With the Flames signing James Neal to a 5 year deal we had some questions like: who is he and what are the Flames really getting? Dalton from Knights On Ice was kind enough to get us the 411 on a player he had the pleasure of covering last season. Here's what he had to say:
M&G: What are the Flames getting in James Neal?
KOI: The Flames are getting a scorer, plain and simple. His reputation is probably a little better than the reality, thanks to that one 40-goal season (propped up by an insane 18 PPG). Not that he’s bad, but like any trigger man, he runs hot and cold. Needs a good center or his production is capped, as he’s not necessarily a creator. Has played more than 71 games just once in the past five seasons.
M&G: On the ice the numbers look good. What kind of player is Neal off the ice?
KOI: He seems like a good guy. There are a few people in the Pittsburgh press he has rubbed the wrong way, but a few like him as well. I interviewed him in Dallas on opening night and he was very kind to me personally, but I wouldn’t put too much in that? Overall, he seems like a good guy, but sometimes if things aren’t going well he loses some patience. From what I have heard, he has grown a lot during his time with Nashville as well as Vegas.
M&G: The Flames could be shuffling their Associate captains around this season. Is Neal the type of player that could sport an "A" on his sweater?
KOI: I think so. He grew to be a leader on Nashville and was a big locker room presence for VGK this past year. He came up with the “Golden Misfits” tag after all, and a lot of younger players looked up to him.
M&G: Is there any reason for Flames fans to worry that his play from last season won't continue in Calgary?
KOI: Honestly, I think he’ll be better if he stays healthy. I’d guess the 3M line stays intact, so Neal plays with Johnny G and Monahan? If so, that’s a much better group than Perron + Haula. We could see a return to 30+ goals if he plays a full season. At worst, you’re looking at probably 25g, 20a. This is his best situation to play in since riding shotgun with Malkin. Nashville he was mostly with Jarnkrok. Yikes.
M&G: What has the reaction been in Vegas to Neal signing with Calgary?
KOI: Very mixed. He meant a lot to the team last year, on and off the ice. Fans have a strong attachment to him. Having said that, the term and $$ commitment concerned a lot of people and most are happy to not give him 5x5.75. He’ll earn that his first three years probably, but as not-fast, injury-prone guys go, I think those last two seasons will be unpleasant. Still, Vegas lost 2/3 of the second line (Neal+Perron) so the feel will be a lot different in the 2018-19 season.
A HUGE thank you to Dalton for fielding some of our questions! For more info on the Vegas Golden Knights follow them on Twitter @GoldenKnights, follow Dalton @dalton_mack and their website.