There were some references in the trade deadline thread about Zajac being similar to Richards which I strongly disagree with. Rather than hijack that thread I figured I'd start a new topic. I personally feel that while Zajac is a bit underwhelming from a points perspective, he does a lot of other things well defensively and away from the puck that go unappreciated. To compare him to Richards this season to show how they aren't the same player:
Zajac plays with better teammates but against tougher competition with less favorable zone starts and their stats aren't identical.
Zajac: 19:55 TOI/GP, 2:21 PP TOI/GP, 2:01 SH TOI/GP
Richards: 13:41 TOI/GP, 1:23 PP TOI/GP, 0:49 SH TOI/GP
Zajac: 2.0 Scoring Chance For%, 4.2 Corsi%, 6.4 Fenwick%
Richards: -3.9 Scoring Chance For%, -2.9 Corsi%, -5.1 Fenwick%
Shot Based Stats
Zajac: 50.2 Shots For%, 5.8 Relative Shots For%
Richards: 48.6 Shots For%, -6.5 Relative Shots For%
Goal Based Stats
Zajac: 46.2 Goals For%, -6.1 Relative Goals For%
Richards: 43.9 Goals For%, -12.6 Relative Goals For%
Faceoffs and Zone Starts
Zajac: 55.5 FO%, 48.3 ZS%
Richards: 48.0 FO%, 52.9 ZS%
If you want to see how different their usage is in than check out the chart from War-On-Ice.
Using Own the Puck's Horizontal Evaluative Ranking Optics further illustrates all of this:
The point is neither of these guys are going to light it up offensively but Zajac does a lot well defensively and away from the puck to help out his team, unlike Richards who was a drain on his team. I know I'm ranting a bit but I really think Zajac gets a lot of criticism that he doesn't deserve. The problem is this team is so depleted of talent up front, that Zajac is asked/expected to do more from a points perspective than what should really be expected from him. I'm sure their are teams out there that would love to have a guy like Zajac on their roster.