OTF Player Report Card: James Neal

We're going down the roster and grading each player's performance this season. Next up, the hero this city needed.

Season Stats

67 23 14 37 57 221 10.41
5v5 P/60 5v5 SAT% 5v5 SAT% Rel 5v5 SCF% 5v5 ZSO% 5v5 PDO 5v5 TOI/Gm
1.83 57.02 5.37 58.02 19.78 101.67 14.20

Season Summary

If there was ever an offseason move that illustrated the change in philosophy for Nashville, it was trading workhorse Patric Hornqvist and utility player Nick Spaling for James Neal. Neal was everything those guys were not - a big player who played big, a filthy fast shot, a touch of nastiness, and a damn handsome man with dangerous hands.

Neal benefited greatly by the roster addition of Mike Ribeiro, and the rise of Filip Forsberg. While he didn't come close to his career high goal number beside Evgeni Malkin, Neal became a player to watch on the ice and showed some skills the surprised us. And he began to forge a reputation for being a clutch player as the season went along. Remember that Lightning game? The Caps game? There's a few more too.

Neal spent part of the season beside Mike Fisher and Colin Wilson, which might have stunted his scoring some. Couple that with an untimely UBI, and Neal's numbers start to make even more sense. However, this year he shot well below his career average. His 10.4% is tied for his career low. In a related story: the power play wasn't great this year, and that's where Neal was absolutely deadly for the Penguins. Still, not a bad Nashville debut for a guy who replaced a pair of fan favorites.

GF GA GF60 GA60 GF% CF60 CA60 CF%
Together 30 12 3.73 1.49 71.4 73.38 47.06 60.9
Neal 21 21 2.73 2.73 50 62.89 56.12 56.12
Forsberg 30 24 2.91 2.33 55.6 62.09 53.45 53.7

Highlight Moments

OH MAN. This is going to be fun.

Fun Fact: Jason and I were in St. Loo for this. I boldly told the crowd around us "It's okay, we're still going to lose in the shootout." I was happily wrong.

Let's also not forget scoring a goal 8 seconds after one was disallowed due to a high stick.

All of his goals are full of hate.


Spirit Animal

Grizzly bear. Majestic, but prone to fits of rage where it attacks anything in its path.

Not quite. Grizzlies aren't that handsome outside of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. How about a shark of some kind? Dude never stops skating, has a temper he suppresses at times, looks freaking great, etc. Let's go with that.

And no, Rich Clune, I'm still upset you deleted the picture of Neal getting his hair done before the season opener.

The Road Ahead

He's James Neal. He'll be here for a while. In fact, his contract is nice and he's just about to reach his peak (he's 27). Plus, he's a legit top line winger that allows Nashville to set the table for their 2-4 lines. There's very little to not like about his game.

Hopefully, GM David Poile can find him a center to play beside so he doesn't get stuck beside Mr. Responsible Mike Fisher. He did swell beside Mike Ribeiro, but in situations where Laviolette wanted to balance the lines Neal got placed beside Fisher. Mike Fisher is a fine NHL player who will likely step aside in the next 2-4 years as one of the best Predator forwards, but "James Neal needs someone to pass the puck to James Neal in order to be James Neal". If not Ribeiro, who? Colin Wilson? Someone in a trade? Calle Jarnkrok? We'll see. He fits the plan here in Nashville. The coach and GM agree, and he seems to be happy here.

OTF Average Grade: B

What grade would you give James Neal for 2014-15?