When I logged into NHL 19 for the first time, I headed straight to Franchise mode to pick the next dynasty in the NHL. Unfortunately, when I got to the division realignment screen, all I could do was roll my eyes.
For those who don’t have the game, when you pick your team in Franchise, you’re brought to a screen that allows you to realign divisions. From what I could find, this is the only screen where you can get teams overalls. In every other screen, it breaks down offense, defense and goaltending, but never reveals the team’s overall rating.
The biggest issue with NHL 19 is that there isn’t a larger disparity with ratings. Every team is rated relatively close to one another. If I asked you to give a rating to the Arizona Coyotes and Tampa Bay Lightning, I would guess that your Tampa rating is in the 90s and Arizona’s rating is in the high-70s to low-80s. Instead, Arizona is rated 91 while Tampa is rated 93. Not much of a difference when you look at two vastly different rosters.
Attribute and overall rating issues aren’t new to NHL 19. They’ve been a problem for as long as I can remember. The previous consoles had the ability to copy things to USB and import them into a game. When SimpleMathematics at Operation Sports started his NHL Revamped Rosters in NHL 14, it dramatically changed the way the game played. Shawn Thornton and Sidney Crosby no longer felt like the same player. The attribute differential gave players separation, but it also gave teams separation. Right now, there isn’t much parity in rating numbers.
Rating Issues In The Short Term
In the short term, the NHL series doesn’t offer any parity for teams. While I was combing teams and rosters for my ‘Top Five NHL 19 Franchise Sleepers’ article, I noticed that fourth line player like Tim Schaller are rated higher than they probably should be. This means that to differentiate between a fourth line player like Schaller and a first line player like Boeser, you need to elevate Boeser to a rating that may not be appropriate for him.
There doesn’t seem to be any certain type of defined system for players. Using the NHL Revamped Rosters as my example once again, they took fourth liners and dropped them anywhere between 60-70 while most first liners remained in the high-80’s to mid-90’s.
This change also means that free agents were affected. Upon starting your franchise, you can go into free agency and pick up some pretty helpful 70’s and 80’s (8 81/80 players to be exact). This shouldn’t be able to happen because good free agents, when a season begins, are going to be signed. There’s no way an 80+ should be sitting in free agency.
Long-Term Rating Issues
Lack of rating parity means you’re going to have free agent and player movement issues in the long term. I simmed four years of a sample franchise and counted fifteen 80+ rated players in free agency at the start of the season. Take a look at this screenshot from this 2019-2020 free agency. This screenshot was taken two days before preseason started. Here are 18 80+ rated players in free agency.
If they were all 42 years old like Zdeno Chara, I could see why teams wouldn’t touch him. He’s getting long in the tooth and there is going to be some regression (though at 42, I am surprised to still see him rated as an 85), but to see young guys like Alex Iafallo and even Tom Wilson in free agency was a little surprising.
I realize that Iafallo and Wilson are RFA status, but even Xavier Ouellet at 26 should be on a team somewhere, right?
There’s an imbalance that the NHL team doesn’t seem to want to change. As it currently stands, the lowest rated NHL player is a 70. That doesn’t seem right. In fact, a few of those 70 rated players are Nathan Horton and David Clarkson. Horton hasn’t played a lick of hockey since 2013-2014 and Clarkson the same since 2015-2016. For them to be rated at 70 seems like a mistake. I realize they need to be on a roster for realism sake (they’re currently sitting in their respective teams long term injury reserve [LTIR] slots in real life) but 70s?
What this all means
The NHL series desperately needs a roster share mode and is currently the only EA Sports game without it. In fact, the NHL series is one of the only major sports title without a share feature, the other being FIFA. Madden, NBA 2K and MLB The Show all allow their users to update and share rosters online which helps enhance the user experience in Franchise mode.
How EA hasn’t put this feature in one of their longest running franchises is beyond me, but hopefully the team at EA Vancouver takes a serious look at the problems their pretend GMs face when trying to run realistic franchises.
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