Boucher ‘never really gave me the chance,’ says Neil

Getty
11 Comments

As we wrote earlier this week, Chris Neil‘s time with the Senators will end this summer after 16 years in the Canadian capital.

The veteran tough guy isn’t going quietly.

Neil had some words for Sens head coach Guy Boucher in discussing his departure with the Ottawa Citizen.

“I have a lot of respect for Randy [Lee, Sens assistant GM] and Pierre [Dorion, GM] … I think, if it was up to them, I’d be back,” Neil explained. “But they kind of put it in the coach’s hands and that had a lot to do with it. For whatever reason, Guy [Boucher] never really gave me the chance to show I can play.

“Even before I got hurt, I was a healthy scratch for a couple of games and I saw the writing on the wall.”

Neil, who turns 38 this weekend, appeared in just 53 games this year, averaging 7:34 TOI per. He was made a healthy scratch on a number of occasions, but also missed time with a broken finger.

In ’15-16, Neil had a much larger role in Ottawa under then-head coach Dave Cameron. Neil appeared in 80 games skating 9:18 per — but, of course, that Ottawa team finished fifth in the Atlantic Division, missed the playoffs, and Cameron was fired.

Under Boucher this season, Ottawa finished second in the Atlantic on the strength of 98 points, and advanced all the way to within one win of the Stanley Cup Final.

It’s likely Neil was speaking from an emotional place when he essentially called out Boucher. He’s spent his entire professional career with the organization, and departing is undoubtedly hard.

But it’s equally difficult to really call Boucher out for not giving Neil an opportunity. He probably gave Neil as much as he could, and was effusive in his praise of the enforcer’s presence during Ottawa’s second-round playoff win against the Rangers.

“He did a terrific job,” Boucher said of Neil, who roughed up New York’s Tanner Glass in Game 5.