With the signing of Zenon Konopka to help shoulder some of the pugilistic responsibilities for the Senators, it was going to be interesting to see what kind of season Neil was going to have. Expectations were that he would continue his physical play, defend teammates when necessary and chip in the odd goal here and there.
Neil had what I would consider his best all around season as a Senator in 2011-12. In addition to seeing near career highs offensively, Neil demonstrated leadership on a young team that showed just how valuable he is to his team. Despite missing 10 games, Neil finished 4th in PIMs and 6th in hits across the league. Neil was one player who excelled during the playoffs loss to the Rangers. He netted 2 goals and added an assist, marking the second straight time Neil has stepped his game up in the playoffs.
An ankle injury cost him 9 games in November, and the was sandwiched in his season-long 11 game scoring drought. With Konopka on board, Neil was called on to fight only 10 times this season.
Despite playing less than 13 minutes per game, Neil chipped in 13 goals and added 15 helpers this season. He totalled 178 penalty minutes.
Neil did have his best season under the circumstances this season, and he was rewarded justly this week with a three year contract extension. The grade I am going to award Chris Neil for the 2011-12 season is: