As the new NHL season gets closer to starting it is now prediction season. The new EA Sports NHL game, NHL19, released on Friday the 14th of September and I've been enjoying it since release. As I have always been a big fan of the GM mode, nowadays called Franchise mode after going through other titles such as Be a GM and Dynasty Mode previously, I always like to start off the year with a new GM mode to see what I can do. Usually I play with the Wild for my first GM mode of the year, and I like to keep all the settings on to see how the new features work and then later tweak them.
This year though, I hope my tenure as the Wild’s GM isn't predicting the future as I was sacked after three seasons of failing to make the playoffs, thanks to Devan Dubnyk suffering long-term injuries in two of the three seasons and the team just slumping in the third one. I attempted a quick rebuild and did manage to draft a some very good prospects but that wasn't enough to earn me an extension. Even with an AI controlling the team they have failed to succeed very well while I have found mediocre success with the Buffalo Sabres including a few division wins, and a trip to the conference finals.
As much fun as a Franchise mode like that is, for this article I will be doing the predictions using Season mode, simulating all 82 games (and all possible playoff matches), and using the default rosters. Though due to some inaccuracies in the default roster such as Mikael Granlund being a Center, I will be fixing those to make for a more realistic line-up but no stats will be edited. I will be running a few different simulations for this to see if I can I can improve the team myself. For all the simulations I kept injuries off so that a crazy bad injury to Dubnyk or Suter would not de-rail a season. The difficulty is set to Superstar and the game preset to Full Sim.
For the first simulation I chose to not make any trades, waiver pick-ups or roster moves during the season. So essentially I put together the roster and stuck with it.
Marcus Foligno is playing 4th line Center, because the game has his faceoffs ranked as good while Jordan Greenway doesn't have great faceoffs but I still wanted Greenway on the roster over Eric Fehr.
The Wild got off to a good start to the season winning the first three games, scoring a total of 15 goals in them and kept going well through November before hitting a slump in December. In December the Wild went 3-8-2 making their record 18-15-5 going into the new year. Even after recent poor form at the halfway point in the season the Wild were 3rd in the Central, 10 points behind the division leading Chicago Blackhawks and trailing the second placed St. Louis Blues by three points, but only two points clear of the 5th placed (currently outside of a Wild card) Nashville Predators.
The first line of Granlund, Zucker and Staal had a good first half with Staal and Granlund each putting up 35 points through 41 games, though their 5v5 seems to have left something to be desired as Zucker and Granlund were -4 and -3 respectively, while Staal was a 0 in +/-. Their powerplay unit seemed to be clicking though, with Granlund putting up 14 powerplay points by the halfway point of the season, and Zucker not far behind with 12. Staal only had 9 points on the man advantage at that point, but 5 of them were goals. Charlie Coyle also had a good bounce back in the first half of the season as he scored 11 goals and 27 points. Matt Dumba’s first half wasn’t great though as he only managed 12 points and his shooting percentage fell to 2.5%!
Dumba and Brodin struggling together, while Spurgeon and Suter together were putting up solid, but not great results, prompted me to switch Dumba and Spurgeon for the second half of the season.
Devan Dubnyk again looked great in the first half, putting up a .926sv% and a 2.24gaa in 36 games.
At the trade deadline the NHL saw some decently big moves, with the St. Louis Blues going all-in, adding Marcus Johansson from the New Jersey Devils and Tyler Myers from the Vegas Golden Knights (who acquired him earlier in exchange for Nate Schmidt). The Blues shipped out prospects, including Dominik Bokk, in the moves to strengthen their roster. The Boston Bruins also moves two of their 2015 first round selections, Zach Senyshyn and Jakub Zboril, to the Philadelphia Flyers for Wayne Simmonds, Jordan Weal and Dale Weise.
Unfortunately at the end of the regular season the Wild had fallen to a 37-33-12 record, which left the just outside of the playoffs, trailing the Dallas Stars by one point. The Wild appeared to fall on an issue that it has a lot of times, a lack of scoring. With 2.51 goals per game the Wild ranked only 5th in the weak Central division and 21st in the league, and despite a good 2.44 goals against per game average (that ranked 9th in the league and second in the division) they could not make it in. For once it wasn’t even the powerplay that failed, as the Wild had the 3rd highest rated powerplay in the league at 21.8%! The Wild just could not score enough goals, and struggles on home ice posting a 16-18-7 home record.
When it comes to individuals you can’t blame the first line for the lack of success as Eric Staal put up 29 goals and 72 points, while Mikael Granlund matched his career high with 69 points and Jason Zucker had another 60 point season. Even the second line of Parise-Koivu-Niederreiter had okay seasons with all three posting 44 points. Luke Kunin and Joel Eriksson-Ek put up solid sophomore seasons with 30 points for JEE and 27 for Kunin.
On Defense Matt Dumba bounced back to score 35 points during the season after moving to the first pairing mid-season. Ryan Suter scored 27 points and Jared Spurgeon put up 20 points. Free agent acquisition Greg Pateryn was a slight let down scoring only 2 points (both goals) and being a -10 on the season.
Devan Dubnyk ended the year with a 32-25-11 record and 5 shutouts. He put up a .928sv% and a 2.24gaa, both improvements from his 2017-18 campaign and with more games played. Alex Stalock meanwhile proved to be a possible problem with a 5-9-1 record and just a .898sv% and a 3.15gaa.
So if the Wild do not make any moves, NHL19 thinks they will not make the playoffs, but it would be close. Though the same simulation says that the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators will both miss the playoffs so I’d take that with a grain of salt.
Now for a way less serious simulation to brighten up everyone after that grim prediction for the season I created 6 99 overall players, put the on the Wild and simulated another season with the players on every single line possible. I also messed around with the game settings to improve goal scoring a little bit.
The players are named after Disney characters so we have Huey Duck (LW), Dewey Duck (C), Louie Duck (RW), Mickey Mouse (D), Goofy (D), Donald Duck (G).
It took only 5 games for Louie Duck to reach the 30 point threshold, as the Wild beat the Nashville Predators 15-0 on the road, preceded by a 10-0 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes, an 8-1 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks and a 9-1 victory against the Vegas Golden Knights. By the 15th game of the season Louie had already reached the 82 point threshold, having scored his 84th point in the 14th game of the season. It only took 19 games for Huey and Louie to both break the 100 point mark!
By the new year the Wild were on a 38-game winning streak, and Huey Duck was sitting at 66 goals and 167 points in 38 games played. In a game against the Detroit Red Wings on the 12th of January the Wild extended their winning streak to 44 games and Huey Duck broke the single game scoring record held by Darryl Sittler by scoring 4 goals and 8 assists! Just two matches later Louie Duck became the first player other than Wayner Gretzky to reach 200 points in a season. After just 51 games Louie Duck broke the single season scoring record, held by Wayne Gretzky, when he raised his points total to 222 points in a 13-1 victory against the Dallas Stars.
After 68 wins the Wild had their record breaking winning streak ended by the Florida Panthers who won the game 3-2 after a miraculous performance by James Reimer. Just one game later Louie Duck became the first ever NHL player to hit 300 points in one season as he assisted the lone goal in a 2-1 defeat against the San Jose Sharks. After worries that the 2-game losing streak could be a bad sign the Wild comforted those who worried with a 9-1 win against the Dallas Stars and a 1-5 victory over the New York Rangers to return to winning ways.
The Wild ended up finishing the season with a 80-2-0 record, and Louie Duck set the new single season point scoring record at 361 points and also scored 130 goals, while Dewey Duck set the single season goal record at 148 goals, while putting up 348 points himself. Huey Duck also put up a respectable 122 goals and 352 points. Mickey Mouse set the all-time defensemen scoring record at 92 goals and 261 points, while Goofy also broke the 215 point record set by scoring 76 goals and 240 points. Eric Staal put up 12 points, playing an average of 1 minute 33 seconds each game, mostly on the penalty kill.
In goal Donald Duck put up a 56-1-0 record with 24 shutouts and a .956sv% with 0.74 gaa, while Devan Dubnyk in the back-up role managed a 24-1-0 record with 9 shutouts and .932sv% and a 1.08gaa.
As a team the Wild topped the league in goals for more than doubling the second best (575 goals to 250) and in goals against with 69 goals against compared to 199 by the second best team. With the man advantage the Wild were also the best team in the league with a 35.8% power play and a league-best 87.4% penalty kill.
In the first round of the playoffs the Wild came up against the Anaheim Ducks and beat them in four games, moving on to face the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets put up a good fight but ended up losing in four games with the Wild advancing to the Conference Finals for the second time in Franchise history. Just like in 2003 it was a California team against the Wild in the Western Conference Finals, but this time it was the Los Angeles Kings. The Wild ended up also sweeping the Kings to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals with a 12-0 playoff record.
In the Stanley Cup Finals the Wild faced the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Wild started off extremely well. On home ice the Wild won games one and two 7-0 and 6-1 before the series moved to Tampa Bay. Game three was a closer match but ended up going to the Wild 5-2, putting the Wild one win away from their first Stanley Cup. Game 4 saw the Wild go up 2-0 in the first period and they hung on to that lead as I intervened the game with 1:33 remaining. The Wild would add an empty netter and take game 4 with a 3.0 win and secure the Stanley Cup!
Despite not having much ice-time on the road to victory Mikko Koivu lifted the Stanley Cup first before passing it to Ryan Suter and Zach Parise.