Once again it's that time of year here on Defending Big D where we take a look at each player that suited up for 20 or more games this season (and finished the season with the team) - and take a look back at their season. What was good about it, what wasn't so good, and the lasting impression they left us as we go into summer
Regular season statistics:
Key Stat: 29 pts, 209 PIMs - Antoine Roussel was the only player in the NHL to receive over 200 penalty minutes while scoring 20 or more points. In fact, of the top 10 penalty minute getters in the NHL only Dion Phaneuf scored more points (31) and he did so with 65 less minutes in the sin bin. This shows how effective Roussel was at playing with an edge while still contributing on the scoreboard, a key reason for his extensive use on a pseudo second line alongside Cody Eakin and Ryan Garbutt.
Roussel is a guy with a lot of speed, a lot of skill, and one of the most annoying on-ice personalities in the league for opponents to deal with. Night after night Stars fans watched on with glee as opponents became unraveled and coaches failed to keep their players from taking stupid penalties against him because of his aggressiveness.
He wasn't just dressed to annoy and draw some penalties, though; the man affectionately called 'Rooster' has a lot of skill. He can make some pretty plays and put up a decent amount of points. He scored 29 points in his first full NHL season after working tirelessly through the minor leagues to get here. He showed that skill in the Stars' win against Chicago when he skated in on a penalty shot and roofed it backhand. Then he showed us why everyone else hates him by waving his hands at the United Center's crowd in the classic "are you not entertained?" celebration.
"Are you not entertained?" really defines Roussel's season. Of all the players on the Stars, you could relate him most most of all to a gladiator. He attacks both the puck and opposing players relentlessly, with no regard for his own personal safety. It didn't matter if he was skating against Joe Thornton or Zdeno Chara, he was getting in their faces no matter who they were. Then, once he got in their face, he could turn around and score a big goal or create one for his linemates with his speed and skill.
Stars fans should be pretty familiar with the pros and cons of players who play on the thin line of discipline. Steve Ott was a mainstay in this role in Dallas for many years and, like Roussel, he became an instant fan favorite. Like Ott, Roussel's style of play opens him up to taking penalties. There were many times this year when he went a bit overboard and seemed to forget that his first job was to play hockey, and to do that he needed to be on the ice or the bench instead of the penalty box. Like any agitator, he had a bit of trouble at times keeping his game clean and keeping focused. This was never so evident as in game five of the playoffs. He seemed over-excited from all the mental damage he was able to cause in games three and four, and he went overboard and contributed to the Stars unraveling in that game.
On top of that, secondary scoring was an issue all season and for a while it looked like a lack of consistent secondary scoring would force the Stars out of the playoffs for a sixth straight year. Roussel was part of that, as unfair as it is. There was a portion of the season around the midway mark and right before the final push where the secondary scoring throughout the lineup dried up and so did Roussel's offense. This is a bit unfair because Roussel would be a perfect 3rd line winger or 4th liner on a really deep team, but the Stars' lack of depth forced him, Eakin, and Garbutt to play a pseudo second line role for long stretches. While they didn't look bad in this role, still driving play forward and getting a lot of looks, they didn't have the scoring touch of regular second lines and it showed. That being said, Roussel displayed flashes of the skill and finishing ability to become a secondary option for the Stars in the future.
The Bottom Line:
Roussel is Roussel. He's never going to stop giving 150% and he's never going to back down from a challenge. Because of that, he'll get in trouble sometimes. There will be games where we love him and wish we could adopt him as a son, and there will be other games where we will curse the day he was signed because a stupid penalty or over-exuberance will cost a game. That should be expected, but in those moments it will be important to remember that every team needs players like that and Roussel is perfect for that role. He's far from one-dimensional, he plays good defense and his offense is only going to get better as he matures and works on his skills.
Vote Now: Rate Roussel on a scale of A to F (A being the best of course) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season.