NHL 12 produces biggest launch week in series’ history

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For the most part, critics raved about NHL 12, the latest installment in EA Sports’ popular hockey video game series. That’s great and all, but critical success doesn’t always allow companies to reap huge profits; simply look at the ratings for the defunct but beloved sitcom “Arrested Development” if you need to drive the point home.

Whether you pinpoint the reasoning based on strong word of mouth, a creative wave of marketing (including installments regarding the title’s nine legends) or the recent gains made by the sport itself, NHL 12 came charging out of the gate as far as sales are concerned. EA announced that the game broke first week records for the series, with the European version receiving a Sept. 9 release while the North American copy came out on Sept. 12.

Estimates indicate that more than 451,000 copies were sold, bringing in more than $27 million in retail. Chris Pereira of 1up.com reports that EA hopes to capitalize on this success by releasing a “free-to-play” Facebook game called NHL Superstars in October. (I have to admit I cringe a bit at the idea without knowing the details, as it makes me picture a hockey version of incessant “Farmville” updates. Hopefully it will be more promising than that, though.)

Here are more details about the strong first week for the game.

Electronic Arts has announced that NHL 12 enjoyed a “record-breaking launch.” After its release on September 13 in North America, EA’s internal figures peg it as having the biggest launch week in the franchise’s history. Sales were up 19 percent in North America and Europe (where it launched on September 9) as compared with last year, resulting in it bringing in more than $27 million at retail worldwide.

Record amounts of time was spent playing online, too; over 6.9 million online matches took place between September 13 and September 19. That’s the most during one week in the franchise’s history and 17 percent more than last year.

Hopefully those impressive figures will encourage EA Sports to maintain their aggressive (if subtle) approach to improving the NHL titles from NHL 12 to NHL 13 … although some might believe it’s hard to say what, exactly, they need to improve.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”