Big Expectations for James Neal

Last year Ray Shero brought in winger James Neal at the trade deadline to give the Pittsburgh Penguins an offensive boost. Neal, who struggled without a play making center for the Pens, disappointed most Pens’ fans buy only scoring 1 goal in 20 games with the Pens.

Neal also had just 1 goal and 1 assist in the playoff series loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Penguin’ fans were very critical of Neal. No one seemed to care that Neal was playing with a new team in midseason, adjusting to a new system and new teammates. Chemistry doesn’t just develop overnight.

Not to mention that Neal was playing with a Penguins team that didn’t have its two top centers and scorers. Neal was either being centered by Jordan Staal or Mark Letestu. Staal is a great hockey player but not nearly as creative or offensively talented as Sidney Crosby and/or Evgeni Malkin.

I’m not worried about Neal though. Neal is just 23 years old and has scored 24, 27 and 22 goals in his three NHL seasons. This year Neal has been moved from left-wing to right-wing and will most likely be centered by Malkin, at least until Crosby comes back.

The Penguins lack depth at the winger position. Neal has all of the tools to be a top-line winger. He should flourish with either Crosby or Malkin as his center.

I love what Neal brings to the table. He has good size matched with good quickness and speed. He also has a great shot and can deliver some really big hits.

Whether he plays with Crosby or Malkin, I expect 25 goals or more for Neal. I expect a big year out of Neal this year. The Pens are hoping for one, too.

However, if Neal starts slow, I expect him to be one of the scapegoats and one of the most criticized players on the team.

Lets go Pens

Mad Chad


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