Last week, I simulated the 2019-20 NHL season in Eastside Hockey Manager using a custom-made database to mimic everyone’s rosters prior to the actual 2019-20 season. The simulation showed that the EHM-version of the 2019-20 New Jersey Devils performed better than the real-life Devils. Unfortunately, the Devils in Eastside Hockey Manager managed to miss the playoffs by one point as they were severely undercut by bad goaltending. I decided to take a crack at EHM myself and see if I can do any better with the help of people like you - the People Who Matter.
Thanks to alslammerz, luozhen, acasser, EliasStillRocks, LedHotZeplinPepr, and veron for their suggestions and thoughts from the prior post. A special thanks goes to alslammerz for noting this shout-out by the original developer, Risto Remes! Thank you, Mr. Remes and, uh, I’m sorry for what is about to happen.
Let us get to Part 1 of the re-do.
There was not much of a majority vote but the one name for the General Manager of this re-do in Eastside Hockey Manager kept coming up: Sherman Abrams. He is confused by this concept of not tanking, but I assured him that he should not worry. I gave him one simple suggestion: do the opposite of whatever he thought of doing. He seemed satisfied.
Unfortunately, mistakes were made ahead of the 2019-20 season. Let us go through it.
The Offseason (August 2019 - Early September 2019)
Now that Sherman Abrams is in place (see headline photo, you get a no-prize if you can guess why his birthdate is May 7, 1979), a little business is in order. First, whenever you take over a team in EHM (or similarly in Football Manager), you get a bunch of emails letting you know what you took over:
What the Board (Read: Ownership) expects from your tenure:
And what the fans think. They were not exactly jazzed about the decision to name Sherman Abrams the General Manager.
You can also set up options in the game in terms of how much you want to run. Since this is very much based on Football Manager’s engine, you do have the option of playing the game as both the GM and head coach. In (most) soccer leagues, the manager does both functions. While the head coach may have a say about moves and evaluations in hockey, the GM is primarily responsible for constructing the team. Sherman Abrams is a GM. John Hynes is still the head coach. Therefore, Hynes is going to coach and Abrams is going to focus more on the GM role.
Unfortunately, despite answering “Yes” to “Board arranges pre-season Exhibition games?,” that did not apparently happen. I did not know I would have had to set it up myself, so...that’s mistake #1. Alas.
Anyway, let’s look at the Devils’ depth chart. As I am using The Blue Line Rosters v12.3.1 database for the players, this represents where the Devils were in real life back in October 2019.
The players in yellow are with the NHL team, the New Jersey Devils. Players in orange are with Binghamton or Adirondack. Players in green are unsigned prospects - players we have rights too. The depth chart does scroll down further to show many more defensemen. The game helpfully lists who they see the top prospects are - even though Dakota Mermis is 25 - and who has the best skills. I did chuckle at John Hayden being the most overrated.
You can also set team needs. If I recall correctly - I have not played EHM in a long time - these needs signal to other teams what you would be interested in. Whether or not the AI would pick up on that is unknown. Like a lot of things in life, it is on you to go out and try to get what you want. Still, I set these needs.
While the board wants a respectable position, the goal of this re-do is to make the playoffs. The real-life Devils of 2019-20 did not make it. The computer-controlled Devils in a simulation of 2019-20 in EHM missed the postseason by a point. We are aiming higher and so we want to win now. As much as Sherman Abrams despises the concept. Still, Sherman and I identified that the Devils really need a goaltender, we need defensemen, and some prospects - preferably at defense and left wing.
As a final fun little point, the game does rank GMs by reputation. You can consider this to be a ranking of who the game regards as the best GMs in the world of hockey. Sherman Abrams has no past experience and he just took over a NHL team. He is not so well-regarded for now.
He is at least ahead of Chris Lamoriello. By the way, Jim Rutherford is first in this game and Lou is second. They and six others have “superb” reputations. Ray Shero, who Abrams’ replaced, is a free agent.
The game begins on August 8, 2019. While in real-life, this time is quiet in the NHL, it is more active in EHM. Players being placed on the block, offered to other teams, and trades do indeed happen. Sherman Abrams went right to work. He read through everyone’s suggestions from the comments. He got a bit frustrated about the lack of specifics, but he did identify veron’s suggestion of getting either Jake Oettinger or Jacob Woll. Woll was not so available. Oettinger was. However, he came at a cost.
The deal was Mirco Mueller, John Hayden, and Reilly Walsh for Jake Oettinger and Martin Hanzal’s contract. Hanzal is on injured reserve for 11 months due to back spasms. Abrams basically ate the deal to make the money work since Dallas did not want to add salary. The Devils had plenty of cap space and so he decided to weaponize it to help bring in the young, big goalie in Oettinger. Moving out Mueller and Hayden creates more roster spots for Ty Smith and Jesper Boqvist for the main roster. Throwing in Walsh hurt but you have to give up value to get the value of Oettinger.
This did not go over well with the powers that be and the fans. They were mad. They at least counted it as Mistake #2 (and you may as well).
Sherman Abrams felt bad. Walsh was regarded as one of the Devils’ top prospects and adding Hanzal was just money they could not use elsewhere since he is not going to play. Ownership did not appreciate paying someone who cannot play and the fans (likely) did not want Walsh gone. Abrams talked himself into it, saying “He’s just going to go to Harvard for his senior year and then become a free agent. Let Dallas have that headache.” Would Oettinger be worth it? Sherman Abrams felt he would be. If only for carrying out one of the other suggested moves: moving Cory Schneider. This is now possible since the Devils have a goalie to step right in. Even if Oettinger ends up backing up Mackenzie Blackwood, With Oettinger in the fold, the Devils now had three goalies. Schneider was now the odd man out.
Sherman Abrams secured that status. In EHM (as well as in FM), you can set player statuses to let them know their role on the team and whether they are likely to be traded. Abrams moved Schneider’s status to a depth role and listed that he would be available on the trade block. He made a general call out to the other 30 GMs that he would be taking offers for Schneider.
No one responded with an offer. When you make a trade in EHM, you can see how another team values its and your players. “UNT” means they are untouchable - which is a status you can set for some players. The more asterisks mean the more value. Schneider has none. Brian Strait has none. And, believe it or not, Miles Wood had none.
Sherman Abrams decided to not let this little mishap get to him. Despite offering Schneider in various attempts to dump him - no one wanted to add his salary - he changed course. There were suggestions about improving the defense. Mueller was already gone. What about Connor Carrick? Who would want him? Apparently, Las Vegas wanted him. They had a player coveted by some in real-life last summer who was not so highly regarded by whomever was in charge of the Golden Knights. That player was Nick Holden. Abrams offered a one-for-one deal. They wanted a little more.
One Josh Jacobs later and the deal was made. Holden is a direct upgrade over Carrick (and Mueller). Jacobs did not figure into Abrams’ plans so throwing him in was no big deal. This did not lead to adulation by the board or the fans. Abrams still liked it anyway. He also saw that other teams were placing other players on the block. None of them would take Schneider for them. And none of them wanted Wood either. Weird at how the AI puts players on the block and then gets picky about it.
Abrams decided to peruse Colorado’s roster as they have had plenty of cap space as well as players that may be in a log jam. He found that they did not think very much of Connor Timmins. Even though he was 20 and was on his way up in pro hockey, they did not think he was much more than just a depth player. Abrams put in an inquiry. Surprisingly, the Avs made an offer in response.
All they wanted was Case McCarthy, a player the Devils drafted in the fourth round of the 2019 NHL Draft. Timmins, who was on an ELC, was worth a mid-level prospect? Someone who can at least step in for Jacobs in Binghamton and develop for a year or two? Abrams did not hesitate to agree to this offer.
Unlike the Oettinger trade, the board and the fans were thrilled.
As August moved on, training camp started coming closer.
Training Camp (September 7, 2019 - September 25, 2019)
As September came about, the role of captains were to be assigned. Sherman Abrams stuck with Andy Greene as the captain with alternates going to Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri (game’s choice).
Training camp began for the Devils on September 7, 2019. The game helpfully sends you a message that training camp is about to begin. What most do in real life is call up all of their eligible players so everyone in the system can participate. They even bring in a few players on a professional tryout. This is where Mistake #3 was about to be made. Sherman Abrams forgot to do either. Oops.
The game does have a full schedule for training camp and lists out days for cuts. With no one called up or brought in, no cuts could be made. In fact, the game had to generate players to fill in rosters for intra-squad scrimmages. Oops again.
By the way, here is what the game engine looks like. You can click on any of the scores and look at the box score, game stats, player ratings, and even highlights from the game (Azar, Grauer, and Hardy were generated players to fill out the roster - Azar actually scored on this play):
Despite the big failure of utilizing only 22 players in camp, training camp did go on. Nico Hischier was said to have struggled. Ty Smith, on the other hand, was doing quite well per Mike Grier.
This was welcomed news as Sherman Abrams basically made a spot for Smith through his transactions. Moving out Mueller and Carrick created a roster spot. He knows it was suggested that he should be on the team if he earned it. Well, he thankfully did.
The only other events in camp were a few minor injuries and another attempt to make a move. Wayne Simmonds and Jesper Bratt were each out for a week. They were placed on 7-day IR and then activated. No big deal for either. Abrams also realized during camp that he did not really meet the suggestion of moving Miles Wood. Just like Schneider, he made Wood available and made him available to everyone in the NHL. Like Schneider, no one wanted a piece of Wood.
Shortly after camp ended, Abrams demoted Timmins, Brett Seney, and Joey Anderson to Binghamton. This put the Devils at 22 players on the active roster with three goalies. This meant he met the 23-man roster limit. The limit was not needed yet, but he figured on planning ahead. He also went ahead and asked Hynes to put lines and tactics together for the next game. When he was told it was ahead of their game against Winnipeg - their first opponent on the season - he was stunned. He checked the calendar. The Board did not put together any preseason games. Everyone is going to be extra rusty for that game.
What was curious to Abrams was who was left out by Hynes. Originally, Oettinger was a scratch as was Jesper Bratt and Ty Smith. Abrams swapped out Schneider for Oettinger. He put Bratt in place of Wood. He was not fully sure who to take out for Smith. Maybe a forward to go with seven defenseman? Abrams also looked at Hynes’ tactics and made some adjustments. He changed the team’s mentality to be more offensive, dump the puck less, and be heavy on the shots. He also changed the line matching to go power-for-power (1st vs 1st lines, 2nd vs 2nd lines, etc.). Abrams was not quite sure but he figured it would be a way to be more interesting than having everything at the default of “balanced.”
Then came September 25 - a big day for the game. First, a season preview came out. The prediction was that the Devils would finish 29th.
Abrams scoffed at this. Second, and more importantly, a lot of transactions were being set up around the league. Every GM in the NHL placed players on waivers and added to their trade blocks. Abrams decided to stop for the moment and go to the People Who Matter on what to do next.
Your Turn to Advise Mr. Abrams
Thank you again to all who provided their suggestions in the post last week. I apologize if somethings went awry or were misunderstood. Mistakes were made. At least three of them.
I am not sure exactly why, but September 25 was the day of placing players on waivers and making others totally available to be dealt away. It is natural stopping point for the simulation. Now, I have a few questions for you that can help Abrams make the best move for the Devils in EHM.
- Should Abrams demote Cory Schneider to Binghamton? This would mean placing him on waivers. No one wants him in a trade, so this may be the best way to move him.
- Should the Devils send anyone else down? The Devils have 22 players and if Schneider is on waivers, then that will make 21.
- Should the 2019-20 Devils play an offensive style of hockey?
- The GMs in EHM put a lot of players on the trade block. Should the Devils try to get any of these players? If so, who and what should Abrams offer for them?
- The GMs in EHM also put a lot of players on waivers Should the Devils try to get any of these players? (This is organized by salary and remember, NJ has 22 players on the NHL roster now.)
- Lastly, what do you want to see from games when the season starts? Individual box scores? A snapshot of the whole calendar? Specific highlights?
Whatever suggestions you may have, I will try to do for Mr. Abrams. I cannot guarantee they will work, but I will try. The current plan is to continue the simulation from the start of the season through to the beginning of November in Part 2. I will try to run that simulation on this Thursday night, so please give me your answers to the above questions and other suggestions about this season in the comments. Thank you for reading.