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Predators’ Neal: ‘I have to change and be better for it’

Jun 30, 2014, 10:09 PM EDT

James Neal Getty Images

As talented as James Neal is, the scoring forward has, in the past, made headlines for running afoul of the league’s player safety department, resulting in numerous suspensions.

On Friday, the 26-year-old Neal was traded to the Nashville Predators during the first round of the NHL Draft. For Pittsburgh, moving Neal was simply a matter of trying to “change the mix” with the Penguins, according to new general manager Jim Rutherford.

The topic of his three suspensions, including his latest for kneeing Brad Marchand in the head, was brought up in a conference between Neal and reports on Monday.

“Your emotion gets the better of you. There were things that have happened in my game that you regret. I have to change and be better for it. I’ve changed as a player, I’ve grown as a player,” said Neal, as per The Tennessean.

“I’m still young, I have a very long way to go. Mistakes happen and I’m going to be better for it and move forward and not let that stuff happen again. I have to concentrate on being a leader on this team and taking my game to the next level.”

  1. lowenni - Jun 30, 2014 at 10:14 PM

    Glad to see he knows what he has to do. This trade was probably a wake up call for him. I don’t think he’s a bad guy and he’s a hell of a player when he’s on, he doesn’t need distractions like this highlighting his career. Good luck to him in Smashville. If they had landed Spezza I think they would actually be a really good team. I”m interested to see how Weber looks under Laviolette’s system. Anyways, I digress. Neal will clean up his act.

    • c9castine - Jun 30, 2014 at 10:50 PM

      james neal is a good person. ive seen enough of him to know that…heard him speak enough. there are reasons he got traded. A, we already have top forwards without him. hes not “necessary”. B. he provided an oppurtunity to save a little cap space, was very easily movable for a different type of player management views as necessary to win. C. his behavior and discipline – and in that order.

      james neal will learn to control himself, will continue to score 35 goals or so a season (especially with a proper center, although dont think neal is ONLY a sniper. hes a decent playmaker too.) and will be a leader for that team sooner rather than later.

      personally though, im pretty happy with the trade. i think it works well for both teams

      • blackandorangeforlife - Jun 30, 2014 at 11:48 PM

        Are you serious?
        A…Top forwards he is not necessary? ……Pens had no depth and it killed them Neal was 3rd, 2nd and 2nd in goals for them the last 3 seasons
        B…Cap space?..Hornqvist is $4.25 mil…Neal $5mil….And the Pens still have to sign Spaling still…I’m sure he will make at least $500k
        C…. Behavior and discipline….3 suspensions and 3 fines….Rumor says even the players had chats with him and still Boom…..This trade might change him time will tell…..See Matt Cooke
        This trade makes the Pens better IMHO but may kill them just the same….See Jordan Stall

      • c9castine - Jul 1, 2014 at 12:40 AM

        neal was a second line winger obviously. thats not a depth problem. depth problems occur on the 3rd and 4th liners when you have sutter playing with like, literally 15 different wingers all season like minor leaguers, taylor pyatt, and 0 goal joe vitale. i think craig adams had like 4. tanner glass might have had 2 or 3. thats where depth problems occur buddy, not on the second line.

        yeah, cap space. the penguins have 7 forwards signed. i know your mathematically challenged, but they need atleast 5 more. some are in the form of minor leaguers, some are RFAs. spaling is an RFA that made 1.5 million last year so im willing to bet the qualifying offer extended to him was not a 1 million dollar decrease. it was probably a 250k raise. somebody had to get signed to fill his roster spot. it was basically neal for hornqvist straight up as far as money goes, and it saved us close to a million bucks.

        yeah, he had behavior and discipline problems..not sure what the argument is there.

        “see matt cooke, see jordan staal”….ok see what jordan staal? he has scored the same amount in carolina as he did in pittsburgh except we paid him much less to do it. in return we got a great 3rd line center who made a big step forward late last year and is an excellent 2 way player, penalty killer, and leader. the whole organization loves him. whats more? we got a defenseman who is maybe ready to play in the NHL (i actually dont like him, but well see) and the 8th overall pick that turned into a defenseman many think is going to be a bonafide star. (derrick pouliot).

        strike 3. your out

      • m1k3g - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:49 AM

        I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… anyone who thinks the Pens have “greatly” missed Jordan Staal doesn’t know jack about the Pens. I won’t go over the numbers, because the numbers speak for themselves, but I will say this:

        Given their salaries, I think most people would take Sutter at this point. Well, anyone except fantasy hockey players with stats knowledge from 5 years ago or get all of their hockey knowledge from ESPN.

        The Staal trade is the number one reason I was disappointed when the Pens hired Rutherford. How are you gonna fire your GM and then replace him with someone that said GM used as a Ned Beatty stand-in to reenact that scene from Deliverance? Yeah, THAT scene. OK, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but does the name Jussi Jokinen sound familiar? Rutherford’s recent track record is less than stellar.

  2. multiplemiggs - Jun 30, 2014 at 10:15 PM

    MMmmm Yea Daddy CumInMyAss 8===D

    • ntvd7 - Jun 30, 2014 at 11:12 PM

      James Neal rides the bangbus

  3. pj608 - Jun 30, 2014 at 10:25 PM

    He will be fine… i think he will fit in Nashville well. They just need a center.

    • claudegirwho - Jun 30, 2014 at 10:52 PM

      Who gonna pass him the puck? He certainly can’t create his own chances

  4. mvshark - Jun 30, 2014 at 10:45 PM

    Where are all the Pens fans now who spewed venom at me for the past 6 months when I was criticizing Neal? He now admits to everything I was saying about him…funny I have not gotten any apologies from those Penguin fans…not that I expected one…

    • c9castine - Jun 30, 2014 at 10:53 PM

      oh im sorry are you criticizing loyalty and defending “one of your own”?

      thats how pittsburgh thinks. when your here, your one of us and well defend you right or wrong against outsiders. we deal with our business on the inside. thats evident with the firing of a GM and coach where nothing negative ever came out of the organization itself. media made some stuff up but even that wasnt too juicy.

      this isnt new york, or washington.

      and no, i hope your not waiting for an apology. that would be a mistake.

      • titansbro - Jul 1, 2014 at 8:18 AM

        oh god really? come off the soap box buddy. i like the bruins but i’m the first to tell you that brad marchand is a punk & i’d like to see him gone. i won’t defend dangerous & dirty plays because the guy happens to wear the jersey i root for. i guess you’d also defending roethlisberger for allegedly raping chicks because… well… “he’s one of you”

  5. icelovinbrotha215 - Jun 30, 2014 at 10:50 PM

    The dude can score. No need for the extracurriculars.

  6. stixzidinia - Jun 30, 2014 at 11:02 PM

    I’ll defend him for kneeing Marchand in the head. Nothing regrettable about that. In fact he should get a medal and be knighted for it.

  7. jacketsfan7 - Jun 30, 2014 at 11:16 PM

    Is it just me or was the second comment on here really disturbing

  8. Stiller43 - Jun 30, 2014 at 11:47 PM

    This isnt a wake up call – he WANTED to be traded. Remember that report a couple months ago that he denied that he wanted to be traded? Its been confirmed that he was the anonymous high profile player that indeed wanted to get out of town – it couldnt have been confirmed while he was in town as to preserve his trust and he couldnt come out and confirm it since he was still signed long term…

    Idk, i liked neal, but he desperately needed a big time playmaker to get him the puck (something he doesnt have in nashville), and he always found himself in trouble over dumbass actions on the ice. I wish the return we got looked better right now, but we’ll see how it turned out come fall/winter.

    • icelovinbrotha215 - Jun 30, 2014 at 11:56 PM

      I wonder why he wanted out? Because he saw that the Pens needed more help? He didn’t jive with some of the players? I’m curious as to why he wanted to leave a place where he had individual success.

  9. pitpenguinsrulez - Jul 1, 2014 at 12:08 AM

    Looks like Neal can’t get drunk in the South Side anymore. I like Neal but his antics got old quick. Also once he got paid, he became a different player.

  10. chanceoffleury - Jul 1, 2014 at 1:47 AM

    I’m still really sad to see him go. I’ll be rooting him on in Nashville though. I’ve always maintained that I think once he gets into a locker room with a coach who can really reign him in he’d really be able to truly break out into his own elite forward and not somebody just feeding off the Crosby/Malkin setup factory. So, so many of his bad penalties were him retaliating and he made himself too easy of a target. It’s his biggest weakness and he wasn’t good at hiding it. As soon as the Pens got on a powerplay the other team always knew exactly who to target to get a retaliatory slashing or cross checking penalty to get the 4 on 4. I swear Letang or Neal took a third period penalty at the most inconvenient of times every game. My dad and I would bet on how late into the third period of a tie or 1 goal game one of them would take it. Hopefully Lavy can break him of the bad habit.

    But, when he wasn’t taking penalties he was my favorite player. I know that’s probably not a popular opinion, but when he was playing on the edge without falling over it I loved his style. I loved how quick his release was. I loved that as a skilled forward he wasn’t afraid to lay a huge hit. I loved watching him and Malkin skate circles around other teams whenever they were both synched up. I like to remember Neal’s tenure in Pittsburgh as the kind of player he was when he scored that overtime goal against Tampa a few playoffs ago, or him and Evgeni Malkin starting a photo-bombing war in post game interviews last year, or him starting Neal’s Neighborhood to get local Pittsburgh kids who can’t afford it into Pens’ games. I like to remember how he graciously accepted his snub from Team Canada but was thrilled for his teammates, or him losing a shootout in practice and having to wear a Hawaiian shirt for road games, or being the first one to make fun of his horrible pregame soccer skills, or the Neal who scored some of the dirtiest, goal scorer’s goals against Ottawa to record his first playoff hattrick last year against Ottawa (the final goal he scored against Karlsson can be referenced for anyone who says he doesn’t create his own chances). When he is on he is so much fun to watch. It’s a shame he’s gotten the reputation he has because aside from those few but hard-to-forgive incidents he has been so much fun to watch and his wrist shot won’t easily be replaced. He did a lot to keep them the powerhouse perennial contenders they are despite huge injuries to every other top liner that gets to stay, and is a better person and teammate than he’s probably gotten credit for.

    If by some crazy chance you read this, even if it’s not with the Pens I hope you get your name etched into Lord Stanley one day, Mr. Neal. Because this is one fan who is gonna miss ya in the black and vegas gold. Good Luck in Nashville and I wouldn’t mind seeing the Pens meet you at center ice next June! ;)

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