I think it's safe to say that it might end up being a rough week for Pittsburgh Penguins' winger James Neal. First, Neal had an outside shot to replace Steven Stamkos on Team Canada for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. He was not chosen...Martin St. Louis was. Not a big surprise, but obviously still a let down for Neal and Pens fans.
I wish this was all of the bad news regarding Neal but it's not. Last night Neal was whistled for embellishment, which is the third time this season, and the second time this week that he's been called for that. Yikes. Neal has a huge target on his back, and now he could have a phone hearing with the league which could end up getting him suspended for the second time this season.
Neal has already missed 20 games, which is disappointing because he's having a great year statistically. He's on pace for 35 goals, and is playing at a 45 goal pace had he not missed those 20 games.
Now, Neal has a chance to miss even more time. With Matt Cooke being gone I thought that the Pens would at least be able to benefit from the bullseye that Cooke skated around wearing every night. Thus the expression "Two minutes for being Matt Cooke". Now we can basically use Neal for that expression instead of Cooke.
Personally, I can't stand when players dive and perform other forms of embellishment. So I refuse to be biased when it comes to Neal. I am a fan of Neal's game but it's getting harder and harder to defend him. If he indeed does get suspended again, he will have as many career suspensions as Matt Cooke.
And it's not like Neal is getting unfair treatment. Neal was very much deserving of his punishment earlier this season when he kneed Boston Bruins' forward Brad Marchand in the head. Last night he was definitely guilty, hence why he didn't even try to argue. Neal is too good of a player to be doing this kind of crap. As a Pens fan and a fan of Neal I think it's time for Mario Lemieux and company to have a sit down with him because it needs to stop.