By Arun Morace
No video game is perfect, despite how hard programmers try. We’ve all seen footballs pass right through players in every version of Madden. We’ve all seen the invisible players in NBA 2K10. And don’t get me started on players running the wrong way in FIFA. But sometimes, there are mistakes that shouldn’t happen. We all know which players are good, and which aren’t. And yet sometimes, in a video game, certain players’ digital versions are better than others, when they just shouldn’t be. Looking at NHL 2012, here are the biggest errors in player’s overall rating. By position, I’ll give one that’s too high, and one that’s too low, and compare the two players to show just how bad the error really is.
Too High: David Booth, Florida Panthers- 92 overall
Too Low: Thomas Vanek, Buffalo Sabres/Alexander Semin, Washington Capitals/ Loui Eriksson, Dallas Stars- 88 overall
From Left to Right: David Booth, Thomas Vanek, Alexander Semin, Loui Eriksson
Yeah, we got a four-bagger on our hands to start this list off, because it’s a dead heat between the low-rated players as to who deserves a higher rating than the one they’ve got. David Booth, Thomas Vanek, Alexander Semin and Loui Eriksson have all spent roughly the same amount of time in the league, between six and seven years each, making them pretty comparable players. Between Booth, Vanek, Semin and Eriksson, whom do you think as never been to an All-Star Game? Only has one career 60-point season? Had the lowest statistical season last year of all four left wingers listed? The answer to all three is Booth. And yet, EA has him rated four points better than Vanek, Semin or Eriksson. And I have to scratch my head at this. Compare their statistics from 2010-11, presumably the numbers that should most impact their digital selves in the newest NHL video game:
Booth: 23 goals, 17 assists, 40 points, -31 overall rating (82 games)
Vanek: 32 goals, 41 assists, 73 points, +2 overall rating (80 games)
Semin: 28 goals, 26 assists, 54 points, +22 overall rating (66 games)
Eriksson: 27 goals, 46 assists, 73 points, +10 overall rating (79 games)
Fewest goals, fewest assists, and the fewest points despite playing the most games out of these four, and a +/- rating 33 points worse than anyone else on this list. And yet, David Booth is a better left wing according to NHL 2012; better than Vanek, Semin or Eriksson, all of whom have had either a 40+ goal season or a 70+ point season- two things Booth has never done.
Too High: Matthew Lombardi, Toronto Maple Leafs- 92 overall
Too Low: Mike Ribeiro, Dallas Stars- 79 overall
Matthew Lombardi (L), Mike Ribeiro (R)
This one jumped out at me. Matthew Lombardi is a forward who’s never played more than one full NHL season, never had more than 53 points in year (only one time), has never made the All-Star Game, and certainly has no reputation as an enforcer, or even a great face-off man. But he’s got a 92 overall rating in the game, putting him ahead of or in the same class of players like Jeff Carter, Jordan Staal, Nicklas Backstrom, or BradRichards. Just as troubling, somehow Lombardi’s more highly rated at the center position than Mike Ribeiro, a two-time All-Star and consistent 50+ point producer (hasn’t been below 51 points since 2003). Oh, and Ribeiro can also do some damage in the shootout:
Lombardi’s career numbers (9 seasons)
275 penalty minutes
+27 overall +/- rating
Ribeiro’s career numbers (12 seasons)
280 penalty minutes
EVEN overall +/- rating
Lombardi:* 19 goals, 34 assists, 53 points, 36 penalty minutes, +8
Ribeiro: 19 goals, 52 assists, 71 points, 28 penalty minutes, -4
*Lombardi missed 80 games in 2010-11, so it would be unfair to compare a full season from Ribeiro to an injury-shortened one by Lombardi. Instead, I’ve provided statistics from Lombardi’s most recent full season (2009-10). This is also his best career season, statistically.
Even Lombardi’s best statistical season doesn’t match up with Ribeiro’s stats from this past campaign. Ribeiro was only second-line center last year too. And yet, despite the fact that Ribeiro’s a better scorer, set-up man, and a wizard in the shootout, he’s a full thirteen points below Lombardi, whose best season barely matches Ribeiro’s worst from the past five years (2009-10, 19G,34A,53P in 66 games). Without a doubt, Ribeiro is better than his 79 rating betrays, while Lombardi does not deserve that 92 overall billing.
Too High: Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia Flyers- 92 overall
Too Low: Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks- 84 overall
Simmonds (L), Selanne (R)
There aren’t many true right wings listed in the game, so finding a comparison was tough. But to me, this one was just so atrocious that when I saw it, I couldn’t ignore it. Selanne’s been one of the top wingers in the game for years, and he’s eight points worse than Wayne Simmonds?
Selanne’s career numbers (20 seasons)
570 penalty minutes
+98 overall +/- rating
Simmonds’ career highlights (3 seasons):
283 penalty minutes
+12 overall +/- rating
Simmonds: 14 goals, 16 assists, 30 points, 75 penalty minutes, -2
Selanne: 31 goals, 49 assists, 80 points, 49 penalty minutes, +6
So, let’s see. Selanne’s one of the all-time scoring leaders, and even at 41 years of age, is still getting it done, as evidenced by his 31 goals and 80 total points in 2010-11. Simmonds on the other hand, isn’t a great scorer, or set-up man, and you can’t even attempt to justify that 92 rating by calling him an enforcer since his penalty minutes, the one stat he bests Selanne in, was good for 91st most in the league. But somehow, Wayne Simmonds ended up with a 92 overall rating, third best on the entire Philadelphia Flyers roster, and Selanne merits an 84 overall rating. Huh?
Too High: Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes- 97 overall
Too Low: Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks- 85 overall
- Cam Ward (L) Antti Niemi (R)
Let’s remember. The most recently released version of a sports video game should have an accurate, representation of the players in it based on how they’ve recently played. So while Cam Ward may have had a Stanley Cup winning season back in 2006, judging by his past season he doesn’t warrant a 97 overall rating. Likewise, Antti Niemi, the San Jose goaltender who’s a season removed from a Stanley Cup championship, deserves to be rated higher than his solid, but unspectacular 85. Consider the following:
2010-11 numbers (again, the numbers that we should assume to be most influential on the 2012 game)
Ward: 74 games played, 35 wins, .923 save percentage, 2.56 goals against average (GAA)
Niemi: 60 games played, 35 wins, .920 save percentage, 2.38 goals against average
Niemi has a considerably lower goals-against average, and he got the same number of wins as Ward in fourteen fewer games. He also has 24 playoff wins in the past two years- Ward doesn’t have 24 in his career. But yeah, despite the fact that he only won half of his games last year, Ward’s the better goaltender, according to EA. And not just better, at 97, he’s in the company of elite goaltenders like Roberto Luongo (98 overall) and Pekka Rinne (98 overall), and far ahead of more deserving goaltenders, like Niemi, or the Los Angeles’ Kings Jonathan Quick (35 wins, 2.24 GAA, but 89 overall) or Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks (33 wins in 57 games, 2.30 GAA but only 83 overall). But yeah, in NHL 2012, Ward is still somehow the fifth best goaltender in the entire game. Huh?
Well, that’s my two cents- just a few glaring errors that made me scratch my head at first glance, and after delving into the numbers, still had me scratching my head when looking at the latest installment of the EA Sports NHL video game franchise.