Where Are They Now? Zenon Konopka Edition
Where Are They Now?- Zenon Konopka
When you ask someone 'who is your favorite player?' you may get responses of such Sidney Crosby, Marian Gaborik, Evgeni Malkin, or even John Tavares on the Islanders front. If you ask my lovely wife the same question....
It truly boggles my mind how someone that has a great mind for the game and knows her hockey would find such a admiration for a 4th line player that doesn’t exactly do things that chicks dig.. like hit home-runs or score 40 goals.
For reasons unknown, she has a true affinity towards him, so much in fact that she made up a shirt that stated simply 'Bring Konopka Back!' and subsequently wore the shirt on Monday to his first game back on the Island as an Ottawa Senator.
Where to begin with Zenon Konopka?
He started his career playing junior hockey ironically in Ottawa in 1998. He played four seasons with the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL. In 242 games with the 67’s he scored 53 goals while amassing 100 or more penalty minutes in his final three seasons. He wasn’t drafted by an NHL team but found his niche in the ECHL with the Wheeling Nailers. In his first season he averaged over a point-per-game while continuing to spend a slew of time in the penalty box. After various ECHL/AHL stops he made his NHL debut in 2005-06 with the Mighty Ducks Of Anaheim. In 23 games he had 7 points and 48 PIM. His main success came in the AHL in the following years thereafter. He was a 50 point scorer in back-to-back seasons and was finally given a full-time opportunity to play in the NHL with Tampa Bay for the 2009-10 season.
His 2009-10 season with the Lightning found him a home in the league. He became an agitator and a fighter. His offensive prowess wasn’t noticeable but leading the league in PIM during that season caught the attention of many, including the New York Islanders.
The 2010-11 season was a difficult one for the Islanders, especially in the first half of the season. To a man, the team looked defeated and ready to pack in for another season. Konopka, however, wasn’t as easy to give in and throw in the towel for yet another losing season. He brought the team together for the second half of the year. They were one of the best teams during the second half, beating playoffs teams for the good majority of their wins and playing with playoff-esque intensity nearly every night. However a rare off night led to a 2-0 defeat to the Penguins which saw Rick Dipietro get his face broken by a Brent Johnson punch and Blake Comeau receive a concussion from a cheap, Max Talbot head shot. The team plotted their revenge in their next meeting. Nine goals and over 300 penalty minutes later, the Islanders were not a joke anymore and Konopka was right in the middle of everything, on and off the ice.
A fan favorite and a leader, he wasn’t resigned in 2011-12 and went to Ottawa, a team that was picked to finish last in the entire league. His role as a leader on a young team has really shown through this season. He isn’t a 30 goal scorer, but he will defend his teammates no matter what the size of the opponent. He comes ready to play, every night, something the Islanders have really missed this year.
My take on not re-signing Konopka
I am not as big a ‘Z’ fan as my wife, but I really enjoyed having him on our team. He cared about his teammates and had their backs, first and foremost. He had his best friend P.A Parenteau on the team as well, it couldn’t get any better! I understand they thought Marty Reasoner was an upgrade, especially in the scoring department (14 goals the season prior) so in that regard it made sense. But Reasoner looks like he is at an open skate when he is on the ice. Konopka played every shift like it was his last, mainly because it could have been. Z isn’t all fights and agitating. His face-offs were in the top tier last season and continue to be solid. Earlier in the season with Ottawa, he would be on their power-play for his ability on the draw and to screen goaltenders with his large frame.
If I had to pick Reasoner or Pandolfo vs Konopka, I'd take Konopka every time. As a character guy, he is top notch and deserved a better fate.
For a team that at times lacks heart, getting rid of the player that best exemplified it is frankly disconcerting.
(Photo Credit: MVerminski/Flickr)
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