The Edmonton Oilers Need James Neal This Playoff Run

James Neal #18, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
James Neal #18, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images) /

The Edmonton Oilers are paying James Neal a little too much money. While the contract might not be great, there is nothing the team can do that can change that now. For the Oilers and Neal, the playoffs are all that matter.

James Neal is not the player he once was, but he can still be effective on the third line for the Oilers.

With McDavid and Draisaitl split up on the first two lines, getting some goals from the top two units shouldn’t be an issue, it is the third and fourth line Oilers fans need to worry about going into the matchup with Winnipeg.

James Neal used to be a top-line guy. With the Penguins, Predators, and Golden Knights Neal was relied upon to be one of the team’s clutch goal scorers. The Oilers need players with experience to speak up in their locker room right now, and Neal has that experience.

While he has not won a Stanley Cup, he did go to the Finals twice with Nashville and Vegas. Both of those runs featured Neal playing 17 minutes a night, and he scored six goals during each run. The Oilers need Neal to play like that again.

James Neal only has five goals and five assists this season, but that doesn’t matter anymore. The next game against the Winnipeg Jets is all that matters. His potential linemate in Ryan McLeod does not have a lot of experience in the NHL. His ten games this season is all the 21 years old has played in the NHL.

So pairing Neal with the young skilled center might be what is best for the team, and it is time for him to show why he got his big contract in the first place. While Connor McDavid definitely can single-handedly outscore the Winnipeg Jets, the longer the Oilers go into the playoffs the more the team is going to need other guys to contribute.

James Neal is one of the players this team needs now more than ever, and fans will have to wait till tomorrow night to see if he is up to the challenge.