When Antoine Roussel broke camp with the Dallas Stars and was included on their opening night roster, it was a curiosity.
When he scored a goal in his first NHL game on February 1st against the Phoenix Coyotes, it was a good moment for a journeyman player, though probably a singular one, many thought at the time.
When he took two minor penalties after the whistles had blown against Anaheim on February 8th and was subsequently sent down, it seemed an inevitability.
What he's done since after being recalled again on the Stars' Western Canada trip four days later has been nothing short of sensational.
"Roussel has done everything he can for this team," said Glen Gulutzan after Sunday's win. "He set up that [Cole] goal, I thought it was a great play, and then he fights. The reason he's having success is because he does everything right. He works extremely hard and he's fearless. It helped our bench to know that we have guys committed to do whatever it takes to win."
What he's done is this:
Since being granted double-digit minutes in the Stars' come from behind win in Vancouver he's been an even or plus player for seven straight games, and has recorded points in at six of them.
His fame has grown in recent days playing along side Derek Roy ever since the Michael Ryder trade, even appearing on NHL Network's "Arena Cam" after the game yesterday, but he did much of this on a line with Cody Eakin and Reilly Smith.
Erik Cole said on The Ticket post-game show that Roussel and Derek Roy have taken to communicating in French from time to time, so perhaps that familiarity and bonding element should not be overlooked.
Wherever he's been, when he stays disciplined he's shown flashes of things the Stars could use - mainly some nice speed up front in the transition game. While Jamie Benn and Jaromir Jagr take their long, measured strides coming down the ice with skill and size, Roy and Roussel (and now Cole) bring a tenacity and quickness that gives the Stars' counter-attack another dimension.
Can it last?
Did Eric Nystrom's offense? Did all of the excitement from the fan base about Ryan Garbutt? Are there not countless examples in the annals of any franchise's history of guys who make a quick impact, only to see regression in line with what one might call their supposed "pedigree?"
Roussel likely isn't a big part of Joe Nieuwendyk's vision for the future of the team's top-six, but he fits right now. He's contributing and producing at even strength. He's "scaling up" the lineup, like Steve Ott did so effectively in chunks while here, and they'd like to continue taking advantage of it. Franchises need these pleasant surprises along the way to succeed.
His reputation when he signed last summer was one of an agitator, and Stars players made it known that they felt his fight yesterday was important to the game when looking back on it after the fact, but he's been more valuable to them of late on the ice rather than in the penalty box.
He's only taken two minors in this run of seven points in seven games, and if that number stays down he'll continue giving the Stars the option of having three lines capable of offense.
"We didn't take penalties," Glen Gulutzan explained yesterday. "We were the Boy Scouts of America today. It wasn't a pretty hockey game to watch, but at the end of the day if you play enough of those the right way you're going to get results. We got them tonight."
If Roussel can continue to be a part of what everyone around here hopes is a disciplined solution to what ails this team at times, then he gives Joe Nieuwendyk and Glen Gulutzan tremendous flexibility, and perhaps the AAC faithful a little needed excitement in the process.
It's a great story for a guy who was released from Boston Bruins training camp a few years ago and was playing ECHL games as recently as 2011.