Welcome to the 2020-21 season review and 2021-22 season preview player-by-player! In this, and other articles, I’ll be, well, reviewing the Edmonton Oilers 2020-21 season and previewing the 2021-22 season. You can read about the analytics behind my analysis here.
Sail on, James.
Much like we have all offseason, we’re taking a look at all the former Oilers from last year, Neal included.
Neal’s 2020-21 was about as tough as they come. He missed time at the start of the year due to lingering issues from a COVID-19 infection and it hurt the start of his season.
He didn’t suit up for a game until January 22nd, and found himself in and out of the lineup the rest of the way. All in all, Neal ended up scoring five goals and as many assists in 29 games. One tally came on the powerplay where he also added two assists.
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Playing just 12:06 a night, Neal serviced the Oilers fine as a fourth-line player. At 5×5, the Oilers controlled 47.6 percent of the shot attempts, 47.62 percent of the goals and 45.59 percent of the expected goal share.
Despite the goal share being sub-50%, Neal’s 5×5 goals against per hour was 2.26 — the fifth-best rate among Oilers forward. His 5×5 expected goals against rate, too, was tremendous at 2.04 — second among Oilers forwards above 100 minutes of ice time.
The biggest issue for Neal? His salary. At $5.75-million, Neal was being well overpaid for what he was able to provide and as such, the Oilers bought out his contract this offseason.
It was to be expected, however. When he was acquired from the Calgary Flames one of the biggest benefits it provided Edmonton was the cap flexibility to buy out his deal at a reasonable value — something the club couldn’t afford with Milan Lucic. Neal served his purpose well in Edmonton scoring 24 goals and 41 points in 84 games and now, is vying for a spot with the St. Louis Blues on a PTO.
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Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]