Is Neal the Real Deal?

Updated: October 18, 2019
Edmonton Oilers James Neal

James Neal would like to forget the 2018-19 NHL season.

The perennial 20-goal scorer managed to score just 7 goals and added 12 assists in 63 games with the Calgary Flames. To say it was a disappointment for Neal and the Flames would be an understatement.

Fast forward to the 2019-20 season, Neal is part of the Edmonton Oilers and many pundits were questioning the move by the team. However, Neal has jumped out to a blistering start, netting 8-goals and adding an assist. He even had a 4-goal performance in one game and was looking like the James Neal of old.

Neal is first to admit that last season was a nightmare and that he feels much better this season. “I feel good. Obviously, last year wasn’t the best of seasons so change is good and I felt this was the right spot to be. So I’m feeling really comfortable here and off to a great start so far . . . Its been a lot of fun. There’s been a lot of change here, coaching staff, GM and a lot of new faces so, everything’s been really good so far.”

Not only are things looking up, Neal’s four goal performance set a franchise record for the most goals in the first three games to start the season. That’s not bad considering that the Edmonton Oilers franchise had the likes of Gretzky, Messier and McDavid in their lineup through the years.

When asked about what is different this year, Neal is very candid. “I felt like last year was tough. I didn’t play much, I was kind of in a checking role that I had never really been in before. It was just kind of weird overall. I just never really felt that I got a chance to play there. It’s kind of weird when you sign a five-year deal and you think you’re going in and be a top player and it’s not really the way it worked out. Obviously, both teams wanted to make a change. I was really happy it worked out, everything is great so far.

There’s no denying that the Edmonton Oilers took a chance in signing Neal but that gamble has paid dividends early in the season. However, watching Neal on the ice it is obvious he is more comfortable and is fitting in quite well with his linemates. Neal has been a pure goal scorer throughout his career and with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as his centreman, Neal’s career is definitely poised to make a rebound.

Photo Credit Dennis Schneidler-USA Today Sports

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