For those hockey fans undergoing some serious withdrawal symptoms from the NHL lockout, the 2012-13 season is being simulated on the ESPN website using the Electronic Arts NHL 13 simulation engine. Being a rabid fan of sports simulation games and the EA Sports NHL series, I thought I would look into this simulation and see if it is at all based on reality or just one big fantasy.
In the simulation, the current NHL week five standings have the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Islanders sitting atop the Eastern Conference with 22 and 20 points respectively. Both teams finished at the bottom of the standings in 2011-12 and failed to make the playoffs. Houston, we have a problem. Has EA’s sim engine gone a bit cooky or is this an accurate reflection of league results if the season was actually being played? The answer is there is no way to know.
Those who do know anything about sports sim games are aware that a simulation is a replay of an actual season using actual player stats for ratings. Since the 2012-13 season has not been played, how have the NHL players ratings for 2012-13 been determined? We all know players’ productivity can fluctuate significantly from one season to the next (see Alexander Ovechkin), therefore, using the previous season’s statistics for this season’s simulation makes little sense.
The only other option would be to take an educated guess as to how players would have performed this season, had there not been a lockout. How do you go about taking an educated guess if a player will miss most of the season due to injury? How do you go about guessing that players like Alexander Semin and Scott Gomez will become head cases who could not hit the side of a barn with their wrist shots?
In other words, there is no basis for any shred of reality here. Call me a nitpicker, but labeling something a simulation, which is actually a projection or prediction, is a bit disingenuous and analogous to putting the cart before the horse.
The only thing EA’s simulation tells us is the Canadiens and Islanders only realistic hope of winning a Stanley Cup is in this fantasy league. And judging by the way this lockout has progressed, this may be the only chance any team in the league may have to win the cup in 2012-13. Having been completed already, a sim replay of the 2011-12 season should certainly yield more realistic results, but nobody is interested in yesterday’s news, especially when there is a video game to promote and sell.
Since this simulation is as accurate as taking wild repetitive stabs in the dark, those who dabble in fantasy gaming are even taking it with a very large grain of salt. As a result of insufficient data, the EA NHL13 season simulation succeeds in taking fantasy to a whole different level. Borrowing the title of John Lennon’s 1980 comeback album, let’s just call it double fantasy.