Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Roy hopes to bring element missing from Blues

Play-making center brought in on one-year
contract to provide two-way play with offensive flare

By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Derek Roy's first day on the ice brought strikingly familiar feelings from the veteran center after skating with his new teammates.

Roy, a veteran of the Eastern Conference playing for the Buffalo Sabres, spent last season in the Western Conference with Dallas and Vancouver and saw the Blues firsthand.

Roy didn't like what he had to deal with.

"I kind of hated the style of play," the 30-year-old Roy said of facing the Blues. "It's tough to play against. It's really a grinding-the-game down. They chip pucks in the offensive zone and then they get in on it and you've got to go 200 feet to go back the other way to make an offensive play on the net. Then they've got the big 'D' on you as well.

(Getty Images)
The Blues are counting on Derek Roy (left) can bring some offensive pop
to the lineup in St. Louis this season.
"It was really tough to play against. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em right?"

It's a sentiment shared by many that face the Blues and coach Ken Hitchcock's style of play. But it's a primary reason why Roy, who finished with seven goals and 28 points in 42 games a season ago, joined the Blues as a free agent when he signed a one-year, $4-million contract.

Roy, who spent eight seasons in Buffalo, has 168 goals and 455 points in 591 career games and hopes to bring an offensive presence down the middle the Blues crave heading into the 2013-14 season.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong made no secret that he was searching for a play-making center iceman who could bolster a Blues offense that was 17th in the league a year ago in scoring at 2.58 goals per game.

When making plays for both Stephen Weiss, who signed with Detroit, and Valtteri Filppula, who signed with Tampa Bay, the Blues turned to someone both Armstrong and Hitchcock are both familiar with.

"It's good to see that they wanted me to play in that position," Roy said. "Over the years, I've had a couple point-a-game seasons. I've put up some points and I have confidence in myself. That's the main thing, you go out there and have confidence in yourself. ... You go out there, have confidence, make plays, enjoy your teammates, enjoy playing with them, work hard (and) good things will happen. If you go the other way, bad things will happen. I'm just trying to be confident in my game and just work hard."

Roy, whose best season was in 2007-08 when he tallied 32 goals and 81 points in 78 games for the Sabres, knew what he was getting himself into signing with the Blues just with Armstrong and Hitchcock alone. They have experience with Roy dating back to 2008 when Hitchcock coached Canada and Roy in the World Championships and Armstrong was on the executive team.

Roy had five goals and five assists in nine games and played his way up the ladder.

"I had him in the World Championships when it was a small game, a small-ice game," Hitchcock said. "It was played in Canada. It was in Halifax (Nova Scotia) and it was in Quebec City. He was in an NHL building and that's when the teams were loaded. Everybody had great teams, we had a great team. It was a year before the Olympics so everybody were loading up their teams to see what they had. He came in as like the 13th forward and left as the third forward. I used him as a left winger and I used him as a center iceman. I ended up playing him with (Jonathan) Toews and (Patrick) Sharp. Sometimes Toews was on the left side, sometimes Roy was in the middle, but he was really a competitive guy. He's not big (currently 5-foot-9, 184 pounds), but he's really smart. He's really smart defensively and he's really patient with the puck offensively. It's a different player than what we have here."

What's more important is Roy is a two-way center, a player Hitchcock loves to implement in his system.

"I think that's one of Hitch's mottos, is to make sure you take care of your own end first and then you worry about the offense," Roy said. "Once I get across that blue line, I'm just trying to use my creativity and make plays and quickness and trying to find guys when they're open. We've got a bunch of good shooters here, some big bodies. Just got to feed them the puck."

One guy Hitchcock is eager to see Roy feed the puck is Chris Stewart, who will get a look with Roy in training camp.

"We feel like that Stewart's a guy that gets open in the scoring areas and we feel like Derek Roy's a guy that has patience to find people like that," Hitchcock said. "That's his strength. That's when he was getting big numbers in Buffalo (playing with Thomas Vanek), he was that type of guy that had patience and bought time and made plays that a lot of people can't make.

(Getty Images)
Derek Roy is coming off a 28-point season last year with
Dallas and Vancouver. He signed a one-year deal with the
Blues as an unrestricted free agent.
"(Roy) has an edge to him. He can really play with an edge and he can really compete in small spaces for a small guy. That's what we need back. Rather than looking to score, what we need him to do is play back where he played with a real edge. He can really play feisty and nasty at times for a small guy. That's when he's really effective. That's what we want to see from him back again is getting back to that level where he really (is) effective there. For a play-making guy, he has some real grit to him. That's what I found out when I had him in the World Championships. ... He was kind of there as an extra player and worked his way onto the top line. We're banking on a comeback from a guy like Derek Roy getting back to where he was two years ago."

Roy watched the Blues last season and said he and a number of players felt the Blues could make a deep run at the Stanley Cup. Now he's hoping to be a piece to the puzzle and hopes to bring an element that might help the Blues get over the hump.

"You keep building and you keep stepping in the right direction," Roy said. "I think this organization's going in the right direction. We just need a few different pieces to the puzzle and we'll work hard all season long. That's the only way we're going to get it done.

"You can't win a Stanley Cup by just throwing pucks at the net, hoping it just hits off a skate and go in. You've got to make plays. You've got to make plays to get out of your own zone, you've got to make plays in the neutral zone, you've got to make plays at the net. Look at a prime example with Chicago. They make plays, they play offense, but when they turn the puck over, they come back and they work just as hard on defense. To win a Cup, you can't just hope for the best all the time. You've got to create, and that's what I'm here for."

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