Former referee Paul Stewart thinks James Neal represents everything that’s wrong with the NHL. He’s probably also a bad person.
I have seen enough of Neal’s play over the years with the Dallas Stars and Pittsburgh to know that he is a very gifted offensive player with size, skill and an explosive shot. At age 26, he’s already been a 40-goal scorer in the NHL and he’ll probably do it a few more times in years to come if he stays healthy.
I have also seen enough of his play to know something else: James Neal is not my type of hockey player. He has been involved in multiple incidents, showing reckless disregard for the safety of fellow players. Furthermore, he’s a player who has acquired the reputation for being a diver.
The law of diminishing returns, which I learned in my college days at the University of Pennsylvania, comes into this. For all of Neal’s talent, he is at risk of starting to cost his team more than he gives. Which each new incident, he becomes more and more of a distraction to his own team.