Ottawa Senators’ forward Chris Neil has been a long-time fan favourite. Having played the entirety of his career in Ottawa since his first NHL game back in the 2001-02 season, it is no secret that he wants to stay in town and end his career where it began.
Throughout this year, questions have been raised as to whether or not this would be his last season. But, with the way he entered in this season – having lost some weight in his efforts to up his speed – there was a certain feeling that the 36-year-old veteran had some unfinished business. And, despite the fact that the love for Neil has depreciated over the years, he has been a more dependable fourth line player for the Senators as of late. Early Tuesday morning, TSN’s Darren Dredger confirmed that Neil is looking for one more.
Nothing imminent. Ongoing talks btwn Ottawa + Chris Neil re: extension. Mutual interest in Neil retiring a Sen. 1000 gm milestone next yr.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) February 23, 2016
Love him or hate him, a player of Neil’s style deserves some respect for being able to reach for the 1,000 mark. And whether or not his play specifically deserves another year, you can bet Ottawa has the respect to give it to him.
Chris Neil’s Play Has Changed
In the “tough guy” era, Neil’s post-brawl smile in which he cheerfully raised his arms while showing off his two missing front teeth was what earned him his charm. In his 16-year career, Neil has dropped the gloves 224 times in 954 games. In his terms he may actually be slowing down, having fought just seven times so far this season.
Assuming he stays healthy, Neil will fight has way towards his 1,000th game next season. Following that on-ice celebration and recognition from the team and its fans, it’s safe to imagine that then Neil will be satisfied to hang up his skates at the end of the 2016-17 season.
Looking away from fights and his soaring amount of penalty minutes, Neil has changed for the good this season. Through 60 games this year, Neil has three goals and 10 points. Although it’s nothing ground-breaking (he is, at best, a fourth liner), the Senators fourth line in general has done a good job of creating and sustaining pressure this year. And though those improvements aren’t all due to him, many Ottawa fans can reluctantly agree that Neil has been better.
Not only has Prince not been a disappointment, he's been impressive & basically resurrected Chris Neil's career. pic.twitter.com/AxTiCEsCzM
— Callum Fraser (@CallumFraser18) February 22, 2016
Whether you choose to admire the earlier days of his fighting career, or the fact that at the age of 36 he has played every game this season, find a way to respect Neil. Because despite popular demand, he wants to play his 1,000th game in an Ottawa uniform and you can bet he’s going to get what he wants.
“At the end of the day, you want to keep playing as long as you can.” – Chris Neil (Ottawa Sun)