Dickie Dunn wrote:No. He's the best goal scoring winger they have, he's 26, on a team friendly deal, and they wouldn't get a player of equal value in return. They need more scorers in the top six, not less. Ohh boo hoo, he's so mean and blah blah blah. Good. This team makes roller hockey and women's hockey look physical. Does he take stupid penalties? You bet. That's what a competent coach is for. With proper coaching Neal can be molded into a smart, physical, goal scoring winger.
He's young, he's on a team-friendly deal, and he's a pure sniper. Those are all reasons to keep him, I'll agree. But he takes dumb penalties, he's dirty and cheap, but not physical, and he disappears without having Malkin to dish him the puck. Those are all reason to deal him.
I heard a defense of Neal's lack of production on the radio yesterday and it was something like, "Take away a star center from any winger and his production will decline." Sounds logical, but Jokinen flourished this playoff year, and Sutter, who was the third player on the line, did as well. Why couldn't Neal adapt?
As for his overall play, he's invisible unless he has the puck on his stick. He's not overly physical, so he's not a beneficial player there -- despite the fact that he is a dirty player and takes dumb penalties.
In general, I wouldn't be opposed to bringing him back and seeing what a new coaching staff and system can do for him, but I'm also worried that a similar argument can and will be made for too many players and, while the coaching staff and style of play might change, the culture within the room will continue to exist. Some difficult decisions are ahead, and some might simply be cut bait type of situations.