James Neal’s hat trick and five point night vs the Columbus Blue Jackets Sunday night, powered the Penguins to a 5-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Neal’s big night really magnified the special season he is having, despite missing 20 games.
Neal has 14 goals and 30 points in 21 games. It’s a 55 goal, 117 point pace over 82 games and Neal’s 1.43 points per game is the top mark in the NHL, ahead of Sidney Crosby who is second in the NHL with 1.41 points per game.
Neal has been overlooked by many for a spot on Team Canada and while Canada’s roster is pretty much all set, is there a better pure goal scorer among potential Team Canada wingers?
Team Canada’s plan all along has been for Steven Stamkos to play on Sidney Crosby’s right wing in the Olympics but Stamkos injury puts that in question.
One name being thrown around now is Claude Giroux playing on Crosby’s right side, along with Patrick Sharp, but with Stamkos situation up in the air, you’d think there would certainly be some intrigue of giving Neal more serious consideration to not only making the team but to have as an option to plug on Sidney Crosby’s right wing.
Guess here, though, is Neal’s dominant play since returning from injury in November still doesn’t get him a roster spot.
As for the Penguins, the team would love to find another Neal on the trade market as the Penguins have the assets to be very aggressive leading up to the trade deadline for a short-term or long-term winger but unfortunately for the Penguins, Joe Nieuwendyk is out of work, though, maybe not for long as Nieuwendyk is a contender for the Calgary Flames GM position.
The Penguins likely have their fingers crossed that Nieuwendyk is hired before March so they can talk Nieuwendyk into a Chris Conner for Mike Cammalleri trade.
The blunder of Nieuwendyk’s career in Dallas was clearly trading a young premier goal scoring winger in James Neal for a third pairing defenseman and that’s what Alex Goligoski is.
Sources have said in the past that Nieuwendyk took a tough negotiation with Neal too personal in the summer/fall of 2010 and many believe Nieuwendyk was determined to move Neal that season because of that. A huge mistake by an inexperienced GM and Dallas would sure have quite a young core upfront right now with Neal, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Valeri Nichushkin