The Buffalo Sabres used their position as last-place team in the National Hockey League to their advantage Friday, snatching Zenon Konopka off waivers from the Minnesota Wild with their top position on the wire.
Konopka is an enforcer of the classic type, with 1,049 career penalty minutes in 323 games. So far in the 2013-14 season, he is among the NHL's leaders in fighting majors, with seven. In past seasons he's gone hog-wild with fisticuffs, with 76 total fights in the last three full NHL seasons.
Now he joins a team that already features two enforcers in the form of Cody McCormick (seven fights so far this year) and John Scott (two). There isn't room for them all—and it should be obvious which one is the odd man out.
Scott is the only one out of the three who has no other value on the team besides fighting. His recent goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs was his only point in 57 games with the Sabres and was his first goal in more than four calendar years, as the Buffalo Sabres Twitter feed was kind enough to point out:
The last time John Scott scored a goal on Nov 15/09, Trent Edwards passed for 185 yards in Buffalo's 41-17 loss to Tennessee.— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) December 28, 2013
Neither McCormick (10 goals, 19 assists in 164 games with Buffalo) nor Konopka (12 goals, 17 assists in his 323 games) is going to light up the scoreboard either, but at least they have the potential to make something happen in the offensive zone.
Konopka also has one very important skill the Sabres desperately need: talent in the faceoff circle. He's not only good in there—he's the best.
Zenon Konopka’s career faceoff percentage of 59.6% leads all active NHL players. Next closest is Jonathan Toews (56.9%). (via @EliasSports)— Sabres PR (@SabresPR) January 3, 2014
The Sabres currently rank 27th in the NHL, winning 46.4 percent of their faceoffs.
So McCormick is established as an enforcer who works hard in the offensive zone. The new guy is an enforcer who is a beast in the faceoff circle. What does enforcer No. 3, Scott, bring to the table as his secondary ability?
Taking dumb penalties? Scott managed to play two consecutive games this season (Dec. 12 against Ottawa and Dec. 14 against Calgary) in which, through minor penalties alone, he spent more time in the penalty box than on the ice.
Getting suspended for foolish hits? Just ask Loui Eriksson about that.
This guy is a predator. He was put out there to seek and destroy, and in this case, with his team down two goals [Boston led 4-2 at the time], he destroyed a pretty good player well after he’d released the puck. He was looking for trouble; he’s been looking for trouble every shift he’s been on the ice because he can’t do much of anything else.
Is there room on the Buffalo Sabres roster for both John Scott and Zenon Konopka?
Konopka, despite the tough game he plays, has never been suspended during his eight-year career. He's considered pesky, not dirty.
Along with his pet rabbit Hoppy, Konopka should be embraced by Sabres fans. And he's already shown he is excited to arrive.
As excited as he is to get to Buffalo, the Sabres should be as excited to show John Scott the door. Once the team's injury situation (which currently includes McCormick, along with Drew Stafford and Cody Hodgson) clears up, it should happen swiftly.