Well kids, you asked for it. Here is my reasoning for why Chris Neil is an integral part of the Ottawa Senators. So what are those reasons? Is it because he's one of the best forwards on the team? Well let's see.
Jason Spezza's better. Kyle Turris is better. Mika Zibanejad is better. Jean-Gabriel Pageau is better. Bobby Ryan is better. Milan Michalek is better. Cory Conacher is better. Clarke MacArthur is better. Colin Greening is better. Erik Condra is better.
But that's judging by the net effect of scoring and preventing goals. That's not what hockey what is about. Hockey is about how much you want to score and prevent goals. Even if he isn't very good at scoring goals or at preventing them, even if he leads the NHL in minor penalties despite having far fewer ice time than those around him, that's not what it is about. It's about how much Neil wants to win. He's a good guy from from a place I have never heard of in Ontario. That's got to count for something right?
So what if Neil could be easily replaced in hockey matters if he decided to retire tomorrow? So what if he has questionable decision making and doesn't have the highest intelligence on the ice? Hockey is a business but it is also entertainment. If we as fans are more entertained with Chris Neil than someone that can better help the team win, then maybe it is okay. There will be more Chris Neil jerseys than Milan Michalek jerseys at the upcoming home opener. It is also entirely possible that more Senators fans would rather see Neil on the ice than Michalek, so it might even make sense from a business point of view to employ a player like that.
And then there is his role in pumping the crowd up after one of his many fights. That is yet another positive for the paying customers that love Neil. After all, shouldn't the paying customer's wishes play a role in what kind of entertainment is displayed on the ice? At some point Chris Phillips is going to leave and someone else is going to have to fist bump the team as they skate off the ice after hard earned wins.
Chris Neil is not the best option for the Ottawa Senators in winning games. At his cost, he is easily replaceable and bettered in things that matter for winning hockey games. He does have intangibles for sure. But those intangibles aren't hidden traits that help the Senators win games. The intangibles are reasons why Joe from Arnprior will call the local radio station after a 3-2 loss in which Jason Spezza scored two goals but missed the open net late in the third period. Thus it was still Spezza's fault. The Senators may have lost, but they had Chris Neil and he tried his very best. Certainly more than anyone else. That's good enough for Joe and many other Senators fans.