Derek Roy may be the most polarizing member of the Buffalo Sabres now that Maxim Afinogenov makes his living in Atlanta. He plays in a city whose fans demand nothing less than his best effort every night. He plays for an organization that has overhauled its identity since he first broke into the NHL. With so many Sabres blogs calling for a Derek Roy trade this past offseason, I've paid particular attention to Roy this season. Here is what I've learned so far.
You will never find a better example of this than viewing his goal in overtime against Atlanta on Jan. 14. Roy has the speed and soft hands of a true playmaker.
He struggled with immaturity early in his career (to the point where officials were reluctant to speak to him because of his chronic whining), and at times you can see the effects of that on his play.
At his best, he'll charge the net and put rebounds past an opposing goalie on a level even to that of Thomas Vanek.
At his worst, he'll take a dive off of an incidental elbow if he doesn't like what he sees in front of him.
When the beloved Chris Drury and Daniel Briere left town over two years ago, the local media began a frantic search for the next "Face of the Franchise." Ryan Miller was an obvious choice, but fans were initially wary of the fact that, at the time, Miller didn't have a long-term contract and Buffalo's last love affair with a superstar goalie ended ugly (*cough*HASEK*cough*).
Roy has that "aww shucks" charm that the casual fan connects with. He took Briere's spot on local radio station KISS 98.5's "Buffalo Sabres Report" every Thursday morning. He's been featured in local ads and commercials for auto dealerships and charities that were the domain of Drury and Briere. Roy is well-spoken and knows how to say the right things.
When Derek Roy has a hot hand, the Sabres win. Ruff knows this and will continue to juggle his lines in an attempt to find someone who can spark Roy out of a slump. A close observer will notice that Ruff won't do this for any of his other players; they'll get demoted to a lower line.
Roy is only 26 and his best years are clearly ahead of him. At least, Lindy Ruff is counting on it.