Edmonton Oilers: James Neal does not belong on the same line as Connor McDavid

Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images) /
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The NHL routinely does things that make it look very amateurish as a pro sports league.  Inconsistent officiating is probably the biggest thing, although the NHL claims it coaches officials on missed calls or calls that were made that shouldn’t be. We can only hope this effort is ongoing.

And there are the failed locations of franchises.  For example, continuing to insist on the Coyotes staying in Arizona, despite the fact they’re crying out to be moved to a place where hockey is more popular.  I can only imagine how much money that franchise is hemorrhaging during the pandemic.

Seriously, I once saw the results of a survey of Glendale Arizona residents done, and I think it was 42% of the residents of Glendale that wouldn’t care if the Coyotes left town – almost half the population.  Imagine if the Flames or Edmonton Oilers were going to leave town, how much of an outcry that would create in their respective cities.  The Oilers have already seen that once in their existence.

My own cousin’s inlaws have a condo in Phoenix, and he told me you could get tickets to Coyotes games in pretty good seats for $10 apiece – and those tickets would include free hot dogs and pop.  That would never, ever happen in Edmonton.

And Arizona is the biggest problem, but it’s not the only one.  The Florida Panthers have been struggling for years.  The NHL put a team in Atlanta AGAIN in 1999 despite the fact that they already put a team in Atlanta in 1972 and it also failed.

The first incarnation of Atlanta ended up moving to Calgary in 1980 where they remain the Calgary Flames to this day.  The 2nd incarnation into Atlanta – the Thrashers – ended up moving to Winnipeg in 2011 to become the 2nd incarnation of the Jets.

Now arguably both franchises were mismanaged throughout their lifetime, but what about Atlanta in 1999 was screaming out that they suddenly became interested in hockey that was different in 1980 when the franchise moved the 1st time?

It was a stupid idea to try another franchise in an already failed market.  Even if these franchises are managed well – see Tampa Bay Lightning – people often don’t care because they don’t care about hockey. Tampa Bay failed to draw fans even when they won the cup in 2004. Then there’s the problem with bad owners they’ve brought in.

The Nashville Predators almost went under because their early owners turned out to be criminals.  John Spano was a fraudster who almost sunk the New York Islanders.  The Toronto Maple Leafs were a dumpster fire in the 70s and 80s thanks to their complete cheapskate of an owner Harold Ballard, and the NHL did nothing to intervene in his craziness by outlawing some of his ridiculous business practices – or so they should’ve done.  Ask an old-timer Leafs fan about that one.  Ask Lanny McDonald and Darryl Sittler how that era of Leafs hockey went.

James Neal does not belong on the 1st line of the Edmonton Oilers

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And so it should be no surprise when NHL.com came out with line combos for the Oilers prior to the season and had James Neal on the 1st line with Connor McDavid and Zack Kassian.  Seriously, I’m not making this up.

What a piece of nonsense this is.  You want a guy whose legs have lost a step or 2 to play on the 1st line against the toughest competition the NHL has to offer with the fastest skater the NHL has to offer?

At this point, Neal is what he is as a player – an elite PP specialist who’s a slow skater and plays badly at evens.  This is why you play him in the bottom 6 against the softest competition at evens but as soon as the 1st PP unit comes out, then out comes Neal over the boards.

Any hockey pundit with a brain could see that Neal doesn’t belong on the 1st line with McDavid, he’d just drag him down.  Now if we were to go back in time and replace the current iteration of Neal with James Neal circa 2014-15, then no question he would belong on the 1st line.

But it’s not 2014-15, time travel hasn’t been invented yet – at least in a non-science fiction way – and Neal’s body has broken down a little.  And of course, he’s still a better fit on this team than Milan Lucic was at the time they were traded for each other.

But it’s painfully obvious that this line combo was thrown together by someone who obviously knows nothing about hockey and has never watched it.   It would be like hiring me on short notice to put together a team lineup for an NFL team.  I don’t watch NFL football and I don’t follow NFL football short of watching YouTube videos of a sarcastic humour-style channel.

Hot. Oilers make the right call sending Tyler Ennis to waivers. light

This is obviously more for the entertainment value than for knowledge of the sport itself.  It wouldn’t make sense to have me put together an NFL team’s lineup card because I don’t know enough about the sport to comment on it.