Sports teams and their players have been compared to everything from Halloween candy to actors and actresses. But sometimes it’s the least expected point-of-view that is the most accurate. With this thought in mind, I have assigned each NHL team a video game that they resemble the best.
What’s surprising is how accurate professional sports teams can be compared to video games. Video games, unlike movies or candy, have multiple, lengthy franchises that have certain dynamics throughout, such as new gameplay features, differing fan bases and popularity, memorable characters and stories, and even management changes. It’s not uncommon for the seventh game in a series to be the best of all the installments.
Such is the case of a sports team, or in this case, an NHL team.
Instead of trying to pin a game that resembles an entire team’s life span, I’ve chosen to pick games that resemble a team as it is now, with a few nods to the past for some context. Bear in mind, I had to stereotype a few teams or look at one specific aspect of their overall game to make some connections.
I’d love to hear you sound off in the comments section about which comparisons worked and which missed the mark completely as well as your opinions on what franchise most closely resembles a certain video game.
Dragon Age: Origins was a slow burn but once the game got going, it was tough to put down.
Anaheim stumbled out of the gate with a three game losing streak but they haven’t lost in regulation in seven games and are currently fourth in the Western Conference, going 10-7-2.
The Ducks game still needs some improvement, most notably their lax defense, but goalie Jonas Hiller (2.83 GAA, .920 Sv%) and the team’s top forwards (Perry, Selanne, Getzlaf, Ryan, and Koivu all have at least seven goals and double digit points) are looking good and getting the job done.
After winning the Stanley cup in 2010, the Hawks had to unload a lot of weight in order to get under the cap.
The Thrashers weren’t shy in picking up a lot of the cheaper, secondary scorers off the 2009-10 Chicago team.
Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Brent Sopel, and Ben Eager are now Thrashers.
In this case, last year’s Blackhawks' team was Grand Theft Auto III and the Thrashers this year are a rip-off like Saint’s Row.
Boston fans, I know you’ve heard it enough but… three-game lead? Really?
Like Fallout 3, the Bruins had a lot going for them last year, but the lack of heart (or soul in FO3’s case) ended their season in embarrassing fashion.
Tim Thomas is leading the charge early this season, going 8-1 and posting an unbelievable 1.45 GAA and .957 save percentage.
Maybe this year when they go up three games they won’t blow it again.
At their core, both the Sabers and Metroid: Other M have great aspects to their game. But with questionable management in charge of both of them, a lot is left to be desired.
General Manager Darcy Regier, like developer Team Ninja, made some interesting choices and now the arguably best goalie in the league is on a 6-9-3 team.
Remember playing Guitar Hero for the first time? It was incredible and felt so innovative at the time. Then Guitar Hero 2 came out and it was even better than the first. Then Guitar Hero: Rocks the 80’s came out, then Guitar Hero 3, then Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, and Guitar Hero: World Tour. Oh and can’t forget Guitar Hero: Metallica and Guitar Hero: Van Halen, and Band Hero, and Guitar Hero 5… get the picture?
Calgary was once one of the greats in the West but like Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, they’re a sad shell of their former self. They made it to the finals the season before the lockout (2003-04) but since then they haven’t been able to advance past the first round.
Jarome Iginla is still a star player even though he hasn’t been able to recapture the glory of his 50 goal 2007-08 season and Miikka Kiprusoff is still a reliable goaltender even though he hasn’t returned to the astounding numbers he had during the 2003-04 campaign.
Even with these pieces in place, the Flames have stumbled out of the gate early in the 2009-10 season and it appears the magic is gone.
Jeff Skinner achieved 50 goals and 40 assists during the 2009-10 season with the Kitchener Rangers and it seems those numbers weren't a fluke.
Skinner signed a 3-year, 2.7 million dollar contract with the Carolina Hurricanes this year and in 17 games with the Hurricanes, the rookie has tied captain Eric Staal as the leading scorer on the team with 15 points (6 G, 9 A).
Jeff Skinner, like the downloadable, time-shifting platformer Braid, came out of nowhere and has blown any expectations out of the water. Right now, Skinner is a center that could replace the hole Rob Brind'Amour left.
The Chicago Blackhawks had to clean house after their Stanley Cup winning season and what was left was a core of great players surrounded by mediocre filler.
There aren’t many surprises this year; the top five point leaders on the team are Sharp, Kane, Toews, Keith, and Hossa.
This situation is reminiscent of the first next-generation Madden. The core gameplay was there but all the extra features the game incorporated over the years were absent.
When players finally got there hands on Halo 3’s level-editing Forge, they were pleasantly surprised with its possibilities. As time went by, they realized just how incredible it could be.
Chris Stewart surprised many last year by scoring 28 goals and 36 assists. Stewart has posted at least a point per game so far this season, including 10 goals.
If he continues this production, the Avalanche will be very happy Stewart wasn’t just a pleasant surprise.
Columbus looked to be a definite playoff contender early in the 2009-10 season based off of the great, but short-lived 2008-09 season.
The team went 41-31-10 as Rick Nash posted 40 goals and goalie Steve Mason won the Calder Trophy.
The team digressed, going 32-35-15 and ending up 14th in the West. Nash ended the season with a minus-2 and Steve Mason had a sophomore slump, posting a GAA of 3.06 and save percentage of .901.
The Jackets seem to have forgotten about their uneventful 2009-10 campaign and are currently eighth in the league with a record of 9-6-0.
Nash and RJ Umberger lead the team in goals with six and an energized Derick Brassard is leading the team in points with 12. Brassard only needs four more goals to match the number of goals he scored last year.
Like Madden NFL 11, the Jackets seem to be back on track after an off year (and more specifically, a few for Madden).
A few games ago, it looked like the Stars were sucking the talent out of their division rival, the San Jose Sharks like Kirby in a match of Super Smash Bros.
But like Kirby, the Stars have reverted back to their old standing at the bottom of the Pacific. The Pacific is loaded this year and the Stars are going to have to get back into the groove they had a few games ago to compete.
Brad Richards is currently eleventh in the league with points (19). Down at 19 is teammate Lou Eriksson with 17 points. The Stars were ninth in the Western Conference but with the other teams getting their footing, they’ve fell down to 13th.
An original six team that is consistently good, just like the Super Mario franchise.
It’s astounding the Italian plumber is still revolutionizing gaming, just like it’s astounding how Detroit is still a cup contender this year.
The Wings have made it to the post-season 19 seasons in a row, the longest streak among North American professional sports teams.
Edmonton Oilers fans and Sonic the Hedgehog fans aren't too different. They've both had to experience their franchises achieve great heights and some hard lows.
The Edmonton Oilers found great success in the 1980's, winning an astounding five Stanley Cups with Gretzky and Messier (Sonic the Hedgehog, 1991). They then came up short here and there in the 1990's and early 2000's (Sonic Adventures, 1999), and then started falling hard in the standings in the late 2000's (Sonic the Hedgehog, 2006, complete with bestiality).
But with the additions of some gun-slinging rookies like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, there's a lot of potential in this years Oilers (Sonic the Hedgehog 4, 2010). The team's still not great, posting a 4-9-3 record right now, but fans can at least feel better knowing good times are just around the corner.
Phoenix will get a similar write up, but at least it’s not as depressing.
It’s just more of the same for the Panthers. The team’s average as usual, going 7-8 early in the season and game attendance remains low.
Halo is one of the most critically acclaimed franchises this decade and competes with Call of Duty for the title of best shooter on consoles. With Halo: Reach, developer Bungie may have created the best and most complete entry in the much lauded series.
The LA Kings are currently the best team in the Western Conference with 24 points, and if they keep it up, they could be the best Kings team since 1993 when they visited the Stanley Cup Finals.
Everything’s in place for LA to return to the SCF.
The team’s scoring with Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar leading the way with 16 points each.
The defense is performing well. The Norris Trophy finalist last year, Drew Doughty, who is posting a plus-3 rating, has been banged up early this season but you can bet once he gets going, he’ll be as dynamic as he was last year. Jack Johnson is also a force to be reckoned with on the blue line, contributing 12 assists and a plus-5 rating so far.
The goaltending has been superb. Jonathan Quick is third in the league in both GAA and save percentage with 1.52 and .944 respectively. He's also tied in second for wins with 10.
The team has gone 12-3 in their first 15 games and look to continue being public enemy number one in the Pacific atop the Western Conference.
The Minnesota Wild is transitioning over to a new style of play, similar to how the Resident Evil series was injected with a bit more action to the survival-horror gameplay with Resident Evil 4.
So far, it’s paid off for them, going 8-6-2 early on. The offense is fairly consistent while Niklas Backstrom (1.98 GAA, .937 Sv%) has been great.
It was 17 years between the release of Street Fighter II and Street Fighter IV with numerous releases and tweaks in the gameplay in-between.
It's not hyperbole to dub Street Fighter II the best fighter ever. The game is easy to pick-up and hard to put down, even in a world with Virtua Fighter 4 and Soul Calibur. Because of that, Street Fighter IV went old-school and based the gameplay around Street Fighter II. The game ended up being a huge hit with fans and critics worldwide.
Montreal decided over the off-season to trade their playoff hero Jaroslav Halak and stick with the streaky Carey Price. Halak getting traded to the Blues shocked many fans and in classic Hab fashion, Price got booed early in the season. But since essentially telling Habs faithful to calm the hell down, Price has performed phenomenally.
Thus far, Price has gone 10-5-1 with a 2.18 GAA and .923 save percentage. Halak's killing it with St. Louis but right now, it seems like the Canadiens made the right decision to stay faithful to their future, Price.
Like the games in the Devil May Cry series, the Predators are a tough team to play, but they eventually get beat, most notably in the first round of the playoffs.
The team opened the season strong and was the last undefeated team in the league. Though they’ve lost a few tough ones, they have a winning record, going 7-5-3.
Maybe this time the great defense with Sutter and Weber and the consistent goalie tandem of Rinne and Lindback can get it done this year.
Since the 1987-88 NHL season, the Devils have only missed the playoffs twice and have held the cup three times since then. They’ve done so with a defense-first mentality, employing a signature trapping game plan.
It’s not hard to see that the Capitals are gaining lots of popularity and success (at least during the regular season) through their run and gun style of play. This is similar to the world of role-playing games right now. Faster, American RPGs like Mass Effect and Fallout 3 are gaining more popularity while once critically-acclaimed Japanese RPGs are feeling outdated.
Final Fantasy is without a doubt the most popular JRPG franchise in the world and installments such as FFVII and FFX can be found on numerous “Best of” lists. It was clear with FFXI and FFXII that the developers wanted to move the franchise in a different direction. That new direction was FFXIII.
It attempted to meld the faster action-RPG elements of Mass Effect with some of the traditional elements of the Final Fantasy franchise. The game received mixed results from fans. Though I personally thought it was a pretty solid game, many felt that it doesn’t do either RPG style justice.
The Devil’s once proud defensive core suffered during the off-season when all of NJ’s funds went into Ilya Kovalchuk’s staggering contract. Kovy’s signing goes against any trend or tradition NJ has ever followed. As of right now, Devils are a team without an identity, in between two styles which aren’t working and are contributing to their awful record right now.
Fallout: New Vegas is better than its predecessor, Fallout 3, but that isn't to say much has changed. You could argue that New Vegas is simply a 100 hour expansion pack but the small changes that were made do a significant thing.
The Islanders aren't too different from the team that struggled last year but the few changes that were made put promise in Islander's fans.
Signing James Wisniewski (13 P) was a great move and the power play is finding some success, currently 12th in the league. On top of that, John Tavares (6 G, 4 A) isn't disappointing in his sophomore season and Dwayne Roloson (2.39 GAA, .915 Sv%) is stepping up while Rick DiPietro (4.21 GAA, .854 Sv%) tries to get it back together.
Though they have improved, they're still at the bottom of the standings with a 4-10-3 record. There are subtle changes here and there that will help the team progress further than they did last year but right now, it's more of the same.
When Gears of War 2 was released, fans consistently complained about certain features of the multiplayer.
Throughout its life span, the multiplayer has been tweaked beyond recognition, similar to how the Rangers consistently pick-up free agents and trade for vets like they were an MLB club.
Right now, big grabs like Chris Drury, Vinny Prospal, and Marian Gaborik aren’t doing much due to injuries and young guns like Brandon Dubinsky (10 G, 5 A) are stepping up.
The new Medal of Honor is decent but can’t compete with the bigger shooters like Half-Life and Call of Duty, similar to the Ottawa Senators when it comes to the playoffs.
The Senators are currently 9-7-1 which is enough in the East so far but once the playoffs roll around, their consistent playoff losses may continue.
Daniel Alfredsson (7 G, 8 A) is playing well but Jason Spezza continues to underachieve with only four goals.
Nothing special pops out of this team right now.
Paul Holmgren may have tweaked the 2009-10 Eastern Conference Champions into the best Flyers team in recent memory.
Call of Duty: Black Ops is the complete Call of Duty package and then some. The same goes for the 2010-2011 Flyers. With a few tweaks during the off-season, a re-energized forward, and a wildcard out of nowhere, the team may be on their way to their second Stanley Cup Final appearance in a row.
Claude Giroux is emerging as the Flyers best player, with 9 goals and 9 assists, including three shorthanded goals. Not that the rest of the offense is slacking, with seven players hitting double digits in points.
The defense is arguably the best in the league. The third-pairing of Andrej Meszaros and Sean O’Donnell are doing exactly what they were signed to do. Both Meszaros and O’Donnell are in the top 10 for plus/minus in the league.
And now out of nowhere, they’ve got a Calder contender in net with Sergei Bobrovsky. He’s the only rookie in the top ten for goals against average and save percentage and is second to only fellow rookie Michal Neuvirth for wins.
If the Flyers keep playing like this, Philadelphia fans may be seeing the best Flyers team since 1975.
This one’s easy.
ICO: Great game, no one bought it.
Just in case the team gets moved…
Okami: Great game, no one bought it, company goes bankrupt.
It feels like a phantom Penguins team has been playing on the ice recently.
The Zelda series has been consistently great for years now, and like the young Crosby/Malkin-era Penguins team, the series will continue to shine over the years.
As of right now though, they’re dipping lower below their normal expectations, similar to Link’s first adventure on the Nintendo DS. Marc-Andre Fleury (3.09 GAA, .872 Sv%) as well as the rest of the team must be missing Sergei Gonchar’s 50 points and strong defensive-play. Jordan Staal (21 G, 38 A, plus-19 during the 2009-10 season) is on an unlucky streak, getting injured immediately after coming back from a long injury.
At least Brent Johnson is working, going 6-2-1 and posting a 2.11 GAA and .927 save percentage. Sidney Crosby is also producing with 27 points.
These are the Pittsburgh Penguins and like the Zelda series, they will turn it around (Zelda: Spirit Tracks), it just depends on when it will happen.
Evgeni Nabokov continued his streaky post-season ways when Antti Niemi and the Blackhawks swept the Sharks in the Western Conference Final last season. During the off-season, the Sharks decided that if you can’t beat him, sign him. So they ditched Nabokov and grabbed Niemi while the Hawks cleaned house. Good idea right?
Just like how everything in Assassin's Creed was controlled with one button was a good idea? Yeah right…
Niemi has been disappointing early in the season. The Stanley Cup winning goalie is going 2-4 with a 3.73 GAA and a .878 save percentage. The team itself is 8-5-2 and it's all thanks to the teams other goaltender, Antero Niitymaki.
Luckily, they also acquired Niittymaki during the off-season. So far, that was the organization's best decision as he's gone 6-1-2 with a 1.80 GAA and .929% save percentage.
EA Sports Fight Night 2004 may have been the first game to significantly establish right-stick total control movement but NHL 07 took it a step further to take the NHL series to a whole new level. It only took one feature to elevate the entire game.
That one feature in hockey is Jaroslav Halak on the St. Louis Blues who are currently 9-3-3 and are first in the West. In 11 games, the Montreal Canadien’s playoff hero has gone 8-2-2 with 1.79 GAA and .932 save percentage. Like the Habs last year, Halak has elevated his team to serious cup contenders.
It took eight years for the successor of one of the greatest video games of all time to come out and it was created under a different developing team.
Retro Studios was put in charge of Nintendo's beloved Metroid franchise and not only did they give it a total facelift but they successfully created a game that stood as tall as its older brother.
After Steve Yzerman took over the reins of the Lightning franchise from Brian Lawton during the off-season, he began making multiple moves that have helped his new team get off to a great start this season.
The Bolts are looking sharp and are definite contenders in the East this year.
It’s a game that never ends, no matter how much time and money you put into it!
Seriously, it’s been 42 seasons without a cup. There hasn’t been a playoff berth since the lock-out and they haven’t been to the SCF since the last time they won in ’67.
The Leafs teased fans by opening their season with a four-game win streak but have fallen to 5-8-3 and haven’t won a game in eight.
Seriously, are they ever going to get it done?
Portal was incredible… well, while it lasted at least.
The game ended too early, similar to how the President’s Trophy winner lost in the first round to the number eight seeded Canadiens.
With rookie Michal Neuvirth (11-3, 2.60 GAA, .910 Sv%) stepping-up in goal, the Ovechkin-era Caps might be able to advance past the second round of the playoffs this season.
Oh, and GLaDOS would totally whoop up on Alex the Gr8. Just saying...