The French winger had a number in his eyes that would have meant a lot to his team — and then his knee got ripped to shredsFaced with a lengthy summer of rehabilitating his surgically repaired knee, Antoine Roussel could be morose.The France-born winger had surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee at the end of March. The usual recovery period is six to nine months, meaning he might be ready as early as late September or as late as Christmastime.But given what we’ve come to know of the resilient Roussel in his first year with the Vancouver Canucks, it’s no surprise he’s not hosting a pity party.He’s just ready to get down to work. He wants to play again, as soon as he can. That’s motivation enough, he says.“It’s a first-time experience. I hope it will be the last,” he said last week as the Canucks met with reporters at Rogers Arena for the final time in the 2018-19 season. His frankness has become familiar. Want the truth? Roussel is almost always ready to share what he knows.Before he and his family head to Montreal for the summer, he’s hoping to do a little bit of exploring around Vancouver and B.C.They didn’t really get to do that last September, when they first moved to town. He was dealing with a concussion that slowed the start to his career in Vancouver.
Antoine Roussel registered about a half point a game for the Vancouver Canucks while defining “hard to play against” for the likes of top players like Edmonton’s Connor McDavid.
JASON FRANSON /
THE CANADIAN PRESS
“Here it’s so nice,” he said. “The start of the season, I wasn’t able to enjoy the city. But now, I can be myself, with my family. We’re going to explore the city. Discover B.C. a little bit.”Of course, not quite the way he’d like.“It’s beautiful here, but the only thing is I can’t hike. I can just sit,” he said with a bit of a laugh, acknowledging the limitations of his huge knee brace.“No Grouse Mountain or other places. Normally I’d say, ‘Oh, I’ll play tennis. I’ll do this, this and this.’ Not this year.”So while he’s keeping upbeat and ready to put in the work to get his knee back to where it needs to be, there is one thing that’s nagging him.“The most frustrating thing is I’m not going to be able to work on the things I really want to work on,” he said.“At the start of every summer, you’re always thinking, ‘I want to come in to camp in top shape, I want to have worked on my skills.’ I think that’s going to be the hardest part for me, being delayed on that.”That he’s going to miss his skill-development window will be a bit of a motivator as well.“If I’m (back) early on the ice at some point, close to six months, and can work on that, then I’ll be happy. I really want to work on stuff and I probably can’t for a really long time.” That the result for Roussel in a collision with Brendan Lemieux on March 13 at Rogers Arena was a knee injury and not a head injury, that was a surprise to all — including the Canucks’ winger.“I thought I’d come back to play, I thought I had a big charley horse or something like that. I was more worried about my head. I thought, ‘Holy f— that was a big hit.’ And then I was fine but my knee was weird,” he said.It didn’t take long for the team’s medical staff to determine it was likely he’d suffered serious knee damage — but they didn’t know right away if he would require surgery.A visit to a specialist confirmed it was a tear to the ACL in his right knee. Two weeks after the injury, he had surgery.Years ago, it was the kind of tear that might end a player’s career, but modern medicine means it’s nothing but a hard road back to health and his playing career.And while there was an option to perhaps avoid surgery, Roussel said it felt most prudent to just have the procedure done right away.“Just do it (right now), rather than wait and try to rehab it and then you have to have surgery and you’re not back until February, and then suddenly you’ve missed two years,” he said.“I’d rather just miss a couple early games than a whole season.”There’s some unfinished business for him, too. Before he got hurt, he’d set a career-high in points, tallying 31 in 65 games, just shy of a half-point per game average.In recent years, that was production expected from second-liners; and even though scoring is up around the NHL, that’s still tidy production from a player who actually is the definition of “hard to play against.”“I was pretty happy with the way I played. I felt confidence. Some nights of course were better than the others. Had ups and downs this season,” he said. “I was hoping to reach the 40-point mark.“When you pass 30 you look at the 40 and when you pass the 40 you look at the 50. I’ve been stuck at 29 a couple years. I had one good season (2016-17, he had 27 points in 60 games) and then I got injured the last 20 games with a thumb injury.“It always seems like when things are going well, it’s something that just holds me back.”His days in Dallas had always suggested he was an underrated driver of offence. He proved that in Vancouver. Now he’s motivated to prove it firstname.lastname@example.org/risingactionCLICK HERE to report a typo. Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email email@example.com