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Hockey: even in Finland, Nicolas Roy thinks of the playoffs

MONTREAL – We don’t know if Nicolas Roy’s father is stronger than yours. What we do know is that Nicolas Roy likes playoff hockey more than you do.

The Vegas Golden Knights forward hadn’t represented his country internationally since playing at the World Juniors in 2017 when Hockey Canada called him up to play at the world championship this spring. He accepted without hesitation and he does not regret it for a second. But since he is in Finland, he realizes that he lacks a little something to spin the perfect happiness.

“I’m quite disappointed because I’m still a big hockey fanatic. I like watching games, especially in the playoffs. But there, the games are at 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., depending on whether it’s in the East or in the West, so it’s practically impossible, explained Roy during a call with RDS on Wednesday. But as soon as I wake up, I look at the results, the goals that have been scored and all that. I’m not bad. »

Obviously, the Abitibi’s obsession with spring hockey goes far beyond an interest in the jokes that Paul Bissonnette and Rick Tocchet can launch on the airwaves of TNT or the few dollars that he could have invested. in a pool with the office guys. In fact, if Roy hadn’t represented his country for so long, it’s because he’s used to playing there, in the playoffs.

Not badly accustomed even.

In 2017, in his last year of junior hockey, Roy reached the semi-final of the QMJHL playoffs with the Chicoutimi Saguenéens. In 2018, in his first year as a pro, he reached the second round of the American League playoffs with the Charlotte Checkers. In 2019, he won the Calder Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes. Eventually, in 2020 and 2021, he made the Western Conference Finals with the Vegas Golden Knights.

It’s enough to find it strange to be somewhere other than between Edmonton and Miami at this time of year.

“Watching the series and not being part of it is not something I want to experience often, he concludes without hesitation. For sure it’s a bit different continuing to play here, but I’m watching it and next year I want to be part of it for sure. »

DeBoer, the scapegoat

Roy learned when he arrived in Europe that some had paid more than him for the Golden Knights’ exclusion from the 2022 playoffs. After a victory against Slovakia, teammates who had been quicker than him to get out their phones told him the dismissal of Peter DeBoer and his deputies.

“Still surprised, I’ll tell you. We liked him a lot, he is an excellent coach. It is sure that this year, it was not as we wanted, but we still made it to two association finals. On the other hand, expectations are so high in Vegas that by not making the playoffs with the roster we had, we could expect there to be changes. »

Speaking of “the alignment we had”, Roy is aware that a downside is needed. On paper, the Knights were strong. The problem is that a full page was needed to list all the injuries that slowed them down.

Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone have been grounded for over half the year. Jack Eichel was only able to contribute from mid-February. Reilly Smith missed about 30 games, Alec Martinez only played 26 and Robin Lehner’s various ailments caused a big headache in front of the net.

This is what makes Roy say that the performance problems will only be temporary.

“I think it’s a reset, so to speak. For an organization that, in its first four seasons, made the playoffs and went far, it puts you back in your place if we can say so. You have to work hard and it’s not easy in this league either. But we’re going to come back next year and we’re going to do it again as hard as we can. We know we have a very good team. We are not worried. »

Cleaning to be expected

Here too, a clarification is necessary. Because this “very good team” will certainly show a different face next season. The Knights finished the year with no wiggle room under the salary cap with nearly $11 million stashed on the long-term injured list. Players will have to be sacrificed for the team to offer training in the rules of the art in the fall.

“We are aware that it can happen, exchanging a big name to free up space, realizes Roy. We are also four or five who have to sign new contracts. One way or another, it’s going to have to make room. But I’ve been with the organization for three years and we’ve always had trouble, we’ve always been on the sidelines or if not a little above. We’ll find a way. »

Roy could become a restricted free agent this summer and because he has completed a minimum of four seasons in professional hockey, he will also be eligible for salary arbitration. The campaign he has just experienced has given him many arguments to negotiate a generous raise.

One of the few Knights forwards to avoid bad luck, Roy had career highs in games played (78), goals (15), assists (24) and points (39). DeBoer sometimes used him in an offensive role in the center of Smith and Jonathan Marchessault or even on the wing of Jack Eichel, sometimes in more defensive missions with Janmark, Kolesar and Carrier. In one chair as in the other, he has the impression of having discharged his duties with aplomb.

What does the future hold for him? A little stability in the center of a third line would please him. Of course, he would not say no to other mandates that take him out of his comfort zone. One thing is certain, it is that at a salary of $750,000, he represented a great bargain. His bosses will now have to pull out the checkbook.

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