I like the Zenon Konopka signing, most of all because I like watching tough hockey teams who stand up for each other, but where are all these forwards going to fit?
For arguments sake, let's say the top 12 forwards are:
You might argue a player here or there, but that's a good approximate of what we will probably see (Ryan Shannon must now be officially out).
Where does that leave Mika Zibanejad, Stephane Da Costa, Erik Condra and Roman Wick? And that's not to mention that GM Bryan Murray says he wants Jakob Silfverberg to stay in North America. Da Costa and Condra in particular are going to be in tough to make a lineup that they may have expected to be on opening night. Zibanejad can go back to Sweden with Silfverberg and it would probably be the best for them anyways. But at least Murray has created some heavy competition here among the forwards, but if Nik Filatov somehow doesn't work out (even though my guess is he will), the Senators will be a little bottom heavy with third and fourth liners and lacking a distinct threat past their first line.
But why get nervous in July?
As for Konopka, I once worked at a fairly decent restaurant downtown Ottawa and was working the night the Anaheim Ducks had their "Rookie Dinner" here in town during the 2005-2006 season. There are a lot of insane stories I could tell about that night, but I don't think it's wise to subject my readers to such abject debauchery. Yet I remember Konopka very well. He had just been called up to the NHL a few nights before and was one of the official rookies along with Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Francois Beauchemin (who had played some previous NHL games in seasons past but was still considered a freshmen and fit enough to pitch in on the enormous bill).
Let's just say Konopka is not a shy person. This guy was the life of the party, running around the room and causing all sorts of madness, making a greying Scott Niedermayer shake his head a few times (that I saw) and leading the rookies at the front of the room in a sing-along which was part of their initiation. Guys like Perry and Getzlaf looked at their feet uncomfortably and warbled out of tune with goofy smiles but Konopka held his head high and sang his heart out in front of veterans like Keith Carney and Sami Pahlsson.
It was quite the sight, and later on Konopka was the victim of a vicious sour cream shoe-check administered by Mr. Pahlsson.
My gut feeling is that Konopka is going to be an important part of that dressing room, now that he's a proven veteran, and it will also let Matt Carkner and Chris Neil stay on the ice more often, rather than having to platoon nights throwing the gloves.
Right away he'll be a fan favourite due to his Ottawa 67's and Brian Kilrea connection, and he's an underrated player who can usually break pucks loose in the corners, or at least leave a few bruises if he loses the battle.
In short, you'd rather have a warrior like Konopka wearing your uniform than seeing him line up against you with that shit-eating grin plastered all over his face, warning you to keep your head up in the corners.