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2018-19 Player Report Card: James Neal

The James Neal Era hasn’t exactly been a success.

Calgary Flames v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

James Neal: Forward

Regular Season: 63 GP, 7 G, 12 A, 19 Pts, 28 PIM, -5, -2.5 CFRel%

Playoffs: 4 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 Pts, 0 PIM

Individual Grades

MarkParkinson14 = (F) Go ahead, tell me that’s harsh, tell me I’m an idiot. I. Don’t. Care. Neal was an absolute dumpster fire this season in Calgary, after being a major cog in Vegas’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2017-18. I’ll be honest, when I looked and saw he played 63 games I had to double check it because he was so ineffective it felt like he barely played. If the Flames can get ANYTHING for him, they should deal him. Just cut the chord and admit (much like Jagr) that this was a good idea on paper, but it failed miserably on the ice. Neal set career lows in goals, assists, point, attempted shots, PPG and ATOI in 2018-19. So, yeah....F.

MilhouseFirehouse = (F) Treliving signed a 31 year old coming off a 40 point year for too much money and too much term and it blew up in his face so bad they had to buy him out after two years. That guy’s name was Troy Brouwer, and he was one of the biggest flops in franchise history. He then attempted to mitigate that disaster by identically replicating it with another 31 year old coming off a 40 point year for even more term and even more money. That guy’s name is James Neal, and as of now he is one of the biggest flops in franchise history. This was a bad idea from day one. A month into the season I made this comparison and it hasn’t left. Neal barely showed up and skated like he had fifteen pound sandbags strapped to his ankles when he did. Unfortunately his contract is just as much of a boat anchor as he himself is and it’s almost immovable now. We’ll be stuck listening to the “he’ll find it eventually just you wait, he’s such a clutch veteran!” crowd all year again, but barring a miracle recovery or a miracle trade, we’re either gonna need earplugs or acceptance to get through another godawful season like Neal just had and shows no signs of escaping from.

Madeline Campbell = (D) I’m really struggling with this one. Because it isn’t fair to look at Neal’s season and say “well, he really didn’t live up to his contract,” because he was really paid for his one season performance in Vegas, and that was an anomaly. He was bound to regress eventually. He was never going to live up to that contract. That said, Neal wasn’t exactly a key contributor, by any stretch of the imagination, this season. He was still able to bring them a bit of depth scoring, and we give him credit where it’s due for that, but more often, he looked like a non-factor out there.

Would he have probably had better numbers if they parked him with Johhny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, like it seemed was the plan when the signing was made? Probably, yeah. But Elias Lindholm was much better in that role, and you weren’t going to take him off that line in favor of Neal, after that trio found the chemistry that they did. So Neal was stuck in a depth role, and he just never really found a way to drive his own offense. And maybe he bounces back some next season. I hope he does. The team needs more out of him than he was able to give them this season.

MGMacGillivray = (D) For the majority of James Neal’s career, his job was to score goals and not much else. He spent his career up to this year often being lined up alongside some really good centremen, so when he fell to the bottom six in the Flames depth chart, he struggled to make any other meaningful impact. Was this a down year in a team/system for the Neal, or is regression starting for the forward that will be 32 in September.

I doubt the Flames will be able to find a taker for his contract, so if he’s back one more year I’m okay with it. However I’m sure both sides are exploring all realistic possibilities for a split after this year.