James Neal vs. James van Riemsdyk

steve laidlaw




After doing some reading in the forums about "magical" fourth year breakouts and potential breakout candidates for next season, I felt inspired to write this week's Cage Match article on that subject. This week we will take a look at two potential breakout stars that are just destined to battle one another. We're taking two Atlantic Division rivals, LW vs. LW, Power Forward vs. Power Forward, James vs. James, winner take all. I am excited, are you excited?


Let's get ready to rumble!


In 2009-10 both James Neal and James van Riemsdyk (JVR) came bursting out of the gates and had poolies absolutely scrambling. Was Neal really breaking out as a sophomore? Was JVR really worth the hype and maybe the Calder?


Neal's 22 points in his first 18 game and JVR's 18 points in his first 17 games had people thinking they were both headed for 70-point seasons. Those early streaks proved to be nothing more than mere teases however. JVR saw his gravy train come to a screeching halt when Philadelphia fired head coach John Stevens and replaced him with Peter Laviolette, while Neal fizzled as the season wore on due to conditioning and general inconsistency, as many young players do.


This season was no different for Neal. He shot out of the gates like a cannon ball but was slowed when linemate Brad Richards got hurt and then stopped dead upon being traded to Pittsburgh. JVR, on the other hand, really had his ups and downs this season continuing to fail to earn the trust of Laviolette. He bounced around the lineup leading to many hot and cold streaks. This is not uncommon for young players but is absolute torture for us poolies.


As you will see in the table below Neal has been the better fantasy player since 2009-10, but he also has two years of development on JVR, including one NHL season and two pro seasons total.