The Forgotten Man

Jonathan Willis
September 19 2008 02:36PM

The Oilers defensive corps for this coming season is relatively clear-cut at the top end of the roster. Between Sheldon Souray, Lubomir Visnovsky, Tom Gilbert, Steve Staios, Denis Grebeshkov, Ladislav Smid and Jason Strudwick there are seven NHL-calibre defensemen who will likely all stick with the club.

Theo Peckham and Taylor Chorney are often mentioned as candidates to push Smid, with European professional Josef Hrabal thrown in for good measure. The one player who is seldom mentioned is Mathieu Roy – and I think that’s wrong.

Roy’s seen spot action the last couple of seasons in Edmonton, and by now most fans know the book on him. Item #1 in that book is this list (courtesy of TSN.ca):

March 13, 2008 – Missed 3 games (upper body injury) February 22, 2008 – Missed 1 game (bruised sternum) November 26, 2007 – Missed 9 games (separated shoulder) October 23, 2007 – Missed 8 games (aches and pains) April 9, 2007 – Missed final 4 games of season (concussion) March 24, 2007 – Missed 11 games (concussion)

That’s just the NHL list of injuries. Roy plays a nasty, physical game, and he doesn’t seem to have either the speed or the hockey sense required to avoid injury. Some of it is probably bad luck, but at some point, it becomes apparent that some players are prone to being injured. That is the chief reason why Mathieu Roy’s NHL career is in serious jeopardy. Another way of looking at it: since turning pro in 2003-04, Roy has played 222 of 410 possible games.

Aside from his health, there are a couple of other negative things we can say about Roy. At the NHL level, at least, he hasn’t looked to be a particularly capable puck mover, and his skating has never been particularly good.

Still, Roy does bring some things to the table. He’s entering his fifth professional season, bringing a bunch of experience that players like Chorney and Peckham don’t have and probably need before they get a serious look at NHL hockey. He’s got a one-way contract, and while not likely to be claimed on waivers, I have to imagine that the Oilers would be more comfortable paying him his 500K at the NHL rather than the AHL level. He’s got a good shot, but most importantly he has some decent size and plenty of willingness to hit, fight and play a gritty game. Assuming that the top-seven does fall into place as suggested above, in the event of injury I have to think the Oilers would rather have Mathieu Roy sitting in the press-box than a guy like Peckham, who almost certainly has a higher ceiling than Roy.

If I had to wager on who the Oilers choose as their 8th defenseman, I’d put money on Roy. He’s cheap, he’s willing, and he isn’t going to rot sitting in the press-box. In point of fact, I’d say his roster spot is in more danger from Jeff Deslauriers than it is from Theo Peckham.

- Jonathan Willis is currently serving 25 to Life but still finds time to talk hockey

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#1 Braden
September 19 2008, 03:02PM
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I'm a big fan of Roy. This is a guy who comes back from a concussion and is still the first to drop his mitts to stick up for his teammates. I'll take 7 of him and go to war every night.

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#2 Tony Romo
September 19 2008, 03:30PM
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I am not a fan of Mathieu Roy making the Oilers. This isn't because I don't like him, in fact he seems quite pleasant in his interviews and is seemingly tough as nails.

His propensity to suffer maxiofacial injuries is staggering and terrifying at the same time. He needs to play non contact Atom Hockey.

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#3 Jonathan
September 19 2008, 03:38PM
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His propensity to suffer maxiofacial injuries is staggering and terrifying at the same time. He needs to play non contact Atom Hockey.

Which is why he needs to be kept safe in the press box.

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#4 Wanye Gretz
September 19 2008, 04:01PM
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"Which is why he needs to be kept safe in the press box."

Wrapped in bubble wrap and wearing a pair of helmets at all time

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#5 Doogie2K
September 19 2008, 04:35PM
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People say I have got concussion problems, but I don’t have concussion problems. I have got a problem with people giving me traumatic blows to the head, that’s what I have got a problem with.

--Dean McAmmond, September 27, 2007

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#6 Jonathan
September 19 2008, 04:46PM
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People say I have got concussion problems, but I don’t have concussion problems. I have got a problem with people giving me traumatic blows to the head, that’s what I have got a problem with.

Poor Dean McAmmond. Having watched him play a time or two, I feel fairly safe saying he also has a knack for putting himself in vulnerable situations (which is something he shares with Roy).

On the other hand, I suppose if the opponent wasn't out to kill them, they'd both be OK.

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#7 Wanye Gretz
September 19 2008, 05:42PM
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I remember watching Eric Weinrich sever McAmmond's Achillies Heel at what was then the Edmonton Coliseum. I also remember watching him march around the concourse at the games wearing what looked like a ski boot for the next 4 months.

Poor Deano

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#8 misfit
September 20 2008, 01:54AM
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I, for one, will be cheering for Roy again this year. I've always liked the way he plays the game. He hasn't really looked out of place from what I've seen with the exception of one game that I can clearly remember he was a trainwreck. He plays a fairly smart game, and is very willing physically, both in terms of hitting, and chucking knuckles.

The problem is, I just don't see him making it. I've liked Pekham and Chorney's chances this year even less.

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#9 Fiveandagame
September 20 2008, 11:05AM
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Chorney offers up something very different. Smooth skating, crisp first pass, but he has a steep learning curve to learn the positioning of the pro game as he doesn't have the physical strength to out muscle the attacking forwards so until he has the brains he'll be exploited in his own end.This isn't to say he isn't going to learn this, but Roy and Pekham play hard hitting physical game, something the Oilers need on the back end beyond Staios, Souray and Struddy.

So I would have to agree with Willis, Pekham needs games and will be relied on heavily in Springfield to both bang bodies and will even get sometime on the power play. Chorney also needs the mins to learn the pro game so the pressbox would be death. He hasn't played players of this size and speed. Roy will be the guy until he runs face first into Bertuzzi's elbow or decides to be a hero and get his block knocked off by Boooggggaaarrrddd....or slips on the ice leading into Rexall in the parking lot, slips on a banana peel or falls in the shower. "Le tabernach, I 'ave fallen an' cannot git' up!"

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#10 stratedge
September 20 2008, 12:41PM
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Roy has an undeniable propensity to try to turn away from hits along the end boards, turning a strong but otherwise harmless fore check hit into a vicious hit from behind. I've watched him do it a few times.

Youtube evidence:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWMFdCdJTJ4

I couldn't find more clips, but I'm absolutely certain I've seen him do this a few times.

But, this is what he brings to the table that I like; a good attitude:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odjuoD_3OSE

My prediction is he is the 8th defenseman, used as needed, until he gets inevitably hurt and then someone like Peckham is used to replace him.

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#11 Ryan
September 20 2008, 01:14PM
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Roy hasn't showed ANYTHING yet on a regular basis in the NHL. He has been given every chance but still neglects to protect himself. It get's quite pathetic when I am capable of predicting an injury to a player, yet it's a constant with Roy. He needs to go, he's too unreliable.

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