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Wild 16-17 season Eastside Hockey Manager prediction

What can a video game tell us about the Minnesota Wild and the upcoming season?

I ran a simulation with the Minnesota Wild using a 2016-17 on Eastside Hockey Manager, also refered to as EHM. Eastside Hockey Manager is a game developed by Sports Interactive and published by Sega released on December 1st 2015 (but it was available on Early Access before that). The game is currently officially available only for PC, but can also be played on a Mac, according to The Blue Line forums. The game is unlicensed so it does not include real players but the game supports databases made by fans and communities which allows for up to date rosters and even retro rosters to be available. Check out The Blue Line forums for some more information on the rosters and other tools available for the game.

After spending a couple hours editing my saved game to fix the coaches the database I used, I got started. Unfortunately, I was not able to find a more updated database so the schedule was based on the 15-16 season.

For this season I used the presumed line combinations of:

Zach Parise - Eric Staal - Charlie Coyle

Mikael Granlund - Mikko Koivu - Nino Niederreiter

Jason Zucker - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville

Zac Dalpe - Tyler Graovac - Chris Stewart

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella - Jonas Brodin

Nate Prosser/Christian Folin - Matt Dumba

Devan Dubnyk / Darcy Kuemper / Alex Stalock (for some reason the database had him ranked over Kuemper)

Even before the season started there was some drama around the league as the Jets and 2nd overall pick Patrik Laine got off to a bad start and he was put on the trade block already in early October.

Unlike last year in the season opener the Avalanche came away with the win, taking the game with a score of 4-2.

Ryan Suter then suffered an injury which kept him out for 2 weeks on the 13th of October, which due to Boudreau's poor decision making lead to Coyle playing 4th line for some games before I intervened and user fixed the lines again. We also saw a shocking decision by the Columbus Blue Jackets who placed their Vezina-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky on the trade block after an apparent poor start to their season. After 15 games our record stood at 9-5-1 which was good enough for 6th in the West but not promising. After 15 games for a positive surprise though Zach Parise had managed 17 points and Jason Pominville rebounding from a poor 15-16 had scored 5 goals and 14 points. The new acquisition, Eric Staal, started off very promisingly with 9 points through 15 games playing either 1st line Center or 2nd line Left Wing. In terms of the entire NHL, Tyler Seguin, Patrick Kane, and somewhat surprisingly Jonathan Toews lead the league, with the top 15 in scoring including point per game players Hampus Lindholm and Drew Doughty.

On the trade front Peter Chiarelli showed again his hatred of young offensively gifted wingers when he sent Jesse Puljujärvi to the Detroit Red Wings for Anders Athanasiou and a 3rd and 4th round pick. We also saw the saga between the Jets and Patrik Laine end, similar to the last time a gifted Finnish sniper played for Winnipeg, with him moving to California, though this time the trading partner was the Los Angeles Kings not the Anaheim Ducks. As a return they received a "hefty" package of  Michael Latta, a 2nd round pick and a 4th rounder. We also saw the Boston Bruins trading Malcolm Subban to the Stars for Radek Faksa in a one-for-one trade, The Washington Capitals sending Andre Burakovsky to Toronto for Martin Marincin and a 2nd.

Zach Parise continued his good play and received the NHL Player of the Week honor on the 18th of November, after a 5 point week, and Ryan Suter picked up the NHL Best Defensive Player of the Week honor on the same week. The Jets having sent Laine to Los Angeles were still doing poorly and decided to fire Paul Maurice on the 21st of November, eventually replacing him with Kevin DIneen. We also saw a 3rd top 5 pick from this summer's draft get moved before December when the Blue Jackets sent Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Colorado Avalanche for Duncan Siemens, a trade likely caused by either unrealistic rosters or idiotic GM's - both of which are possible -and forcing them to decline such a big name player as Steven Kampfer who was being offered to them. The Wild though were struggling having fallen to 10-9-1 after which I returned the original line combinations.

After that the Wild improved a bit with Parise nabbing a second Player of the Week honor on 16th of December and after 30 games Parise had put up 32 points including 16 goals. Jason Pominville was still on track for a nice rebound with 23 points in 30 games. Eric Staal had slown down a bit with only 19 points in 30. Surprisingly Jared Spurgeon was 4th on our team in points with 18. Mikko Koivu was having a disappointing year with only 15 points and Mikael Granlund, his linemate, was doing even worse with only 12. After 30 games our record was 17-12-1.

On January 4th the Blue Jackets let go of John Tortorella after going 14-26-1. Bob Francis replaced him as head coach. The Colorado Avalanche even without Patrick Roy at the helm were not improving, and newly hired Jared Bednar was released already on 6th of January when the Avalanche stood at 16-25-0. Bednar was followed by Ted Nolan.

The Wild, though, had improved from some early season struggles to a 26-16-2 record, and even though Zach Parise did slow down with his scoring he still had 41 points through 43 games (after missing a few due to injury). Pominville kept on scoring at a nice rate and had 37 points in 48 games and Eric Staal was making himself look worthy of his contract with 33 points in 48 games. Spurgeon unfortunately dropped off but both Koivu and Granlund improved during that stretch.

Around the 50 game mark the Blackhawks duo Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were dominating the league in points with 66 and 65 points respectively. Only the Penguins centers were able to keep up with them. Drew Doughty, having apparently forgotten his position, was still hanging on at 8th in the scoring race at 47 points in 48 games.

On the trade front we saw Jim Benning do Jim Benning things again as he sent former 6th overall pick Jake Virtanen to the New York Islanders for Shane Prince, Mitch Van De Sompel and a 2nd round pick. The Islanders also acquired Logan Brown, another high pick from the '16 draft class who got moved, for David Quenneville.

In the West, the Los Angeles Kings, having acquired Patrik Laine, were leading with 72 points and a 35-12-2 record. Followed by the Chicago Blackhawks at 70 points (32-15-6) and then after a drop the St. Louis Blues at 61 points (27-18-7) and the Wild at 56 points (27-19-2). Edmonton, even after acquiring Adam Larsson, still didn't improve and were 2nd last in the conference. The Jets though even after moving Laine and firing their head coach were last, by a wide margin, with a 8-32-9 record.

In the East the Penguins following their Stanley Cup were having a strong season and were leading the Eastern Conference with 67 points with a 31-11-5 record. The Buffalo Sabres, having added Kyle Okposo, Dmitri Kulikov, were 2nd with 64 points. The Devils lead by Taylor Hall were in 3rd. The only big surprise was the fact that after a good 15-16 the Florida Panthers were down in last  with a 20-26-2 record.

The Flyers after making the playoffs last year were not doing as well and they decided to fire Dave Hakstol in February and replaced him with Doug Shedden. The Jets still unhappy with their performance fired a second coach as Kevin Dineen was released on the 1st of March. Only a few days later Kevin Cheveldayoff lost the confidence of his board and was replaced by George McPhee. McPhee then signed Mike Foligno for the Head Coach spot.

On the trade deadline we saw some interesting moves. The Panthers sent Keith Yandle to St. Louis for Glenn Gawdin, The Washington Capitals sent Madison Bowey to Arizona for Brendan Perlini and then acquired Alex Edler from the Canucks for Christian Djoos and a 2nd.

After the deadline the Wild dropped off a bit, still making the playoffs, ending the year with a 44-31-7 record which was enough for the 5th place in the West and 3rd in the Central. The West had the exactly the same playoff teams as last year but in different order. The President's eventually went to the Chicago Blackhawks with 111 points (52-23-7). The Kings came 2nd in the West and Ducks took home 3rd, even with Randy Carlyle. The Tampa Bay Lightning with a good end to their year ended up winning the East, with the Rangers surprisingly taking 2nd. The Devils held on to 3rd. The Canadiens ended up also passing the Penguins and the Sabres by the end of the year. The Bruins made a return to the playoffs and the Capitals after winning the President's dropped to 8th in the East, but still held on to a playoff spot, beating the Islanders by one point. The Red Wings playoff streak was snapped as they finished 10th in the East.

Zach Parise lead the Wild in points with 36 goals and 69 points in only 77 games. Jason Pominville came 2nd with 54 points and Eric Staal scored 21 goals and 50 points. Erik Haula continuing from his good second half put up 22 goals and 48 points. Jason Zucker returned to form with 22 goals and 25 assists. Mikko Koivu had a down year with only 45 points and a -14 rating. Ryan Suter ended the year with 36 assists and 39 points. Mikael Granlund unfortunately did not improve playing on the Wing and ended the year with 15 goals and 38 points. Nino Niederreiter, being very underrated by the roster, got 36 points. Matt Dumba was very disappointing with only 8 points on the year, getting beaten by even Schroeder who only played 48 games. Devan Dubnyk started 77 games playing serviceably ending the year with a record of 41-29-7 and a .915sv% and a 2.61 gaa.

The Art Ross went to Patrick Kane for the 2nd season in a row as he scored 99 points. Malkin and Crosby scored 93 and 92 points respectively and took home 2nd and 3rd place. Toews with 91 points came 4th. Drew Doughty slowed down and ended up finishing 3rd for scoring among defensemen behind Erik Karlsson and Duncan Keith

The Playoffs:

In round one we faced the Stars, but early in the series Eric Staal hurt himself. I gave Mikael Granlund a chance to play like he usually does in the playoffs and take the 1st line Center spot and he lead our team with Zach Parise to a 4-2 series win. Granlund managed to score 6 points in 3 games against the Stars after Staal's injury and raised us from a 2-1 deficit to victory.

In round two we faced an unfortunately familiar opponent, the Chicago Blackhawks. Going in to the series I was optimistic with Granlund having good chemistry on the first line and Staal returning soon, but the Blackhawks ended up beating us in 5. I even tried to change the lines, but even a game where you can trade Michael Latta for Patrik Laine is realistic enough to have the Hawks beat the Wild in a playoff series.

Eventually the Stanley Cup Finals ended up being the Pittsburgh Penguins versus the Chicago Blackhawks, which ended with the Hawks making a new slogan "4 in 8". The Conn Smythe went to Patrick Kane this time around.


I also had a quick look at Kiefer Bellows and Luke Kunin and how they did for those who doubted the Wild's pick.

Kunin 8+7 (Wisconsin)
Bellows 20+23 (National team development program)