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NHL 12 review roundup: Is it the best game yet or has the series reached a plateau?

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With training camps starting up around the NHL, the hockey-starved masses are already being thrown some meat to chew on. For those who might not be satiated by rookies trying to nail down roster spots and new players/coaches getting acquainted with teams, there’s another option to try to satisfy that hunger: video games. This time around, there’s only one major title to choose from: EA Sports’ NHL 12, which released on September 13.

While there are other reviews that haven’t poured in yet, a good chunk of reactions filtered through blogs, gaming Web sites and various other outlets already. For the most part, the reviews have been very positive, but there also are some naysayers – including one whose negativity might qualify as extreme. With a few days for experts to digest the game out of the way, let’s take a look at how critics reacted to the new game.

A sampling of emphatic praise

1UP.com called it “the series’ greatest achievement” in their A- review:

This is the best version of NHL in the past three years — it’s like the previous versions were simply leading up to this release. Everything looks and feels and plays as it should; a fine balance of entertainment and realism.

Gaming Excellence gave it a 9.2 (“Excellent”) rating:

To be honest, I’m usually in the camp that skips every second NHL title because it’s hard to justify what seems like a few enhancements and a roster update for the price of a AAA game, but this time they’ve done a fantastic job with improvements that are very hard to resist.

Gaming Age gave it a 95 percent (“Superlative”) score:

What more can be said other than, NHL fans need to buy NHL 12 if only to play the best representation of the sport ever created. I don’t think I can praise it any more than that.

Are the improvements too subtle?

There aren’t many major criticisms of the game (at least as far as giving it a bad “score”), but the most consistent line of complaints indicate that the tweaks, new features and improvements aren’t enough to justify a purchase if gamers already own NHL 11. Metacritic captures many of those “it’s a great game and all, but … ” reviews, including this one from GameShark.com.

To be fair there are a lot of changes and tweaks made to the NHL 11 design, but many of them are so small to be nearly unnoticeable. As great as NHL 12 is, and it is a great game, it’s not a giant leap from NHL 11. Is that enough to warrant another $60? Only you can answer that one.

Adam Najberg of the Wall Street Journal blog Speak Easy goes as far as to wonder if EA should put the series on the shelf altogether in what must be the harshest major review for the series in a long time.

Maybe a deep cleansing breath or a hiatus would help. It certainly has for other EA Sports game franchises. On the basketball side, EA has taken a breather for a couple of years, trying to retool and reinvigorate a tired NBA game franchise that wasn’t up to snuff.

(snip)

It’s not really for me to say, but until EA Sports can really come up with something new and refreshing, maybe it should consider putting its NHL game series on ice.

(Quick aside: however you might feel about the direction of the NHL series, bringing up the NBA Live/Elite hiatus won’t improve the odds for a hockey break.)

NHL 12 producer Sean Ramjasingh addressed the question of NHL 12 being a big enough improvement over NHL 11 in an interview earlier last week.

“I think this year is probably the most authentic game we’ve made; it’s leaps and bounds over NHL 11,” Ramjasingh said. “The incredible team we have here busts their butts all year to put over 300 gameplay refinements in, so as you play the game, all that depth is going to start to come through. The real game-changer for me is the hat trick of game innovations.”

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This post provides a solid rundown of that “hat trick” of alterations, which seemingly impressed most critics. The ultimate criticisms come from peoples’ wallets, though, so tell us how you feel. Does the game seem worth your money, whether you already paid for it or are primed to buy it in the future? Let us know in the comments (and expect PHT’s take soon).

Report: Journeyman Santorelli signs in Swiss League

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 02:  Mike Santorelli #25 of the Anaheim Ducks looks on during a game against the Montreal Canadiens at Honda Center on March 2, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Veteran forward Mike Santorelli, who’s appeared in over 400 NHL contests over the last eight years, is headed overseas.

Per multiple reports (see here and here), Santorelli has signed with Geneve-Servette of the Swiss League. The 30-year-old spent last season with the Ducks, scoring nine goals and 18 points in 70 games but didn’t dress for any of the club’s opening-round playoff loss to Nashville.

Santorelli broke into the NHL with Nashville but enjoyed his best years with Florida and Vancouver. He was a former 20-goal scorer with the Panthers and enjoyed a successful stint with his hometown Canucks in ’13-14, scoring 28 points in 49 games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.

Santorelli is the second veteran forward to sign in the Swiss League recently. Over the weekend, fellow journeyman Kris Versteeg agreed to join SC Bern.

Jackets sign d-man Harrington, acquired in Rychel trade

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 14:  Scott Harrington #36 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Vancouver Canucks during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on November 14, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Canucks 4-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Upon trading Kerby Rychel to Toronto at the draft for Scott Harrington, Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen said Harrington was “a guy we’ve watched for a while,” and a “steady, smart [and] good defender.”

Which makes today’s move none too surprising.

On Monday, Kekalainen announced Harrington signed a one-year, two-way deal (financial terms weren’t disclosed). The contract comes after Harrington split last season between the Leafs and the AHL Marlies, appearing in 15 NHL contests.

While Kekalainen was high on Harrington, the most noteworthy thing about the acquisition is it ended a long-running saga with Rychel, the 19th overall pick in 2013. There were repeated rumblings that Rychel wanted out of town, and felt stifled by Columbus’ reluctance to make him a full-time NHLer.

For a while, Kekalainen stood firm in the face of the reports, once openly wondering where they came from. But in the end, the decision was made to part ways with the 21-year-old, the son of ex-NHLer Warren Rychel.

As for Harrington, he should compete for a spot on the Columbus blueline next season. Right now he projects to be the No. 7 or 8 guy, assuming that super prospect Zach Werenski is primed for a full-time gig in the NHL, firmly entrenched in the Blue Jackets’ top six.

In other news from Columbus today, the club has also agreed to terms with AHL forward Alex Broadhurst.

One of the pieces acquired in last summer’s Brandon Saad blockbuster, Broadhurst was a key contributor to AHL Lake Erie’s Calder Cup championship this past spring, finishing second on the club in playoff assists.

Leafs avoid arbitration again, sign Corrado to one year, $600K deal

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 13: Frank Corrado #20 of the Toronto Maple Leafs shoots the puck in NHL action against the Vancouver Canucks on February, 13, 2016 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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Over the weekend, reports suggested that Toronto and RFA blueliner Frank Corrado were close to agreeing to a new contract.

On Monday, the two sides sealed the deal.

The Leafs announced they signed Corrado to a one-year contract, with Sportsnet reporting it to be a $600,00 pact, of the one-way variety.

Corrado, 23, was scheduled to go to arbitration tomorrow. His ask was $900,000, while the Leafs countered with a $625,000 figure on a two-way deal, and $575,000 on a one-way.

So Toronto was nearly spot-on with its valuation.

The former Canucks draftee took a while to make his Leafs debut last season — he sat 28 games after they claimed him off waivers — but when he did get into the lineup, he fared reasonably well. Corrado finished with a goal and six points in 39 games, averaging 14:27 TOI per game.

This marks the second player Toronto avoided going to arbitration with. Prior to signing Corrado, the Leafs inked center Peter Holland to a one-year, $1.3 million deal.

Flyers need Schenn to build on career year

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Brayden Schenn #10 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates his goal in the second period against the New York Rangers on April 7, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Philadelphia Flyers are hoping Brayden Schenn hasn’t finished improving. The former fifth overall draft pick signed a four-year, $20.5 million contract today, after posting career highs in goals (26) and assists (33) in 2015-16.

It took a few years for Schenn, 24, to start justifying his draft position. John Tavares, Victor Hedman, Matt Duchene, and Evander Kane were selected with the first four picks that year. Oliver Ekman-Larsson was taken sixth overall.

So there was pressure.

“I think sometimes when you draft a player top five you tend to think he’s going to develop a little quicker than other guys,” Flyers GM Ron Hextall said Monday, per Flyzette. “When you look at Brayden, has he been a fast developer? I would say probably no. Has he been a slow developer? I would say probably no. He’s probably been average.

“The good thing is he’s gotten better every year and he’s a hard worker. He’s starting to figure out the intricacies of the game. He obviously had his best year to this point so hopefully he continues to build on that.”

Hextall reportedly danced around a question about Schenn being part of the “core” group, so there’s still some proving to be done. The Flyers have already committed long-term to forwards Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Sean Couturier. Wayne Simmonds and Michael Raffl have three years left on their deals, and Dale Weise signed a four-year agreement on July 1.

As for Schenn, he knows he needs to justify the Flyers’ trust in his ongoing development.

“I feel like I keep getting better and better,” he said. “I expect nothing else next year.”