Saturday, July 20, 2019

James Neal Swatch Card

It's now official: the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers have swapped problematic contracts, with James Neal going to the Oilers and Milan Lucic headed to Calgary. Both power forwards on the decline have close to $6M left per year until the end of the 2022-23 season, although Lucic's contract is considered buyout-proof, what with being essentially a minimum-salary deal with signing bonuses while Neal's is a straight $5.75M per year in salary.

This is Neal's fourth team in four seasons, and while the optics on that aren't great, especially considering his reputation as a bad teammate (he may have told goalie Mike Smith to "stop the fucking puck once in a while" last season), one has to keep in mind the actual facts in his case: two of those teams - the perennial division-winning Nashville Predators and first-year expansion team Vegas Golden Knights - both reached the Stanley Cup Final with him in tow. The Flames, for their part, won their division with him last year with a six-point cushion over the San Jose Sharks.

Also, last year was the first time in his 11-year NHL career that he failed to reach the 20-goal mark - and that includes the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

Here's what you get when you acquire Neal: a 6'3", 215-pound guy who can skate, has a very good shot (not "great", not "elite", but just below that, still in the 85-89th percentile) and a terrible temper. Enough that most players won't try to get on his nerves to draw a penalty, because he's mean enough to go so hard that he'll earn a suspension. Some call him the dirtiest player in the NHL, although I wouldn't go so far because the league still employs the likes of Brad Marchand, Corey Perry, Radko Gudas, Ryan Kesler (technically), Lucic and Nazem Kadri, but he's definitely Philadelphia Flyers/Boston Bruins/Anaheim Ducks material...

In the off-season, Neal usually trains with... Connor McDavid. The thing with Edmonton is they technically have three top-line centers in McDavid (the best player in the world), Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. All three possess all-world skill and speed, although Nuge is less bulky and, thus, more fragile. Still, any one of those guys can put up point-per-game statistics with a 25-goal scorer by their side, a number Neal's reached five times in his career (with a high of 40 in 2011-12), including in 2017-18 on the Golden Knight's second line.

Here he is from his 40-goal days, sporting the Pittsburgh Penguins' white (away) uniform on card #GG-JN from Panini's 2012-13 Titanium set and Game-Worn Gear sub-set:
It features a black game-worn jersey swatch that I assume must be from his days in Pittsburgh but could also have come from his time with the Dallas Stars.

He also has international experience, having won a gold medal at the 2007 World Juniors and silver at the 2009 World Championships with Team Canada.

No comments:

Post a Comment