Let the nitpicking begin: The first batch of NHL 12 player ratings are out

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Searching for (and then critiquing) the latest player ratings is a time-honored tradition for hockey fans ever since real-life hockey stars first appeared in video games. Normally, that’s something that you would do shortly after opening up the game, but thanks to Operation Sports, you won’t have to wait until the September 13 release date to gripe about Sidney Crosby being the highest rated skater at 94.

The sports gaming Web site revealed NHL 12’s ratings for skaters as well as the full team and legends ratings today. You can pour over every minute (if outdated) detail on those rosters at your leisure, but I thought I’d point out the each teams’ top three skaters – as in forwards and defensemen, not goalies – that were revealed in that post.

Before getting into the list of 30 teams’ highest rated skaters and legends, here are a few reactions.

  • Aside from the Blues, Panthers and Coyotes, just about every team has a borderline “star” (87 rating or above) player. That doesn’t always seem fair, but it could make the game more fun since the playing field might be a bit more even.
  • Still, I must admit I let out an audible “Wow” when I saw Dustin Byfuglien’s rating. Some might feel the same way about Phil Kessel, Erik Johnson, Jeff Carter and so on.
  • How can a legend be rated an 85?
  • Look, I know Marian Gaborik is ultra-talented and that games aren’t required to factor injuries as much as maybe they should but … is he really better than Brad Richards?

OK, now that I have my own knee-jerk reactions out of the way, let’s get cracking.

A couple notes first: These rosters are obviously a bit outdated (example: Alex Frolov is on the Rangers’ roster instead of in the KHL), so it’s quite possible that EA will release an immediate roster update that might change this quite a bit. That being said, player ratings often remain static through frequent updates, only to see drastic changes in certain situations.

There are a few teams with an extra player rating mentioned for your own aggravation/amusement. Legends ratings are listed at the end of this post. Finally, there are some ties for third place, so consult this link for a deeper look at those rosters.

Anaheim

Ryan Getzlaf – 91
Corey Perry – 90
Bobby Ryan – 89

Boston

Zdeno Chara – 91
David Krejci – 87
Milan Lucic – 87

Buffalo

Derek Roy – 88
Thomas vanek – 88
Jason Pominville – 87

(Ville Leino – 82)

Calgary

Jarome Iginla – 90
Alex Tanguay – 85
Jay Bouwmeester  84

Carolina

Eric Staal – 90
Joni Pitkanen – 84
Tomas Kaberle – 84

(Jeff Skinner – 83)

Chicago

Jonathan Toews – 91
Marian Hossa – 89
Patrick Kane – 89

(Duncan Keith – 89)

Colorado

Paul Stastny – 87
Erik Johnson – 87
Matt Duchene – 84

Columbus

Rick Nash – 89
Jeff Carter – 87
Kristian Huselius – 84

Dallas

Loui Eriksson – 87
Brenden Morrow – 87
Alex Goligoski – 85

Detroit

Pavel Datsyuk – 93
Henrik Zetterberg – 91
Nicklas Lidstrom – 88

Edmonton

Ales Hemsky – 87
Ryan Whitney – 85
Shawn Horcoff – 84

Florida

Stephen Weiss – 85
Brian Campbell – 84
David Booth – 84

Los Angeles

Anze Kopitar – 88
Drew Doughty – 88
Mike Richards – 87

Minnesota

Mikko Koivu – 88
Dany Heatley – 88
Devin Setoguchi – 84

Montreal

Michael Cammalleri – 87
Andrei Markov – 87
Tomas Plekanec – 87

Nashville

Shea Weber – 89
Ryan Suter – 87
Sergei Kostitsyn – 83

New Jersey

Ilya Kovalchuk – 91
Zach Parise – 91
Travis Zajac – 85

NY Islanders

Mark Streit – 87
John Tavares – 87
Michael Grabner – 83

NY Rangers

Marian Gaborik – 89
Brad Richards – 88
Marc staal – 85

Ottawa

Jason Spezza – 88
Sergei Gonchar – 85
Daniel Alfredsson – 84

Philadelphia

Chris Pronger – 90
Danny Briere – 87
Claude Giroux – 87

(Jaromir Jagr – 83)

Phoenix

Shane Doan – 85
Keith Yandle – 84
Rostislav Klesla – 83

Pittsburgh

Sidney Crosby – 94
Evgeni Malkin – 91
Kris Letang – 85

San Jose

Joe Thornton – 91
Patrick Marleau – 88
Dan Boyle – 87

St. Louis

David Backes – 85
Barrett Jackman – 84
Andy McDonald – 84

Tampa Bay

Steven Stamkos – 91
Martin St. Louis – 89
Vincent Lecavalier – 88

Toronto

Phil Kessel – 87
Dion Phaneuf – 85
Luke Schenn – 84

Vancouver

Sedin twins – 91
Ryan Kesler – 88

Washington

Alex Ovechkin – 93
Nicklas Backstrom – 87
Alex Semin – 87

(Mike Green – 87)

Winnipeg

Dustin Byfuglien – 87
Andrew Ladd – 85
Nik Antropov – 85

Legends

Mario Lemieux – 97
Wayne Gretzky – 97
Steve Yzerman – 92
Ray Bourque – 91
Gordie Howe – 91
Chris Chelios – 89
Jeremy Roenick – 88
Borje Salming – 85

***

If you ask me, EA made the smart move by giving Lemieux and Gretzky the same rating. Anyway, how do you feel about these initial ratings? Feel free to share your reactions in the comments.

(H/T to On the Forecheck.)

Gibson (lower-body injury) will play again this regular season, says Carlyle

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The Anaheim Ducks have been without goalie John Gibson for almost two full weeks because of injury, but head coach Randy Carlyle provided reason for optimism on Thursday.

Per reports, Gibson took part in practice and Carlyle has said that his No. 1 netminder will play again during the regular season. Anaheim has nine games remaining on its schedule.

That’s good news for Anaheim heading into the post-season.

While Gibson has been out, Jonathan Bernier has stepped beyond his back-up role and provided solid goaltending for the Ducks during the stretch drive — which should also be a bonus for this club with the playoffs quickly approaching.

Bernier has wins in six of his last seven starts. In nine games this month, he has only twice allowed three goals or more.

The Ducks have fought their way back into contention for the Pacific Division with a recent surge that has coincided with San Jose’s current skid — only four wins in their last 10 games and four straight losses.

Related: Career back on track, Bernier hopes he can re-sign in Anaheim

Report: IIHF needs NHL’s Olympic decision by end of April

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The Winter Olympics are less than a year away and time is ticking on the NHL to make a decision — one way or another.

From TSN.ca:

International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel tells The Associated Press he needs to know by the end of April whether NHL players will be cleared to play in the South Korea Olympics next year.

NHL team owners have made it clear they don’t want to stop their season again for the Winter Games and put their stars at risk of injury. The reluctance has come up before and yet the NHL has participated in the Olympics since 1998. This time, however, there seems to be an impasse.

For those hoping NHL players will compete in South Korea next year, the situation right now appears bleak, given the recent comments of commissioner Gary Bettman, who told Reuters that “…people should assume we are not going.”

Bettman has also argued the compressed schedule that accompanies the league’s participation in the Olympics is bad for the NHL.

Read more: Fehr: Players won’t negotiate with NHL over Olympics

Meanwhile, a number of players — Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Jakub Voracek and rising star Connor McDavid among them — have publicly lobbied for the opportunity to once again compete in the Olympics, adding that having the world’s best players there is a benefit to growing the game.

(In McDavid’s case, he has never played in the Olympics, but given his stature as arguably the league’s best player right now in only his second season, he’d be a shoe-in to make Team Canada if healthy.)

Voracek recently sounded off the matter, essentially calling the league’s position, “Absolutely ridiculous.”

Goalie nods: Vezina candidates clash as Bobrovsky faces Holtby

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Sergei Bobrovsky leads the NHL in GAA, at 2.04. Braden Holtby sits second, at 2.05.

Bobrovsky leads the NHL in wins, with 39. Holtby sits second, with 37.

Holtby leads the NHL in shutouts, with eight. Bobrovsky sits third, with six.

Perhaps you see where this is going.

Tonight, the two will square off in a much-anticipated game, as the Jackets travel to Washington to take on the Caps.

“It’s a great opponent,” Bobrovsky said, per NHL.com. “It’s going to be interesting. It’s one of the best teams in the League, so we’ll see. We’ll see who’s going to be better.”

Holtby is the reigning Vezina winner, while Bobrovsky captured the trophy three years prior. Both have already been unofficially shortlisted for this season’s award — along with Devan Dubnyk and, perhaps, Cam Talbot — but tonight’s game is about much, much more than goaltending.

The Caps head into the tilt two points up on Columbus for first spot in the NHL (and just one up on Pittsburgh). Columbus has made it clear it would love to capture the first Preisdents’ Trophy in franchise history, and a victory tonight would be a big step towards it. The Jackets, Penguins and Capitals all have 10 games left in their respective seasons, and Columbus will have one more shot at each this year.

Elsewhere…

— The Bolts begin a back-to-back set tonight, and will start Peter Budaj against the Bruins. Tuukka Rask will likely be in for the B’s, after allowing three goals on just 22 shots in a loss to Ottawa on Tuesday.

Keith Kinkaid, who’s seen more playing time that usual down the stretch, will get another start when the Devils take on the Leafs in New Jersey. Curtis McElhinney goes for the Leafs, after Frederik Andersen beat Columbus last night.

— It’s Matt Murray versus Mike Condon as the Penguins take on the Sens.

Eddie Lack, who’s played very well since being verbally lambasted by head coach Bill Peters, looks to start when the ‘Canes take on the Habs in Montreal. Carey Price will be in goal for the Canadiens.

— After Reto Berra’s first start in over a year on Tuesday, the Panthers will go back to James Reimer against Arizona. The visiting Coyotes will start Mike Smith.

Ryan Miller goes up against his old Blues teammates as the Canucks visit St. Louis. Jake Allen, who continues to be one of the better comeback stories this season, looks for his seventh win in his last eight starts.

Chad Johnson gives Brian Elliott a night off as Calgary takes on Nashville. Looks as though the Preds are going back to Pekka Rinne, after he earned his third straight win over the Coyotes on Monday.

— It’s Steve Mason versus Devan Dubnyk as Philly travels to Minnesota.

Corey Crawford will look to bounce back after allowing four goals on 10 shots (and getting hooked) against Vancouver on Tuesday. The visiting Stars look like they’ll go with Kari Lehtonen.

— Some thought Cam Talbot, the NHL’s leader in starts, would get a rest tonight in Colorado after getting hooked against Anaheim last night. Nope. Talbot’s back in, going up against Jeremy Smith for the Avs.

— In the late game, Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck gets back in goal after Michael Hutchinson scored a rare win on Tuesday. He’ll be in against Ben Bishop, who looks to keep the Kings’ faint playoff hopes alive.

‘Hawks sign Kero to two-year extension

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Chicago has re-upped with winger Tanner Kero on a two-year deal, the club announced on Thursday.

Kero, 24, is in his second season with the ‘Hawks. He made his NHL debut in ’15-16 and has earned a more prominent role this year, scoring 12 points through 38 games.

Undrafted out of Michigan Tech, Kero parlayed a strong senior season — which included being a Hobey Baker finalist — into a contract with the ‘Hawks. He’s spent quite a bit of time in AHL Rockford, emerging as a quality goalscorer.

That said, Kero has developed a more well-rounded game with Chicago, and impressed head coach Joel Quenneville in the process.

“He’s reliable in a lot of ways,” Quenneville said, per CSN Chicago. “He puts himself in the right spot, down low in his own end, underneath coverage, and seems to be useful in killing penalties as well. There’s more offense in his game that hopefully can come around and add to his reliability defensively.

“We feel he’s done a good job of being a guy in the middle you can use and we like what he’s brought to our team in a position where, [earlier in] the year, I don’t know if he was forecast to be a regular like that. But he’s become more and more reliable, or used more.”

Financial details of the new contract weren’t released. Kero is in the last of a two-year, $1.85 million deal with a $667,500 average annual cap hit.