At the 2019 NHL Awards in Las Vegas, Electronic Arts (EA) released the trailer for NHL19, the annual video game produced for multiple gaming platforms. EA has produced the game since 1991 and has been the main product for hockey fans since 2K stopped creating games for consoles with their final installment of NHL 2K11. 2K Sports has shifted their focus to mobile gaming for iOS and Android and have left EA as the only option for hockey gamers.
While NHL has improved their game since beginning their latest installments on high-powered consoles such as the Xbox One and PS4, there is still much to be desired for fans of the game. EA will need to address these issues and concerns before its projected release date on September 14th.
What We Know
This year’s edition will feature Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban on the front cover. The defenseman posted 16 goals, 43 assists and a 51.2% CF in route to a Norris Trophy nomination. The idea to put Subban on the cover of the popular game is a welcome one as he is a star in his prime and is the most marketable star in the game. He brings excitement and flair on the ice and has a strong social media presence off the ice. This one will sting, Habs fans.
This year’s edition will throw it back to when you were a kid and take the game outside, featuring a pond mode and a 1 v 1 v 1 outside game mode. Players will be able to customize their wardrobe for the outdoor games for a little added flair. The game will seek to fix skating issues of the past by introducing Real Player Motion Technology. The added tech will improve explosiveness as well as edge work and crossovers.
Although there has been no confirmation yet, there have been rumors that the game will see a new commentary team replacing Mike “Doc” Emrick and Eddie Olczyk. The two have been the broadcast duo for a few years and have been incorporated into the game’s NHL on NBC broadcast. It will be interesting to see if EA heads in another direction.
What We Want
Both Justin and Brett frequently play the game and have spent hours in franchise mode and other game modes that EA has created. (It can go on record that Brett has beaten Justin in all three of their match-ups.)
Brett: For people like me, franchise is the go-to mode in EA’s NHL series. The drafting, team-building, trades, and a variety of other miscellaneous general manager tasks can be a lot of fun, but there are some areas where the mode can be improved.
For starters, the hiring and firing of coaches and scouts have been in a number of sports video game franchises, like MLB The Show and even EA’s own Madden, but that has yet to make its way into the NHL series. The ability to control your coaching and scouting staff, set goals, and have variety in different people in those roles would be great to see.
For example, maybe some coaches will be like Bill Peters - structurally strong and good defensively, but the offense struggles. Then, maybe a coach like Paul Maurice will have strong offenses but the defense will struggle. The in-game effects of that could be certainly attribute boosts. Peters’ attribute boosts will be to defensive awareness, while there might be a slight decrease to offensive awareness.
As for scouts, some will be based in North America, some in Sweden and Finland, etc. Of those scouts, they’d have strengths and weaknesses. While a scout may be great at scouting goalies, he might not be so good at discovering forwards.
There’s a lot of room to play around with there.
Another small thing that could be added is the ability to trade lottery-protected first round picks. In the NHL, teams can trade a first round pick with the stipulation that, if that pick ends up being in the lottery, they can choose to either trade that pick or make it the next year’s first-rounder instead.
Overall, there is a lot of room for the team at EA Sports to add more diversity and parody into Franchise Mode. As it currently stands, the mode can grow stale and lose its fun very quickly. There needs to be more depth, and they don’t even have to reinvent the wheel. They can look at other sports franchises, even those under the EA umbrella, and add some of the features they like from other games into NHL and improve their product.
Justin: I am very excited about the 1 v 1 v 1 game mode and believe it will add an interesting element to the game especially if the game mode can be played on just half the playing surface. It could bring added chaos.
I would like to see the game bring back the Winter Classic game mode. It was a staple for a few years and then it just...disappeared. Bringing the game outdoors in the new game mode is great but bringing it to outdoor stadiums is exciting. The game should feature the Stadium Series, bringing it to non-traditional markets such as the LA-San Jose game we saw a few years ago. Let’s not just have the Chicago Blackhawks have the opportunity to play outdoors. Let other teams get a shot in the game mode returning.
Franchise mode continues to be a favorite of mine but it could use some improvements. Improving the likelihood of big name free agents hitting the market in the game would be a welcome addition, as was the case for John Tavares hitting the market this past off-season. Immediately after the draft, the game mode should include the “free agent talking period” in order to gauge the interest in the possible free agents that may hit the market. This gives players the opportunity to create space before July 1st instead of just rolling the dice when you simulate to the start of free agency.
The addition of downloadable draft classes would be a welcome addition. NBA 2K does a great job of allowing players to download custom draft class that have real attributes of real prospects. NHL seems to focus on the top-10 prospects and not much after that. Having the ability to import would be a huge add.
Celebrations need a huge improvement in any game mode. EA has still yet to add team celebrations and instead, after scoring, you celebrate with one teammate. Seems odd. A group huddle after scoring would be more realistic. The game also continues to have the same cut scene when you win the Stanley Cup. This cut scene has been part of the game for years and is in need of a serious revamp. Adding a parade through the city that wins the Cup in a cut scene would be a great experience for players.
What changes would you like to see? Leave it in the comment section below.