NHL career preceded by three standout seasons at Michigan State. Miller was drafted by Anaheim in the sixth round (186th overall), and broke into the NHL during the Stanley Cup Finals. He played just three games in the finals – on the top line with Teemu Selanne – and helped the Ducks win the Cup.
After a few years spent between Anaheim and its minor league club, Miller was traded to Tampa Bay, where he was used sparingly in 14 games before then-General Manager Brian Lawton put him on waivers.
Enter Wings GM Ken Holland, who scours the NHL’s waiver wire every day. You never know what you might find. And on Nov. 19, 2009, Holland found a keeper.
“We had a lot of injuries at the time, and we were just looking for guys who could play,” Holland said. “Look, he’s a Miller from East Lansing. He’s got that great pedigree.
“And he had a real good career at Michigan State. He was his team’s MVP, and he was the CCHA’s Best Defensive Forward one year.”
Miller has been a mainstay in the Detroit lineup ever since. He’s a premier penalty killer and shot-blocker. He and center Luke Glendening have formed a season-long tandem on an energy line with Joakim Andersson or, more recently, rookie Landon Ferraro. That unit arguably has been Detroit’s most consistently good line in these playoffs.
In 82 games this season – including several in which he played with a full mask to protect a laceration near his eye that needed nearly 60 stitches to close after he was cut with a skate – Miller had five goals among 14 points. He had one goal and one assist through six games in this series with Tampa.
Now he’s finishing the second year of a three-year contract extension worth more than $4 million – a bargain any way you measure his value to the Wings.
And though he may not want to talk his dreadful time with the Lightning six seasons ago, we’d be remiss not to talk about how valuable Drew (nobody calls him Andrew) Miller has been to the Detroit Red Wings.