Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 7/5/14
New Predators winger James Neal understands that he needs an image reboot in Nashville. Known as gruff, being difficult to deal with, and even a risk on the ice during his four years in Pittsburgh, Neal comprehends that he needs to make some changes to both his game and his attitude. “Your emotion gets the better of you,” Neal, a former 40-goal scorer, said of his style of play. “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. 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.” With athletes, it’s tough to sometimes get a read on them. We know them only in certain areas – in locker rooms or on display in arenas. Rarely do we know them away from these spots. This is what makes them complex, and why Neal, still just 26 years old, is very much a mystery. “I don’t think James deserves the reputation he has because he’s himself and not processed,” said Rob Rossi, who covered Neal for the last four seasons for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He sometimes rubs people the wrong way who are some politically correct guys.” That would include new Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford, who was not exactly complimentary when he dealt Neal to Nashville during the June 27 NHL Draft. When asked about Neal’s character he said, “Everything comes into play when we’re possibly looking at moving a player.” This makes sense from a general manager’s perspective. Neal has been suspended three times in his career for three reasons: intent to injure, kneeing another player in the head along with head hunting. Translation: Neal is not exactly known as a clean player.
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