Why is the offense clicking without Derek Roy?

Things looked pretty bleak on December 23rd.

When Derek Roy went down with a season-ending injury during the first period of a loss to the Florida Panthers, it seemed like the Sabres’ season was heading down the drain.

The next game, a loss to Calgary, seemed to be a harbinger of rough times ahead. But starting with a win in Edmonton the next night, Buffalo has broken off a run of 11-4-1 to put them into the playoff chase. The key has been the offense, who despite the struggles early in the year, now sit 10th in the league in goals per game. The powerplay has been off the charts, collecting 12 goals in the last 14 games, on its way to ranking #9 in the NHL right now.

In today’s Buffalo News, John Vogl writes about how the Sabres have been getting big numbers of late, from guys like Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford. In the article is a very peculiar quote from Vanek:

The absence of Roy, who had 25 helpers before suffering a season-ending injury, has allowed Vanek to expand his game.

“He’s a center that holds on to the puck and creates a lot,” Vanek said. “I just try to find openings for him. Ever since he’s been out, I feel like I’ve gotten the puck more.”

Is that telling or what?

In the 17 games since that loss to Florida, Vanek has 8 goals and 14 assists, nearly half of his production on the season. Stafford has missed a few games due to injury, but since Roy went down, the stats for him are 12 games, 11 goals, 5 assists. Both players had huge games in Tampa on Tuesday.

Considering Vanek-Roy-Stafford has been the defacto “top line”, it is intriguing that both players are playing so well without their center. They haven’t even been playing on the same line, with Vanek alongside Jochen Hecht and Jason Pominville and Stafford spending the last couple games with Tyler Ennis on the other wing and either Tim Connolly or Paul Byron in the middle.

Certainly, Jochen Hecht and Jason Pominville aren’t exactly creative offensively. They cycle, they work hard, and can work the puck around the net. On that line, it’s Vanek who gets to be the go-to guy.

Does Roy’s game hold Vanek back? Is Thomas Vanek more effective being the playmaker on the line?

There’s no doubt that Derek Roy is a valuable member of the team. He was an all-star candidate prior to his injury, leading the team in points. He plays in all situations. But are the Sabres better off, or more specifically, is the offense better off without him on the top line?

Roy’s definitely proven in the past to be a very good complimentary player, as he was on the Sabres’ two post-lockout playoff teams. His salary is very affordable in relation to his production, and he would obviously have very high trade value. Is the answer to keep him off the top line when healthy? Maybe. Is this maybe possibly an overreaction? Undoubtedly. But the numbers don’t lie.

It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the season shakes out for the Sabres, knowing Roy likely won’t see the ice again this season. Barring an extended playoff run, Derek is pretty much done for the year. Should the Sabres prove successful come postseason, and with new ownership looking in a new direction, Roy, who has remained a part of the team’s core, may prove expendable.

Posted on February 10, 2011, in Sabres/NHL and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. This idea that the team is better off without Roy keeps gaining traction, and really its just hard to fathom. Roy was the lone bright spot on this team, and by coindcidence others have played better or more importantly become healthy (Stafford/Connolly)since he’s been hurt. By this logic we should hope Miller and Myers get hurt so we can get “better”. Let’s hope we get a healthy Rot back next year and Pegula adds an additional offensive forward…Go Sabres!!

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