Enforcer Chris Neil believes head coach Guy Boucher is the sole reason he’s not returning to the Ottawa Senators next season.
In an interview with the Ottawa Citizens’ Don Brennan, Neil, a right winger who’s spent his entire career in Ottawa since being drafted in 1998, admitted Boucher didn’t give him a chance during his first season behind the bench for the Senators.
“I have a lot of respect for Randy and Pierre … I think, if it was up to them, I’d be back,” said the right-winger who turns 38 on Saturday. “But they kind of put it in the coach’s hands and that had a lot to do with it. For whatever reason, Guy never really gave me the chance to show I can play.
Neil further added, he “saw the writing on the wall” with Boucher and his status with the Senators.
First of all, let me say this: YEESH.
Not to be a jackass, but it’s hard to argue Neil deserved a bigger role with any team, let alone the Senators. Production-wise, Neil has been abysmal, posting brutal possession numbers (47.7 percent Corsi For), providing next to no scoring (ten goals in the last three years) all while playing a dying tough-guy role. At 37-years-old, it’s amazing he’s lasted this long in the NHL considering his extremely limited skill set.
Fourth-line players, even ones who have been with an organization as long as Neil has been with Ottawa, don’t deserve loyalty. Especially when it’s already been gifted to them for more than a decade and a half. Closing in on his 40’s, Neil isn’t going to find a regular job in the NHL, in Ottawa or anywhere else.
Boucher understandably wanted to give other guys like Michael Blunden and Casey Bailey, who in theory have more upside when given the chance to play Neil’s role, a shot at a much smaller cost. Out of Ottawa’s roster, Neil would be the last guy I’d commit a regular role too. Understandably, Ottawa doesn’t need him and decided to go a different way, – it’s time for Neil to move on.