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Vulgar Statistics: Centerman Derek Roy

02/14/11
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Derek Roy is a pretty damn good hockey player.  I think most people can agree on that.  What is somewhat contentious is whether or not he is a top line center in terms of production.  Certainly with the current crop of players, Derek Roy is the top center for the Buffalo Sabres whether his skills match that designation or not.  But how does he compare to the rest of the league’s top line centers?

One of the reasons this column almost never looks at every team in the league is that it’s impossible for any one person to have intimate knowledge of that many teams.  This, I think, is where major sports networks like ESPN fail.  Watching their big names talk about any team not located in NYC, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, or Dallas is cringe-inducing because they simply do not possess the depth required to speak intelligently and come off as idiots.

Thus I had to a be a bit liberal in who I designated a team’s top line center.  For the most part, I used ice time as a measuring stick, but if there was a large discrepancy in points and a small one in ice time, I used the player with more points.  If the points were fairly similar, I took the player with the most ice time.  Not a perfect system, but it gets the job done.  Also, since a few teams in the league have multiple centers that are legitimate top line talents, I included them as well.

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For those that aren’t aware the per 60 statistics are a player’s totals per sixty minutes of ice time thus putting every player’s production on a level playing field.

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It was a difficult comparison due to varying styles of play, and various systems across the league.  Comparing someone like Crosby on a team like Pittsburgh to a team like Nashville, that is still very good, but built completely differently (in that they split their production pretty evenly across three lines) is sketchy at best.  However it does show how Roy stacks up against other top line centers across the league, which is quite favorably (and the whole point of this column).  If you remove all the teams that have two guys on the list he moves up two slots and looks even better

Final Word:

This is a tough one for me, because even with the data staring me in the face, I have trouble seeing Roy as a bona-fide top line guy.  (A one and a half liner, sure.)  I think part of the issue is that with players like Crosby and Stamkos and Backstrom in the league, everyone has an image of a top line center as being this dynamic game changing player, and that can only be true for a small number of teams.  I think that if the Sabres had more center depth (aka if Luke Adam was NHL ready and Tim Connolly didn’t suck), then Derek Roy on the top line would be a lot easier for myself (and many other fans) to swallow.

Then again it’s good to have a column like this every once in a while.  After all, statistics, while the most valuable way to measure players, cannot account for intangibles.  I don’t think anyone would agree with the assertions that Derek Roy is often weak on the puck, prone to selfishness, and often makes maddening decisions that bring Nam-like flashbacks of Dmitri Kalinin and Maxim Afinogenov at their worst.

Personally I feel that despite his shortcomings, Derek Roy is a good player and one of the best contracts on the team.  My wish would be to acquire a big puck-possession center to get Vanek and Stafford chance after chance and to put Roy with a couple of speedy guys (like Ennis and perhaps Byron in the future) that can skate up and down the ice all night like he can.

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