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Photo Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Were James Neal’s struggles his ‘Hamonic’ or ‘Brouwer’ season?

Expectations were high when the Calgary Flames signed James Neal to a five-year deal worth $28.75 million contract on July 2. Eighty-two games (and one playoff round) later, it’s safe to say that this acquisition hasn’t exactly met expectations.

That said, Neal isn’t the first big offseason swing by general manager Brad Treliving not to meet expectations right away. Looking back at the experiences over the first two seasons of Travis Hamonic and Troy Brouwer is illustrative of how players can adjust to new surroundings… or don’t.

Travis Hamonic

Hamonic joined the Flames via a blockbuster trade at the 2017 NHL Draft. A longtime member of the New York Islanders lauded for his two-way play and physicality – and his charity work – the expectation was that Hamonic would slot into the Flames’ second pairing and the team would have two strong pairs.

It didn’t work out. Hamonic’s structured two-way game wasn’t a great fit for TJ Brodie’s style – Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman likened it to improvisational jazz – and the pairing saw a lot of miscommunications, turnovers, and general frustration. Hamonic had just one goal and 11 points on the year, his worst-ever offensive output as a pro.

But after last summer’s swap-out of Dougie Hamilton for Noah Hanifin, things slotted much better in 2018-19. Hamonic and Hanifin played very well together and his offensive output jumped from one goal to seven.

Looking at the underlying numbers for Hamonic (via Natural Stat Trick), there’s a story behind the numbers that speaks to the chemistry problem. Hamonic’s on-ice numbers actually improved between his last season with the Islanders (2016-17) to his first season with the Flames (2017-18): his defensive per 60 minute shot attempt rates dropped pretty significantly across the board on the defensive side and jumped a fair bit on the offensive side. It’s just that his goal differential wasn’t terribly great because when he and Brodie had their challenges, the result high-danger chances they gave up ended up in their net.

Defensive metrics:

CA
/60
SA
/60
SCA
/60
HDA
/60
2016-17 64.2 33.1 31.0 12.7
2017-18 56.8 30.7 25.7 10.5
2018-19 55.0 28.6 26.3 10.3

Offensive metrics:

CF
/60
SF/
60
SCF
/60
HDF
/60
2016-17 50.1 27.4 24.9 10.9
2017-18 60.0 30.3 27.3 11.1
2018-19 65.2 33.9 32.3 13.1

Swapping out Brodie for Hanifin continued Hamonic’s year-over-year defensive and offensive rate improvements almost across the board. Heck, if you only saw Hamonic’s underlying numbers you probably wouldn’t argue that he was having challenges on the ice. After several seasons on Long Island (and in Brooklyn), Hamonic probably just needed some time to get adjusted to a new city, new routine, new role and new team and build some chemistry and comfort.

Troy Brouwer

After a pair of lengthy playoff runs with Washington and St. Louis, Brouwer signed a four-year deal worth $18 million during the summer of 2016. The idea was that he would provide the grit, leadership and playoff experience to bring the ragtag Flames over the top.

It, uh, didn’t go well. Originally tried out on the first two lines, Brouwer gradually slid down the rotation during the 2016-17 season. He wasn’t fast enough to be playing with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, and not a good enough two-way player to play on Mikael Backlund’s line. As a result, he played primarily with Sam Bennett and Kris Versteeg (and later with Versteeg and Matt Stajan). He had his worst offensive season as a full-time NHLer with just 25 points.

The next season (2017-18) was even worse. Turns out Brouwer didn’t get any faster in the offseason and he remained a fixture in the bottom six alongside Stajan and Curtis Lazar (aside from brief tryouts with a combination of Matthew Tkachuk, Michael Frolik and Backlund). He had another rough offensive season with just 22 points. Treliving pulled the ripcord that summer, buying out the remaining two seasons on his contract.

Defensive metrics:

CA
/60
SA
/60
SCA
/60
HDA
/60
2015-16 55.1 29.0 25.6 9.6
2016-17 60.2 33.8 25.2 10.7
2017-18 58.1 28.9 24.0 8.2

Offensive metrics:

CF
/60
SF/
60
SCF
/60
HDF
/60
2015-16 54.2 29.8 24.8 10.1
2016-17 48.2 25.4 19.3 7.3
2017-18 60.0 30.0 23.4 9.1

From his last year in St. Louis to his first in Calgary, Brouwer had struggles across the board on both sides of the puck. His defensive rates cratered with the exception of chances against, but the quality of chances against jumped. Offensively the same cratering occurred across the board. He experienced a pretty decent bounce-back from his metrics in Year 2 with the Flames, but that was getting sheltered a ton by head coach Glen Gulutzan in terms of the quality of the opposition he was playing against. In that context, it didn’t make a ton of sense to keep paying a fourth liner $4.5 million per season if he would need that much sheltering to be effective.

Which one did Neal experience?

Neal’s been a traveling, hockey-playing man over the past few seasons with two straight trips to the Stanley Cup Final (in 2017 and 2018) and he was getting used to his third team in three seasons. For a guy with a lot of mileage on his body, it makes sense that he’d slow down a bit. But was 2018-19’s seven-goal, 19-point season Neal having his Hamonic-style adjustment year or his game falling apart Brouwer style?

Defensive metrics:

CA
/60
SA
/60
SCA
/60
HDA
/60
2017-18 56.2 30.7 26.9 9.9
2018-19 55.6 30.3 26.5 10.5

Offensive metrics:

CF
/60
SF/
60
SCF
/60
HDF
/60
2017-18 57.4 30.2 26.7 8.7
2018-19 56.9 27.8 25.1 9.7

The encouraging thing about Neal’s metrics is that we don’t see the massive cratering that we did with Brouwer. Rather than an across-the-board impact – his numbers aren’t all up like Hamonic or all down like Brouwer – it’s a bit of a mixed bag. His offensive rates are down slightly – though his high danger chance rate is up slightly – and his defensive metrics are largely flat aside from a bump up for high danger chances against. All this while enjoying a lower rate offensive zone starts that he has over the past five seasons.

In simpler terms: his game doesn’t appear to imploding the way Brouwer’s was upon arrival, which leaves the door open to suggest that perhaps there’s hope for Neal to bounce back offensively the way Hamonic did this past season. Neal’s personal and on-ice shooting percentages were among the lowest of his career and points to rough puck luck being the main culprit behind his woeful offensive year. That suggests that if he keeps doing what he was doing last season – and maybe work on his foot-speed a bit over the summer – the bounces should start going the other way before too long.



  • ChinookArchYYC

    Wouldn’t be nice if James Neal started shooting above 10% again, cause that’s what it will take for him to be viewed different in Calgary. It doesn’t look good, but I do still consider him an above average shooter so there’s a chance.

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Hamonic’s problem was D pairing, Neil’s problem was desire, or lack of. He didn’t seem to fit in with the team from the get go. Sometimes when a guy gets a big guaranteed contract they get content, knowing it’s likely his last one.
    Just hope this is last veteran free agent signing.

    • Luter 1

      He was brought in for two reasons, firstly a top 6 who would play with an edge and secondly as a sniper. I mentioned 15 games into the season this guy was done and somebody commented you don’t lose your 20-30 goal scoring talent over one summer. Well this guy did and no amount of training is going to help this stiff legged poor skater back to a top 6. If he’s not top 6 then he has absolutely no role on this team and his heart, dedication and edge along with sticking up for teammates was non-existent. That attitude doesn’t just change, Neal has no intention of getting his nose dirty, he played two aggressive games and ended up injured. He will be a problem in the dressing room this year, cut your losses, him and Czarnik to Canucks for a bag of pucks.

    • The GREAT WW

      Maybe I’m making too much of this; but healthy scratching Neal for the last and most important game of the season hopefully signals the end of Neal as a Flame…..

      WW

      • The GREAT WW

        There was some chatter on a previous article about trading Neal and Dube as a sweetener….
        Would we get anything back?

        What is it worth to rid ourselves of Neal and get back $5 million a year in cap for 4 years of our window?

        WW

          • Albertabeef

            If we add sweetener I’d say add Frolik as well and get a 7th round pick back. If we can get rid of Stone as well. I was just thinking of Artemi Panarin. If we could swing a couple reasonable UFA contracts with Eberle and Panarin our entire lineup could look to be a little better.
            Johnny-Lindholm-Tkachuk
            Panarin-Monahan-Dube
            Bennett-Backlund-Eberle(not in love just saw he will be UFA)
            Mangiapane-Ryan-Czar(maybe offer Simmonds 2x2mil)

  • buts

    A very reliable source told me Neal banged heads with Peters all year long and I don’t believe Peters is going anywhere. How will training this summer improve the slowest anchor on the flames? After the game 5 scratching and the disappointment shown by Tre I believe Neal is Gone. Give up a prospect retain salary and move on.

    • freethe flames

      I have no doubt your source is reliable. Neal expected to be given a chance to play with Johnny and Monny but BP had decided he would try Lindholm there first(and it worked). After that it became painfully obvious to everyone except Neal and a few of his supporters on this sight that Neal did not have the wheels to play top 6 in BP system. After failing to earn a spot based upon his play and not his reputation Neal floundered.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      I expect the Flames would try to move Neal, but I’m not holding my breath that they’d be successful. Who wants a 7 goal $5.75M player for the next 4 years.
      Get used to James Neal in crimson for the long run.

  • freethe flames

    “Rough Puck luck”; not from the games I saw; he was frequently out of position, behind the play, seldom hit anyone, poor defensively and did not bring the intangables he was said to have. Even if he only had 7 goals but played engaged hockey for most of the season i could have lived with it but he did not. He has said he will train harder this summer; great and while I hate being a negative I am not holding my breath that he will rebound.

  • Off the wall

    Hamonic always showed heart. Even though his first season with the Flames wasn’t what we expected.

    Taking Hanifin under his wings and spending countless hours with him, sitting with him and just getting to know him, showed us Hamonic’s character. He’s a beauty!

    Brouwer was slow, like Neal, but when it came to defending his teammates, Brouwer would get involved, drop the gloves and stick up for the team. Remember the cage he had to wear for months?

    Neal is NONE of those things. He tells Smith to get his head in the game, while being guilty of it himself. Fight? Have you ever seen him fight? Or stick up for a teammate on the ice. Nope, in the playoffs, he went to the bench while a scrum ensued, leaving his players to fend for themselves. Neither Hamonic, nor Brouwer would have done that.

    Bounce back season next year. Sure, but not with the Flames. You can’t pay a guy $5.75M and have him benched for game #5.
    That was the final straw for Peters. He knows these players.
    He also knows Neal.

    Treliving will be moving Neal, because he doesn’t FIT, not because of the unsuccessful season he had.

    Treliving wants our team moving in the right direction. Having Neal in our lineup, is the opposite of the direction we should be heading…

    • Director772

      You are so right about Neal, I saw the same scrum and that was the end of any hope I had for him….well except for the hope we don’t see him in a flames game ever again.

    • freethe flames

      Most of us agree that Neal is a square peg trying to fit into a round hole but the question is “what would we be willing to pay to get rid of square peg” What would we get back? I was all in favour of getting rid of Brouwer but what did we replace him with; Neal, I don’t want that to happen again.

  • Gus Fring

    Trade Neal to Columbus for Alex Weinberg, He has had 2 bad seasons and has been a healthy scratch for the second half of the year. He isn’t a Torts style of player and is signed for 4 more years as well. He is a 24 year old playmaking center we can use one of those.

  • oddclod

    Tre was rightfully pissed. The lax attitude permeated. See San Jose’s depth owning Colorado in game 1. Their 39 year old is doing what Neal should have. Owned the depth match-ups. He didn’t sink against top competition. He sank as a third liner.

    Bye.

    • Franko J

      Interesting how when you play with poise, composure, compete, and confidence as a team good things can happen. Maybe the Av’s were rusty, however, it is still disappointing how the Flames gave little effort or resistance to adversity this year in the playoffs. Wasn’t that one the factors why Neal was signed in the first place? To provide leadership when adversity occurred for the Flames. Just another bad signing by BT.

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      Hey Fall? Instead of accusing a seasoned NHL pro of being a drug addict from an anonymous account on a blog, how about you give your real name and the real name of your source, and then contact James Neal and tell him that’s what you’ve done? Or kindly STFU?

      I’m sick of these keyboard warriors talking bullsh!t about ACTUAL PEOPLES’ lives. The truth is, you nor anyone else has a [email protected] clue about his or anyone’s personal habits.

      James is an actual person, man.

      [email protected] your rumour mill.

      • Stu Gotz

        BringtheFire..agreed. The Fall is the guy that jumped all over me for making FN posters aware of the fact that James Neal girlfriend is a beauty NFL NBC sideline reporter. He took offence to my comment. What a hypocrite this guy is!

    • Ari Yanover

      I’m leaving this comment up because people have already replied to it, but yeah, BringtheFire 2.0 is spot on: we DO NOT talk about players’ supposed drug habits here. WE DO NOT DO THIS. EVER.

      • Off the wall

        I respectfully disagree Ari.

        I’ve met The Fall, and he doesn’t make statements for attention, spite, nor unsupported.
        In fact, he’s a rare breed on here.
        I wish we had more members like him and less members like BTF2, who pretend to be something they aren’t. But that’s me.

        We’ve never censored in the past, why now? Because of ONE member and his little tirade shenanigans?
        Maybe someone should just grow up and not pretend he has all of a sudden, grown a conscience?

        Perhaps BTF, can keep his bold statements to himself. It’s not as if he’s made a good name for himself on FN, and speaks for the rest of us.
        He doesn’t. Period.

        Let the members trash or cheer it, it’s not as if it’s going to change the format of FN, nor change how we view one another.

        And Since when does another member have the right to tell another to STFU?!

        WE DO NOT DO THIS. EVER.

        Perhaps there’s a lesson for all of us?

        I don’t think it’s ever going to be common knowledge what a player does for extracurricular activities, but I trust The Fall, more than most.

        • Ari Yanover

          No.

          We do not speculate on people’s hypothetical substance abuses. We just don’t. All we know these people as is professional athletes. That doesn’t mean they still aren’t people. Substance abuse is a whole other world that should mean absolutely nothing to us unless the person it is affecting comes forward with it. There is still a stigma surrounding a lot of this stuff, it’s hard enough for people with resources to get the courage to go to rehab sometimes, what have you not – it’s a whole other world far deeper than a sports blog and reducing a player’s performance to “well I heard he does coke” is insensitive, stupid, and not going to happen here.

          The Flames have had players in the past be open about their battles with alcoholism – that was their choice to go public on it. We do not speculate on it before they do because it’s none of our business and we don’t need to encourage a climate that thinks it’s okay to openly talk about any issues people we do not know may or may not have.

          And, respectfully, you don’t get to disagree with me on this.

          We do not fucking speculate on people’s hypothetical substance abuses. If you want to do that kindly go somewhere else.

          • Off the wall

            Perfect. You get to swear on here but the rest don’t? Double standard Ari, you know it.

            I’m not on here to discuss a players abuse, nor have I ever made a remark about this. Ever.

            You know that. If you want to be upset with me, that’s fine.

            I never once said it’s acceptable. But I’ll defend The Fall, because I’ve met him. He’s a good person. Not malicious, unlike BTF2, who enjoys placing his fangs into a member, so he can come across as feigning indignation.

            I want to thank you for all that you do for FN. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a member here. But my time has come to leave.

            Keep up the good work Ari. When you calm down you’ll see I had no intention of getting into an argument over this.

          • The GREAT WW

            This is what having a guy like Neal on our team does to us; we are fighting amongst ourselves when we should be bashing Oiler trolls……!

            We need to get this guy off our team ASAP!!!!!!!!

            WW

          • Captain Ron

            I have to agree with you Ari that is not what this site was ever intended for. You were doing great until you used the F word at the end though. It was completely unnecessary to make your point.
            OTW seems like a pretty cool dude. I hope he has a change of heart and sticks around.

          • withachance

            The main point was the standard we set around substance use, and how it should not be tolerated here. I really dont think we should be getting into a hissy fit about swearing….

            Just because OTW knows the Fall in person doesnt make it ok for the Fall to speculate/accuse another human being they dont know of substance use. He went too far, period.

          • oddclod

            I’ve been soft banned here for far less. Let the forum be like the internet. As it is. Be sensitive. Disagree. But don’t audit unless it’s hate speec, mysogynist racist etc. I’ve also heard this rumour. Not surprised it’s on the interwebs. Either way, doesn’t matte. ship the apathetic loser out of town.

          • Jobu

            Holy hell. Wtf kind of poo flinging match did Jobu walk into here!?!

            Enhance your calm everyone! We are all friends here.

            Jobus two cents (as always)

            The Internet is full of rumors. Malicious intent or not it’s unstoppable.

            Ari as much as you are trying to defend the players of the sport we all love (and kudos to you for voicing your opinion) you have to understand that this is the internet. People gonna speak. Haters gonna hate. And rumors gonna spread. It’s part of being a celebrity. Neal knew that when he signed his 6 million dollar contract in a hotbed hockey market. This one clearly hit a sensitive note though and sorry for that but these types of comments aren’t new to hockey or this site. Not endorsing it but we should just be treating it the same as the other 80% drivel and nonsense on this comment section. (Including this post)

            Fall – you seem like a good guy. Rumors are rumors. Good or bad – We all spread them here. Personally I don’t see the need to talk about a players suspected drug use though. It’s as relevant as a players love for ham sandwiches.

            OTW you’re being a bit sensitive about Aris response. So what if Ari gets to swear and no one else can? Shes also a contributing owner of this site we all love. Why would any comment force you to leave regardless of who it came from? Jobu wants you to stay as do others do don’t flip out because of one silly disagreement.

            And WW gets my vote for the “Neal is making us fight with each other” comment. +1 to that!

            Also James Neal is my lover.

            That is all.

          • Honkydonk

            Wow.

            F bombs all around seriously? For what?

            Here’s a fact we are citizens in this city and some in the know more than others.

            Sometimes you have friends that worked closely with the players, or you have friends that were bar tenders or you have this or you have that.

            Yes often lots of speculation however the harsh reality unfortunately is that drugs and booze and womanizing is a far greater issue in the NHL but nobody wants to talk about it. Hey no one likes their dirty laundry out there blatantly however as fans looking at these guys that make a fair junk of change and are often role models to our children there needs to be perspective.

            Everyone remember SMID? Well he could barely finish a sentence without swearing, drank like a fish and cheated on his wife and is in fact now with the woman he cheated with.

            The great one and his love for the bottle.

            Yes Johnny actually having an issue he sought help for that was so obvious low level staffers saw it caught onto it were concerned about it.

            There’s Hall a first overall in Edmonton same problem and there’s that German guy in Edmonton now same problem.

            People listen, people see yes average jo bloc citizens often are part of it.

            Waitress being chased to go home with them, husbands with other woman.

            Let’s get real here this all happenings to none athletes and it most definitely happens to and because of athletes.

            And at the end of the day it is what it is! We simply look up to these folks way too much in one hand

            And in another hand who’s to say you or me with $6million a year and five months to spare wouldn’t falter?

            All we want are players that give their best on and off the ice, all we want from these extremely gifted talented and often lucky individuals is to be present at puck drop.. play like it’s their last game and leave it all out there. When we don’t get that then this other stuff comes into it.

            There simply expressing not judging. This is a community site where we communicate it should be open and if we aren’t here nor would the sponsorship money, the advertising funds and whatever pays you fine folks to run this plays.

            Thanks for the fine job cheers

          • Albertabeef

            F-Bombs? What is this JaysNation? Writer there always swears on his blog. But then if you click on the Jays schedule on JN it hasn’t been updated since 2017. Pretty bad for a site covering a team from the center of the universe lol. At least FN is mostly professional.

          • Albertabeef

            You know I’m gonna blame Ari for the Flames flop in the playoffs. It’s all her fault for not changing her avatar. She’s givin the Canes all the Flames mojo! She also turned me into a newt, I got better. Can I change the subject lol

      • The GREAT WW

        I remember it was all the rage to talk like that about Johnny and Money not too long ago.
        Nobody said crap about it then…..
        I’m glad I won’t be reading garbage like that about them anymore!

        WW

        • HOCKEY83

          That was ON fans talking crap about johnny and Monny…Calling johnny…Cokey and what not. That spread to FN and I’ve actually heard people here in Calgary talking about it. I did make comments regarding it back then and i will still make comments regarding it…like i said the most classless type of fans spread these drug rumors. To spread something so horrible about someone that you heard from someone who thinks he knows something because he heard it from someone else shows a real lack of class…especially spreading it online for the masses to spread even further. Absolutely 100% in Ari’s corner on this one.

    • The Fall

      Not trying to start anything other than a conversation. I thought I clearly said this was a rumour. I did not mean it to be a disparaging remark; I don’t think drug addiction to be something to be ashamed of.

      I apologize.

      • Off the wall

        What a long thread! Perhaps the discussion about James Neal brings out the worst in us?
        That’s never a good sign.

        I’m no quitter though. Frustrated at times, but never a quitter.

        I owe Ari an apology. The Fall apologized, he intended no malice. Neither did I .

        I’m sorry Ari. I’ve chosen to ignore BTF’s remarks for a long time. I know he can’t resist the urge to call out people. His penchants have become nauseating though. Calling out someone I deem a friend, well I took exception to that. So I hope you understand why I didn’t take too kindly to another members remarks.

        Its ok to punch me in the nose Ari. I stuck it where it didn’t belong. We’ll call it a Technical Knockout. Sometimes I need habitual reminders, for I can lose objectivity.

        You accomplished that Ari, even though I really wanted to swear back at you, for no other reason than I could enjoy the same satisfaction you enjoyed! 😉

        Ari works like crazy to make this site the best Nation. I shouldn’t have got involved. My apologies Ari, in principle you’re correct.
        Ari did not ban me. She made her point and I accept it.

        • Kevin R

          Hey OTW! Glad you took this road because I value your contribution to these threads. I did think you over reacted but kinda understood. Maybe your hockey pools arent going too good lol. Every site has its internet self proclaimed heroes. I lose it sometimes too & then my language goes way offside. Long run, this is just an avenue for entertainment & a place to post some good & idiotic thoughts we come up with from time to time. That’s all it is. You have many friends on FN.

          • HOCKEY83

            Speaking of Hockey pools Kevin R…I’ve been running my playoff pool for over 30 years now and never once has so my entered teams lost almost all of their players or all of their players in the first round…Quite Amazing.

          • Kevin R

            Yeah its been brutal this year. This is when you draw the the ball that has you picking near the end because by the time it comes to you, you have no choice but to venture off. I have 1 pool Im winning & I picked at the end & loaded up on Boston, Colorado, I have some San Jose & a few St louis. I am the only one that has all my players left in a pool where we picked 16 players per team & there are 12 teams. Two pools I have been totally decimated & a fourth that I am in first yet with a huge lead but I only have 3 Carolina guys left & losing ground badly because Vegas got knocked out. That one was the big money one & would have walked away with it if not for that horsecO*k call. :-<

        • HOCKEY83

          I think this…”We do not [email protected]#$ing speculate on people’s hypothetical substance abuses. If you want to do that kindly go somewhere else.”
          Was not directed at OTW rather more of a drive it home general comment to everyone regarding playing around with random unproven substance abuse comments regarding hockey players.

  • TKO

    early reports were that Neal was pisses because he didn’t get the top 6 minutes that he expected when signing the deal. it will take a lot of good luck and goals for Neal to live down the replay of him coasting during the game losing goal against in the playoffs

  • BendingCorners

    Keeping James Neal carries a large opportunity cost.
    The Flames are at the point now where they have to improve by trading for value – they don’t need futures, they need improvements to the current roster. Some of that will involve taking on more salary (pretty obvious, the better players cost more). And that is where having Neal on the roster causes a problem. If he isn’t part of a trade, the only way to free up the wasted salary (or most of it at least) is to buy him out.
    Imagine for a moment that BT identified two top-six forwards that he could add to the team, pushing Backlund down to 3C (I like Backlund but if he was the 7th best forward on the Flames that would mean the top six was really good). Having a bottom six that included Backlund, Bennett, Ryan, Mangiapane, Frolik and Hathaway, along with Jankowski, Czarnik and possibly Dube, would make the forward group formidable.
    Some of those bottom six would need to part of any trade, as would (likely) one or two defencemen. Cap space would also be essential, since one or both of those new forwards might need a raise. Freeing up cap space means jettisoning players who are worth far less than their contract. Flames fortunately do not have many of those, but Neal is one of them. It is unlikely that he can become a top-six scorer again at the age of 32, and the team has more than enough players to fill the bottom six. It’s a bit heartless but necessary – Neal has to go.

  • slapshot444

    It would be nice to take Neil for someone, anyone, but it’s not going to happen after last season. Give your head a shake. The flames would have to eat so much salary that it would never be worth it. He gets other season to earn his minutes. Neil was hoping that first line minutes and Johnny’s feed would let him get his point totals up, but he was too slow to get anyones pass. He was so out of position that the “coke habit” comment was almost believable, albeit it’s absolutely not true. Any of the players who know Neil stand up for him 100%, Johnny included. We all better hope he comes back with a 20 goal season or he’s only worth chicken poop in a trade. If it’s a total crap out look for some really unusual scenarios like an AHL bury or an early retirement form Neil in year three. He has way too much pride to sit in the viewing box around as an unwanted player. He’s no dummy and sees the future options. I’ll bet a dollar that he comes back in fighting shape and gives it his best to earn a second line spot.

    • Kevin R

      Neal can be moved but unfortunately what became an anticipated free asset has become a liability. Not that Neal cant rebound & have a 15-20 goal season with us or someone else but his impact on the ice was not worth anywhere near the 5.75 mill. He’s playing like a bottom 6 player with a salary that should be no more than 2.0 mill per. Most teams have players that are performing so much lower than the salary & in a cap league, if you have more than one you’re screwed.
      So like some of my weed stocks, do you take the hit now or later because at some point you are definitely going to take the hit. To me, I think Neal still has potential to some teams really lacking in having a forward capable of scoring 20 goals in their mid 6 line up. You either eat salary or take a player back that is having the same impact on another for various reasons. Pick your poison.

  • Alberta Ice

    We were hoping at the beginning of the year that James Neal to Calgary would have been Justin Williams to Carolina. Playoff experience there yes; desire, seemingly not there for James this year. The same lack for Brouwer? When they came to the Flames, James and Troy had similar playoff hockey success. Chemistry with team problem? Or lack of desire problem? Or contented with the rich contract payment made to them? One thing for sure, there are other teams having similar issues: eg: Lucic in Edmonton; Nylander in Toronto land. Oh to find the right contract of term for the delicate balance of proving the player is worth the hordes of money they get. Not an easy task for today’s GM. But the players must love it.

  • MDG1600

    Do we not have better Pro scouts who could see the writing on the wall for guys like Neal and Brouwer? Or maybe the GM just ignored them. Either way in a salary cap world the team can’t afford to overpay guys by $4 or 5 million a year. Any narrative that Neal struggled not getting top 6 minutes is total BS. He got a shift with Johnny and Mony after every PK and did squat.

    • slapshot444

      Good point about the scouting. It was not seen because there was nothing to see. This season was a total anomaly for Neil and no one could explain it. Even though he wasn’t give top line minutes he certainly was given enough minutes to try to redeem himself. A combo of bad coach chemistry, lack of chemistry between line mates, fatigue form two playoff runs topped with a bit of “star” attitude made a really bad cake mix. Even Sidney Crosby has complained about consecutive play off runs and what they do to you. Regardless the season is over and the real speculation can only happen if year two repeats itself. Then Tre has a job to do, meantime its business as usual.

      • Oil consuming Flames

        Regardless of Neal’s poor personal scoring season, he was a part of a team that put up 50 wins. Given that his career shooting% is around 13%, and that his underlying high danger chances didn’t fall off a cliff, next year, with a slightly better year, even 10% shooting rather than reaching his career average, he should be viewed as a better fit. I like everyone, was extremely disappointed in the return he provided for the Flames’ investment, but one year doesn’t a career make. The best predictor of future performance is the history of one’s performance. He will not likely ever return to hi best year, but is far less likely to replay his worst year.

        • freethe flames

          How many good players have fallen off significantly after their 30+ birthday? Lots. As the game seems to get faster guys who can’t skate fall further behind and I suspect he is one of them.

    • buts

      There must be some players with similar contracts to Neal that underperformed who we could swap. Anyone you guys could suggest. Would Corey Perry be one? Spezza? Marleau? Lucic is the guy I’d go after, at least he can fight and has really struggled since his Dad passed away.

  • Puck Head

    Sometimes in life it’s best to cut your losses and move on. This might be one of those times. Neal skates like he needs hip surgery and he is dragging his line mates down with him.

    Assuming no teams will be interested in him and assuming that the Flames don’t want to add too much sweetener to a deal, let him ride the bus with the Heat. I get that he signed a contract and is owed his money, but there comes a time in a players career where he needs to accept that he can’t play at a high level anymore and hang up the skates. If he can’t accept reality, send him down and see how long he lasts. If he lasts the full 4 years then this will speak to his character and confirm that sending him down was the right thing to do.

    If I was him I would be embarrassed. He looks like an aging athlete whose mind is telling him what to do but his body can’t do it anymore. It happens to all of us. Accept it, move on, and save yourself the embarrassment.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Way too much bread on the table for Neal to make a dignified retirement.

      That’s why Tre has to move him any way possible, including buyout, this offseason.

      Neal in the Flames starting lineup on opening night 2019 will be an abject testament to Tre’s colossal summertime failure.

    • Captain Ron

      “If he lasts the full 4 years then this will speak to his character and confirm that sending him down was the right thing to do”
      I dunno Puck at 5 plus mill a year I could last 4 years in the AHL no problem. Most of us do worse things for much much less so I think we could stick it out haha.
      I know what you are implying but that’s a lot of dough to leave on the table and walking away from a job in California no less. I sure wouldn’t care what people though of me if I stayed to the last day of that contract. even if I was a healthy scratch at the time.

  • Dunk

    After watching how the Sharks adjusted to Colorado’s attack for the second period. Makes me think we were really out coached….We continued trying the same crap that wasn’t working…

    • BlueMoonNigel

      How many here were falling over themselves during the season praising Peters for his in-game adjustments? So he suddenly just went full on Gully come the playoffs?

      • Franko J

        I think both the players and the coaches were ill prepared for the playoffs. I truly believe they were too over confident and arrogant that the first round was going to be a cake walk. By game three, BP’s inexperience showed and he was overwhelmed. When he realized that as good as the elite players on this team were in the regular season, come playoffs they were cracking under the expectations is was too late. I think as much as it is invaluable for players to go through the grind of the playoffs, so it is for the coaches.

      • slapshot444

        Inexperience and cold feet. He admitted on garbage day that he would do many things differently next year, including better late season prep. The Sharks are showing how it’s done, hope the Flames are watching.

        • Oil consuming Flames

          2 OT losses. That’s how close it can be the play-offs. Those 2 OT’s go the other way, it’s a different series. I didn’t see a stick in Peter’s hands or skates on his feet.

          • KootenayFlamesFan

            I agree, but also have to say that Calgary was outplayed in all 5 games including the one they won. A normal Smith night and it would have been a non-competitive sweep.

          • KootenayFlamesFan

            Just watching the other series and with the effort the boys gave, they wouldn’t have had a chance regardless of who they faced in the first round. Other than our series these playoffs have been great to watch.

      • buts

        BMN you can have the best game plan and preparation but if your players don’t raise there competition levels up in the Stanley cup playoffs you are done. Our star players didn’t show up especially Jonny Turnover, Sean Monomuffin, Gio I lost a step, No Back check Backlund, Hanimuffin, Frolik, Janko and of course Neal. That’s not BPs fault.

        • HOCKEY83

          People trash this i think because of the nick names but everything you say here is true. I’ve never seen a Flames team play with so little heart and drive to win. From what i saw just Benny, Smith, Hamonic and the 4th line showed up.

  • FlamesFanFromMI

    I was going to go and watch End games but there is too much drama going on here I am just going to go and heat my popcorns and eat them while reading the comments.
    Yes Neil didn’t play well. Yes Neil didn’t get too 6 opportunity but he was given more then enough opportunities to prove his worth. But he failed. Let’s hope he is better next season so we can easily (hopefully) trade him.
    Guys, we are out of playoffs and doesn’t matter who is right and who is wrong. Nor we can change anything in the team. Let’s wait for trade deadline.

  • Rockmorton65

    I think I’m in the minority here, but I think we’ll see a different Neal next year. One thing he said on garbage bag day stuck out to me. When talking about the disappointment of his season, he said something about not training properly during the past couple offseasons due to the Cup runs. If he puts in an honest effort in training, I’m cautiously optimistic we could see a somewhat improved Neal next season.

  • Stockton's Finest

    Somebody on mynhltraderumors.com threw out a possible bad contract for bad contract deal with Buffalo involving Neal for Kyle Okposo. You get one year younger and double the points.

    • Beer League Coach

      Over on HockeyBuzz another commenter suggested the same trade with Oilers trading Lucic to Buffalo for Okposo with each team retaining max salary. Then Oilers and Sabres traded the acquired players to a third team, again with max salary retained. End result being that the third team acquires a player for about 1/3 of the original salary and cap hit. They also cited the league rules regarding salary retention. I haven’t examined it thoroughly but a first impression is that this just might be a viable solution to dumping a bad contract and spreading the cap hit around. The blog was about Oilers, but not sure now who wrote it.

        • Beer League Coach

          Gosh darn it. It was Part 2; not Part 1. After reading the suggestion a second time I am not sure this would save a team anything. Add up the retained salary and cap hit for 2 traded players plus the salary and cap hit on the player acquired from the third team and I think the end result would be pretty much a wash. It would move players around and possibly give a second or third chance to a few players who were not successful with their first team.

    • Kevin R

      I was scrolling some of the rosters & salary hits/terms & I saw some scenarios thought could be worth looking at. But this would be if Tre really felt that Neal needed to move on, that Neal just said what needed to be said bt in a closed door meeting, him & Tre both agreed he will find some way to move him to another team for a fresh start.

      NYR/— Shattenkirk 2 years @ 6.65mill for maybe Neal 4 years @ 5.75 & Kyllington Shattenkirk is still functional & if we move Brodie in a separate deal for a forward like Kadri, may be minimizing losses.

      Anaheim/ Perry 2 years @ 8.625 for Neal & Kyllington I know many loathe Perry but he’s a nasty mean SOB that may have come pretty handy during the playoffs. Also one more year & he would be in potential buyout country if he didnt fit.

      Detroit: Helm 3years @ 3.85 mill who are rebuilding & would covet a good D prospect for Neal & Kyllington
      Not my favorite choice scenario.

      Edmonton/ (Heaven forbid) Lucic & the 8th overall for Neal & Kyllington Neal would absolutely get his chance for top 6 minutes on that team & a needed D prospect for a gorrila we could have used in playoffs for 3 minutes a game & the prize is that #8 overall.

      Just a few thoughts. Buffalo could be another potential team to bring back a contract to move Neal.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Good post! Finally, somebody going past just identifying the Neal problem or hoping the Neal problem will resolve itself as Neal wearing a full backpack climbs Mt. Baldy every week from now until the start of training camp to lose his immense girth and double chin.

        Hey, Kevin, what about Neal to the Sharks for Marty Jones? The likelihood of this happening probably depends on how far the Jones-led Sharks go in the playoffs, and does Jones live up to his role as a leader?

        • Kevin R

          That is pretty similar to picking up Schneider from Jersey. Didnt get very popular because many felt it would be a slight to Rittch. I sure wouldnt add to that like the other scenarios I spit balled.

      • The Feenis

        Awesome! what about something like Neal to Carolina for darling and a pick. You’d then buy our darling at 1.2m for 4 years..we’ve bought our carolinas garbage before

      • Franko J

        Good post. The potential for a trade might be possible with Neal, and unfortunately in order to move him we are most likely adding another piece in any deal.

  • The GREAT WW

    This guy is a professional athlete for Pete’s sake…..
    If he just does a few things this summer I will be happy;

    -Eat clean.
    -Don’t smoke, drink or do drugs.
    -Work on your strength, cardio and flexibility.
    -Work on your skating, puck control and your shot.
    – Take a few boxing classes.
    – Take some yoga classes to relax the body and mind; come back next year with a better attitude.

    Too much to ask from a professional athlete…?

    WW

    • Justthateasy

      Not at all. Not too much to ask. Operative word is professional. You would think that a sense of pride would overrule 6 million bucks.
      He has a nice long summer and it should not be a vacation. Because to take a vacation this summer will likely mean another whole 2019/2020 hockey season vacation. That will mean three vacations in a row and nobody deserves that unless you’re rich of course. Doh…

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Maybe the bigger problem with Neal is not his conditioning but between his ears. If the rumours are true that he came to the Flames with major attitude and kept it all season, including in the playoffs, then no fat farm or ring work with Kenny Lakusta is going to fix that.