Do The Sabres Perform Better Without Derek Roy?

BUFFALO, NY - NOVEMBER 11: Derek Roy #9 of the Buffalo Sabres skates in warmups prior to the game against the Ottawa Senators at the First Niagara Center on November 11, 2011 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

For years there has been an argument, led publicly and voraciously by The Bulldog of WGR 550, that the Sabres are a better team without Derek Roy.

The argument as I can best describe it is as follows: Roy, while an above average offensive player, is lazy on the ice and has a poor work ethic which permeates the locker room and negatively affects his teammates. When he is not with the team, other players seem to rise up and give more consistent effort, which leads to better results for the team as a whole.

Since Roy is out again with an injury, and is the current holder of the "Tim Connolly/Everyone Hates You" award, this seemed like as good a time as any to try and determine, as objectively as possible, whether the Sabres as a whole are better without Derek Roy.

I started by looking at last year - Roy's injury and the Sabres' surge to the playoffs happened at almost the exact same time, so let's look at how the team performed before and after Roy.

Year Record With Roy Points % Record Without Roy Points % Difference
2010-11 14-17-4 .377 29-12-6 .681 +.304

As you can see, the team earned points at almost twice the rate once Roy was on the shelf as they did when he was on the ice - so trade him 4 da bag of puckzz!!1!! and be done with it right?

Of course, by itself this data is meaningless; it could be nothing more than coincidence. Further mining of this train of thought won't be helpful either, as Roy has only played fewer than 75 games in a season twice: last year and all the way back in 2005-06, when he still played 70, so I don't think that's worth exploring.

But there has to be another way we can analyze his contribution to the team - head after the break to see how his absence changed his teammates' performance.

*Ed Note: Before we continue, I did explore other avenues of analysis such as Corsi numbers, quality of teammates/competition, and various combinations of on/off ice stats like goals for and +/-, but those results either wildly fluctuated from year to year or showed middling, non-conclusive results. If you can come up with anything more concrete than what I've got here, by all means feel free to share.

We've established that the team's record was better without Roy, but what about his specific line mates? When healthy, Roy himself was a point per game player in 2010-11, going 10-25-35 in 35 games. It's tough to argue with that production, but I'll try anyway. Roysie's most common line mates in 2010-11 were Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford. Each put up big seasons, and finished with over 30 goals, but how much of that was due to #9?

Let's look at Vanek first: he finished last year with 32-41-73. When playing with Roy, Vanek managed 13 goals and 12 assists -- 25 points in their 35 games together for a .71 ppg average. However, once Roy went down, Vanek evolved into Atlas, throwing down 19 goals and 29 assists - 48 points in 45 games for a 1.1 ppg mark. Let's run through the short version for Stafford, who finished 31-21-52. With Roy, 9-5-14 in 20 games, good for .7 ppg. Without Roy, 22-16-38 in 42 games for .9 ppg.

The obvious conclusion is that both of Roy's most common line mates performed better when he was out of the picture, but there are a few just-as-obvious counterarguments to their increased production - Stafford has always come on stronger in the second half of the season, and Vanek's inflated assist numbers came from his taking over the playmaking void left by Roy, while his goals increased only marginally. And despite Vanek and Stafford's hot second half, Roy did still finish with the best points per 60 minute mark on the team.

And that's the frustrating part of it, folks. Every point in this argument has a counterpoint, and much of it can be passed off as coincidence. I don't think there's anyone who will argue that when Roy is firing on all cylinders, he makes the Sabres more dangerous. He is supposed to be a playmaker - someone who makes his line mates better, and is certainly capable of doing that. However, that version of #9 has been almost non-existent this season, though whether it's due to battling through injuries, an extended cold streak, or both, I can't say.

What I can say is that when Roy isn't producing offensively, he does next to nothing for the Sabres. His effort has lacked consistency for years, he's not dominant on faceoffs, and he gives no attempt to play a physical game. The question now becomes: is it worth waiting for him to turn it on, or is the problem with Roy having to wait for him in the first place?

I'm sure ya'll have strong opinions on Roy one way or the other, especially with the pressure on GM Darcy Regier to shake things up, so let us know what you'd do with Roy in the comments.

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