Senators Player Profile: Zenon Konopka

This is the sixteenth in a series of profiles on each player for the Ottawa Senators.

Zenon Konopka, C/LW, Contract: 0.7/12 (UFA)
UFA 2011 (Murray), 6’0, Shoots L, YOB 1981, Niagara Falls, Ont
2009-10 72-2-3-5 -11 265pim (33 fights) TOI 8:08 Hits 109 FO% 62.3
2010-11 82-2-7-9 -14 307pim TOI (25 fights) 10:11 Hits 110 FO% 57.7

After spending four years playing for the Ottawa 67s, the undrafted Konopka spent another seven in the minors trying to earn a full-time roster spot in the NHL.  He was finally given his opportunity with Rich Tocchet’s Tampa Bay Lightning, where he made an impression with his fists (leading the league in fighting) and with his faceoff acumen.  He was subsequently signed as a UFA by the Islanders, where his ice time increased and his fighting majors dropped.

As a former 67, rumours of Konopka coming to Ottawa have been floating around forever (the most recent is www.ottawasun.com/2011/06/26/sens-should-target-free-agent-konopka).  There was mutual interest between the player and organisation, as new coach Paul MacLean is a fan of what Konopka brings to the table and for Konopka, he’s made Ottawa a part of his life (running a hockey school here among other investments, http://www.ottawasun.com/2011/07/05/senators-toughen-up-sign-konopka).

While his toughness is a key element of being signed, I expect the Sens won’t require Konopka to fight as much as he has been–there are enough players on the team willing to drop the gloves (Chris Neil, Matt Carkner, and Zack Smith particularly) that he doesn’t have to shoulder the load.  Given how much Ottawa has struggled on faceoffs over the years, he adds a great deal of stability in that department.  His addition makes me wonder about Jesse Winchester‘s future, given that one of the few things Winchester provided was strength on faceoffs.  In terms of expectations, I believe Konopka‘s totals will rise slightly because his fists won’t be smashed to oblivion the whole season.  I can see him putting up 10-12 points with 3-5 goals.

Konopka‘s interview after being signed (July 5th): http://www.facebook.com/TEAM1200
An long fight with Daniel Carcillo: http://www.hockeyfights.com/fights/98179
Beats up Dave Steckel: http://www.hockeyfights.com/fights/91150

Next up is Jason Spezza.

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