Number Nine, Number Nine, Number Nine…

It’s late April 2010 and the atmosphere is grim in the Buffalo Sabres locker room. Two centers have been interviewed back-to-back about the fan disdain for their performance in Buffalo’s six-game loss to the Boston Bruins. One, Tim Connolly, isn’t close to saying any of the right things but the other, Derek Roy, is crushed like a man in his first marital spat. The honeymoon is over.

Roy was left in pieces that day by the sentiment that existed amongst fans and analysts: Roy’s two assists in six games were a monumental disappointment. That the points came in the Sabres’ two wins may be irrelevant to some, but the fact was not lost on me. Lindy Ruff had called Roy the engine of the team going back to the team’s upstart campaign after the lockout, and that team had Danny Briere and Chris Drury (heard of ‘em?).

Roy’s next season was a revelation, or so it seemed. He scored in the first three games of the season on the way to averaging a point-per-game heading into Christmas, only he didn’t get there. With 35 points in 35 games, this was the Roy that fans saw glimmers of during the previous five mostly-inconsistent seasons. He was distributing the puck, facilitating the power play and cutting down on his horrendous knack for minor penalties. He was “on it,” as the kids say.

Then he got hurt with a capital ‘H’: a torn quad tendon. He was out four-to-six months, but he barely fit into that time frame: Roy returned in four months and three days, showing little burst but posting an assist in the Flyers’ elimination of the Sabres in the first round.

With Connolly gone, this was to be Roy’s year. It’s hardly even resembled one of his lesser campaigns. Roy’s .64 points-per-game is his worst since his rookie season when he notched 19 points in 49 games. He was 20 years old.

Has he fully recovered from the injury? It’s impossible to say, but something’s not right with Roy. The most frustrating thing about No. 9 is that he may very well be the engine of this team. Laugh if you will, but look at the facts:

– When Roy records a point, the Sabres are 12-2-3.

– When Roy fails to mark the scoresheet, the Sabres are 5-15-0.

It’s maddening. Perhaps it would be better stated if I went with he’s maddening. Roy doesn’t seem to be vacationing during losses, something that looked rather damning during the early absences in his career. In fact, he seems to be pressing. At his worst he channels the worst of Maxim Afinogenov in blue-and-gold; Bad giveaways and fluffed chances are the bane of his season. At his best — this year — he simply looks like an average NHL player.

That’s a major regression for the engine of the Buffalo Sabres, an engine that needs a major overhaul. The Sabres have the NHL’s ninth-leading scorer in Thomas Vanek and its 11th in Jason Pominville. Imagine the season Nos. 26 and 29 could be having with a productive middle man. Roy’s 23 points are 102nd in the league, behind seven defensemen and tied with four others. And despite the major production coming from Vanek and Pominville, Roy sits 37th amongst players deemed centers by NHL.com. That’s behind guys like Rich Peverley, Tyler Bozak and David Legwand and it is not for lack of ice time: Roy is averaging the same or more minutes per game than Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Sedin.

To borrow an adjective from BBG, those statistics are even more vulgar than the Sabres play of late. Where are you, Derek Roy?

Email: nick@fcbuffalo.org

8 Responses to Number Nine, Number Nine, Number Nine…

  1. Jim Kretz says:

    While I completely agree Nick, Derek Roy is a shell of his former hockey playing self, what has happened to his line mate Stafford. He has made hockey tough to watch, he could not find open nets, odd man rushes or even finish a check tonight. It seems much of the horsepower of the core of the Sabres has just left the building. I can’t offer a solution, I don’t know if they have given up on the coach, the team, or are just lost themselves, but everyone who scouts the team has picked up on it and there is no intimidation factor any more. Heck with no intimidation, there is not even any respect for the hockey prowess these men showed as recently as last season. Like I said I have no solutions but if I, a hockey neophyte can see this from afar, our opponents must be salivating at the chance to play them at the F-N Center.

  2. mike says:

    The sooner he is gone the bette. Least favorite player in buffalo sports.

  3. [...] summed up brilliantly bu Nick Mendola in his latest piece – I highly advise you go over and give it a gander. – When Roy records a point, the Sabres are [...]

  4. I’m not surprised that Roy is struggling. That torn quad injury is horrible for a hockey player who relies on agility.

    So, fine, trade Roy. I don’t know what Sabres’ fans hopes are when you want to dispose every talented C you have. You’re not going to even get an equal offensive talent at C, unless you trade a huge piece elsewhere.

    • Nick says:

      I didn’t say to trade him. Connolly had to go. My point is that I think he is either: a) damaged goods and you’ll get zero in return or b) going to find his way, but if it’s not injury it’s a real mystery. horrible injury indeed.

  5. Adam Owczarzak says:

    I’ve always defended him when everyone else always wanted him to go: the guy has always generated chances and the year we played the B’s in the playoffs was the only time he’s disappeared in the playoffs. In 06 he was a huge reason for our playoff success. Everyone still wants him to go and I tend to finally agree because he just doesn’t provide the chances. He used to always give the puck away yet still generate scoring, but now he’s not even doing that. But to get rid of him doesn’t make much sense either. Centers are centers and we don’t have any. We won’t get anything for him in a trade

  6. John Jozifek says:

    Greetings from a Fairbanks, Alaska die-hard Sabres fan! I have watched every game this seaon … the Sabres have gone from more or less consistent 2 point games, to 1 point games, to 0 point games. Last month 5 NHL teams decided their coach had to go, Washington being a prime example. I think the ‘engine’ behind a ‘team’ has to be the coach. I have been hoping Ruff would go since last year, but with a brand new owner and a ‘buddy’ GM I guess that won’t happen. I have not been impressed with any particular player this year, except maybe for Boyes, Hecht, Gerbe, Kassian, and to some extent Vanek who display consistent effort and heads up play. Granted the Sabres have been plagued by injuries, but the ‘vets’ … Roy, Pommenville, Stafford, even Miller have not shown the degree of vigor and talent they should to motivate a winning effort from the rest of the team. Coaches fault? Players fault? I’m not all that ‘in tune’ with the goings-on with the team except for what I see on the ice, and right now when I watch Buffalo play all I can do is hope for a ‘lucky’ goal, a ‘lucky’ save, and a ‘lucky’ win, ‘McKinley Curse’ aside.