There's a certain level of confidence and influence needed for a new acquisition to re-write the dressing room rulebook, but the on-ice pedigree of James Neal as a 20-plus goal man of 10 campaigns in the League is well documented. It's one that was re-established through five o'clock morning wake-up calls and a meticulous attention to detail within the limits of the St. Andrew's College campus and Gary Roberts High Performance Training in Aurora, Ontario under the tutelage of a mentor, friend, and former NHL veteran after two-straight Stanley Cup Finals appearances and a lost season with the Calgary Flames.
It's the age-old question of 'Where does confidence come from?' manifested in the rejuvenated legs and hands of a talented competitor keen on proving that an off-year was nothing more than a hiccup. It's a line of thought older than the confines of the Nassau Coliseum where the league's Mr. Consistent announced with his four-goal performance that the '18-19 season for him was nothing more than an outlier, and that the Oilers players feel this thing, and this season, could be for real - the real deal.
The question and the answer remain up for debate to this day. If someone had cracked the code by now, there'd be a lot fewer stories like the one Neal is currently writing in an Oilers uniform.
"It's just a really hard thing to describe because if you could do it, you'd want that high confidence all the time," Neal said. "When you get off to a good start, the puck's going in for you. A lot of that confidence is in your head. It comes and goes, and the longer you can hold onto it and try to replicate what you do, it helps out there."