Other than being teammates for one season, Derek Roy and Miroslav Satan do not have very much in common. Roy honed his craft in the Ontario Hockey League and made quick work of his AHL experience with the Rochester Americans, becoming a regular forward for the Buffalo Sabres in the blink of an eye. Satan was strictly performing in Europe before briefly experiencing the IHL and eventually being selected by the Edmonton Oilers in 1993.
Their contrasting routes to the National Hockey League and distinctive expertise are well recognized, but they do have one striking resemblance. They know how it feels to represent a rather poor version of the Buffalo Sabres and not allowing that aspect to hinder their own capabilities. Being the lone star on a mediocre club is not fun; the defense will know who to shadow and won’t let you out of their sight.
That’s an experience no player wishes to live, as Roy and Satan would testify. How far did they distance themselves from the remainder of the club’s production? Did they thrive with an abundance of ice time and responsibility? Yes, but sufficient secondary scoring certainly would have been appreciated.
So, with no further ado, let’s get into the head-to-head. Prepare for exhausted and entirely predictable boxing analogies.
As soon as Satan traded his Oilers jersey for a different shade of blue, he confirmed his class immediately and in the future. All he cost Buffalo was Craig Millar and Barrie Moore, whose career numbers combined were trumped by any one of Satan’s seasons – if you ignore two of the shortened examples.
Satan was always cut out to be a scorer – registering eight goals and ten points in his first twelve matches with Buffalo in 1997 and going on to notch at the rate of over three points every four games for almost a decade after. Blessed with fantastic hands to go along with phenomenal offensive instincts, the Slovakian was one of the most fearsome wingers in the game.
From 1999 to 2004, his name was atop the goal-scoring charts for the Sabres. His high point and the club’s nadir collided in 2003, when Buffalo finished beneath 11 of the 14 other Eastern Conference teams. Unaccounted for in the playoffs by a mere five points one year earlier, the Sabres were never truly on the cusp of sneaking through this time.
Doing everything in his power to salvage some pride, Satan delivered a personal best of 49 assists and 75 points. Deservedly chosen for his second All-Star Game showing, the veteran was the one element the organization could bear to look at without blinking.
Club Record: 8-11-3
Goals: 9 (On Pace For 33)
Assists: 14 (On Pace For 52)
Points: 23 (On Pace For 85)
Next In Line: Thomas Vanek (17 points), Jordan Leopold (14 points), Tim Connolly (13 points)
Roy may not be in quite as awful of a dilemma as Satan was eight years ago, but the 27-year-old has been the only constant for Buffalo. To their fortune, Thomas Vanek is finding his legs and Jordan Leopold’s pressure from the blue line is paying off. But while others are starting to gain confidence, Roy’s composure hasn’t regressed the least bit since his two goals from the season opener in Ottawa. That it’s not the result of a contract year – two years from now, it will be – proves his class, and general manager Darcy Regier was wise to hold on to him the same summer Chris Drury and Daniel Briere vanished.
Where Satan’s specialty was scoring, Roy’s slickest trait is his passing intuition – ranging from a short saucer distribution to a quick breakaway outlet. Improving his release and tendency to shoot, he’s rarely indecisive in circumstances where he can either try an extra pass or use the shot at his disposal. The former Kitchener Ranger doesn’t rely solely on his talent and works endlessly, which is why he’s such a key component on both the powerplay and penalty kill.
The flaw people predictably find in Roy is his height, but his strong health – has missed just 13 games because of injury in five years and counting – should throw those complaints out of sight. Three Sabres players made it onto this season’s NHL All-Star Ballot; Roy, Vanek and Ryan Miller. If one of them happens to be chosen, there shouldn’t be a question as to who has earned it more.
While the bulk of the Buffalo Sabres squad has taken a step back this year, their diminutive center has advanced in the preferred direction.