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