Is Zenon Konopka Fighting Too Much?

I am not one of those people who feel that there is no place for fighting in the game of hockey.  I enjoy a good tilt as much as the next guy, or girl, and enjoy the momentum swings winning a fight can provide.

Zenon Konopka squaring off with Shawn Thornton of the Bruins (Photo credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

What I am not a fan of, however, is the prearranged, fight for the sake of fighting.  Which brings me to Zenon Konopka.  The newly signed Ottawa Senator has suited up for 13 of the Senators’ 19 games so far this season.  He has had 8 fighitng majors in those 13 games.  I admire the man for sticking up for his teammates when the need arises, or to provide a spark,  but not all of his fights were as a result of those types of situations.

Take last night’s game in Calgary.  The game was just beginning to get some flow when Konopka squared off with Tom Kostopoulos of the Flames.  It was a fairly  entertaining fight, but a meaningless one.  There had been no ill will to that point in the game between the two teams and there was no spark needed, as both teams skating pretty well.  While watching the game, it seemed like Konopka went looking for the fight, like he thinks he has to do that to stay in the league.

I am of the opinion that if Konopka plays a hard game, wins his faceoffs and plays a reliable defensive game, he will have a job in this league.  It might not be every night, but for 60 or so games a year.  He is not a big man by NHL tough guy standards, and it is just a matter of time before he gets seriously injured since he doesn’t pick his spots and takes on all comers.

Konopka leads the NHL with 71 penalty minutes, which is 13 more than 2nd place Zac Rinaldo of Philadelphia (Chris Neil is 3rd).  Even though Zenon will never be a big scorer in the NHL, and fighting let him get his foot in the door, there is no need for him to drop the gloves 20 or 25 times a year.  Based on the percentage of games played and the number of fights so far, he is on pace to have 32 scraps in 56 games.

Konopka has earned the right to pick his spots, and he is more valuable on the ice than in the penalty box in most situations.  Paul Maclean can’t send him out for an important defensive zone faceoff if he is 80 feet across from the bench in the penalty box.

If I was behind the Senators bench or watching from the press box, I would be asking him not to eliminate the fights he engages in, but to pick his spots a little better.  When the situation calls for it, go ahead, but otherwise, just play the game.  10-15 fights in a season is more than enough for a player like Konopka.  He is on pace to at least double that.

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Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.

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  • gwplant

    What you fail to understand is with his reputation based on leading the league in PIM’s the last 2 years and with no other tough guy in their lineup i.e no Carkner has been huge and no Neil even though he picks and chooses his opponents, Zenon has to step up against any comers otherwise his reputation is shot, when he was fighting to stay in the league alot of the guys he challenged are in the situation he is in now, they didn’t have to fight but they did and it kept him in the league. You might not like it but there is a code and unwritten rules at work in the game and these are just a couple. Trust me when I tell you given the choice he wouldn’t fight unless he had to and rarely if ever does he initiate in a bad situation having said that he will rarely if ever back down to a challenge i.e Thornton due to the reasons listed above. The organization is not stupid and they did their homework and knew what they were getting, bottom line ZK is a +1 on his season has a very nice goal and has done a good job of policing for his team without a heavyweight like Carkner in the lineup which has allowed some good young skilled players to show their stuff. All these criticisms of ZK are just from those who don’t know the true nature of the job.

  • senshot_jared

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not criticizing him or the path he had to take to make it into the league. I respect that, and I have watched him play since he was a rookie in the OHL with the 67′s. I just think that he shuld pick his spots a little better, and he made it to the league by fighting his way there, but given the opportunity has shown he can do more than fight. He got to the NHL by fighting, but doesn’t need to “just” be a fighter to stay.

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