ST. LOUIS -- Ken Hitchcock didn't expect much out of Derek Roy the first time he had him on his team. He was coaching a Canadian crop of top talent that would compete for the 2008 World Championships. Roy, an undersized forward, flew under the radar.
"I didn't know him from Adam in the World Championships," the St. Louis Blues coach recalled recently. "He was there, kind of as an extra player."
That had changed by the time Canada claimed the silver medal in Quebec City. Roy totaled five goals and five assists in nine games.
"He came in as like the 13th forward, and he left as the third forward," Hitchcock said.
"He was really a competitive guy. He's not big 5 feet 9, 184 pounds, but he's really smart defensively, and he's really patient with the puck offensively."
Before the Blues signed Roy in July, the team's general manager, Doug Armstrong, spoke with Hitchcock about the 30-year-old free agent. The coach, heavily influenced by what he saw from Roy in 2008, liked the idea. Now Roy will have to prove Hitchcock right.
"We're banking on a comeback by a guy like Derek Roy," Hitchcock said.
Roy's best NHL seasons came in the midst of his first impression on Hitchcock. His professional career started in Buffalo, and flourished. He spent eight seasons as a Sabre, a stretch that saw him score a career-high 32 goals and 81 points in 2007-08.
Now there are legitimate questions about whether Roy can continue to be that kind of player. He has been traded twice, first to Dallas and then Vancouver. In between, he had a shoulder surgery. His production has shown a downward trend.
If this works out like Hitchcock hopes, Roy, who the team says is fully healthy, will be a difference maker on the ice. The coach is already scheming ways in which Roy's style will help Chris Stewart, the slashing right wing who recently signed on for two more years with the Blue Note.
"He can really play feisty and nasty at times for a small guy," Hitchcock said of Roy at his best. "That's where he's really effective. That's what we want to see. For a playmaking guy, he has some real grit to him. That's what I found out when I had him in the World Championships."
The coach talks a lot about the World Championships when it comes to Roy. It's where he saw firsthand how good Roy can be.
The question remains: Can Roy return to form?
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