“I guess you’re always thinking there could be, but also at the same time I think it’s difficult for a new guy to come in when he’s invested in another team for a number of years,” Staal told Pro Hockey Talk during the NHL Player Media Tour on Thursday. “He’ll need to really feel out what we have and what certain guys are.So I guess at the same time it’s not that surprising because I’m sure he wants to get his hands in there a little bit more with our group and see where we’re at, especially the start of the year. We’ll see what happens.”
Despite reaching 100 points in three of the last four seasons, the Wild have been bounced from the playoffs in the first round three straight springs. Pieces have been added over the years but owner Craig Leipold’s goal of winning a Stanley Cup after handing Parise and Ryan Suterthose massive contracts in 2012 has yet to be realized.
In the postseason they were bounced by the Winnipeg Jets in five games after nearly making it a series following a Game 3 victory. But Connor Hellebuyck‘s back-to-back shutouts closed out the series and sent the Wild into another early summer.
“The first round against Winnipeg had moments in it where we’re hoping it was going to tilt in our favor and our direction, but ultimately just didnt have enough to be able to get enough winners,” Staal said. “Obviously missing Ryan was huge. He’s our best defenseman and a player that we definitely missed.”
What can be better this season, putting aside all the injury issues?
“We’ve got younger guys that will take another step forward and grab larger roles this coming season,” said Staal. “Again, another tough year with some great teams in our division and we’re going to have to be very good to make sure we’re there at the end of the year.”
For his part, Staal didn’t miss a game and had his best offensive year in nearly a decade. His 42 goals were tied for fourth in the NHL and his 76 points were his highest since the 2010-11 season while a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Staal, who will be 34 in October, has found the fountain of youth since signing in Minnesota in 2016. He’s scored 70 goals over the last two seasons, and as he enters the final year of his contract he’d be happy to stay with the Wild.
Fenton was hired in May and Staal understands that the new GM has been a bit busy examining his new team and figuring out plans for the future, while also re-signing key pieces like Jason Zucker and Matt Dumba. Extension talks will come at some point.
“We had some kind of conversation as far as we’ll kind of approach it here once we get rolling in the season and go from there,” Staal said. “I’d like to [stay]. I like it. Minnesota’s been a great fit for me and I enjoy playing there, but that isn’t a secret. But those are things that we’ll discuss and figure out as we move forward in the next couple of months.”
The deal is good value for the Buffalo Sabres, who are right up against the 2018-19 salary cap of $79.5 million. CapFriendly shows the Sabres with just over $2.8 million in cap space left but with the potential to have to pay out nearly $4 million in bonuses this season.
Sam Reinhart Contract: Year 1: 3.55 Million Year 2: 3.75 Million
Like Josh Morrissey and Darnell Nurse before him, the deal means Reinhart will be a restricted free agent come the summer of 2020 and the Sabres will then have the option to hand him an eight-year deal.
And like Morrissey and Nurse, the deal is team-friendly in terms of the cap now and leaves the player betting on themselves for a significant pay raise in two year’s time.
Most comparable contracts: Sam Reinhart (F) Two years, $3.65M AAV
Reinhart had a slow start to the season last year but ended up setting a career-high in goals with 25 to tie Jack Eichel for the team lead.
What’s most impressive about Reinhart’s year was how good he was down the stretch. In the final 44 games, he had 39 of his career-high 50 points and 20 of his 25 goals came in 2018, which tied him for 12th in the NHL during that span.
Reinhart’s passing skills and hockey IQ make him an intriguing center candidate. Though not the fleetest of foot, he can drive the offense. According to the numbers at NaturalStatTrick.com, Reinhart trailed only Evander Kane and Jason Pominville in shots generated relative to his teammates and ranked fifth in fewest shots allowed. O’Reilly was noticeably better with Reinhart than without him.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Lunch is over and before the next session of game film study begins, the jokes start flying among the 80-plus referees and linesmen assembled in a downtown hotel ballroom.
”Anyone who didn’t bring their glasses should move closer to the screen so they can see,” someone says.
”Or those who need glasses,” someone else adds, amid the laughter.
If NHL players need training camp to prepare for the start of the season, officials are no different. The men in black and white stripes gave The Associated Press access to their annual camp held in Buffalo, New York, last week and it was full of colorful honesty. They also squeezed in plenty of work during the five-day camp that marks the only time all of them get an opportunity to gather before being separated to roam the continent for much of the next 10 months.
”It’s like players say what they miss the most about when they played: It’s the locker room. It’s the same for us,” veteran linesman Tony Sericolo said, referring to the playful banter. ”This is our second family. We give each other shots all the time.”
Camp days usually begin with a workout at 6:30 a.m. and are split up evenly with on- and off-ice sessions. There is an annual banquet honoring those who achieved career milestones and those who retired last year. They also have a poker night, with proceeds going toward the education of the children of late official Stephane Provost, who died in a motorcycle accident in 2005.
On the ice, the officials get their skating legs under them by playing hockey in a six-team tournament.
”We get to refresh the rules, and it gets us back in the flow,” Sericolo said. ”You start thinking hockey again because for a couple of months, we’re home, we’re relaxing.”
Off the ice, they spend hours studying film to review penalty standards, and share pointers on what approach might work best in various situations. With no major rule changes introduced this offseason, NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom placed the focus on reviewing existing rules.
”We want to make sure we continue the standard we had in previous years,” Walkom said. ”And then there’s the new tactic that crept into the game, slashing, and continue our vigilance there to allow the skill players to play.”
Another point of emphasis was faceoffs, after linesmen spent much of last season cracking down on players attempting to gain an advantage by creeping in from the hash mark or dropping to their knees for leverage.
Numerous videos featured miked-up linesmen being assertive by warning players to make sure their feet and sticks were set while lining up inside the circle.
Another series of videos showed examples of how referees were clear and concise in explaining calls, and the reasons behind them, with coaches at the bench. In one video, Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau went from being unhappy with a call to eventually agreeing with it after having it explained to him by an official.
Sericolo said watching how his colleagues handle situations were the best lessons.
”When you watch two or three guys that really do it right, you pick up little things from each of them,” he said. ”It really helps your craft.”
Sericolo is from Albany, New York, and got into officiating after playing hockey in college. He has now worked nearly 1,300 games since making his NHL debut in October 1998.
”When you’re playing, you never say to yourself, ‘Oh, I really can’t wait to referee.’ We all wanted to play,” he said. ”You weren’t good enough to play, but you always wanted to stay involved in the game. And this was a great way to stay involved.”
The most difficult part of camp might actually be playing hockey.
”It is tougher, because the hockey’s not as good,” Sericolo said, with a laugh. ”And we don’t know where we’re going.”
Sports video games tend to trot out new wrinkles that end up being forgotten in months, let alone years. And when we remember them, it’s sometimes for how they fail; football fans may still shudder at Madden’s dreaded “QB Vision” cones.
When you put yourself in the developer’s shoes, it’s tough not to feel some sympathy, as it can’t be easy to churn out a new game every year.
Fair or not, “NHL 18” received some of the typical “glorified roster update” charges that come with annual updates. Even as an easy mark for the series, I must admit that the title felt a little stale. There was a worry that the series was losing steps faster than Corey Perry.
Delightfully, “NHL 19” is its own beast, and presents a surprisingly large step forward for the series. Perhaps it only makes sense with “World of CHEL” bringing the game outdoors.
Today, PHT will look at some of the biggest changes, and how they mostly work for the better. Tomorrow, we’ll trot out a wishlist of sorts for changes we’d like to see in the probable event that EA will release “NHL 20.”
(With that in mind, absolutely share your own wants and hopes in the comments.)
World of CHEL, the good sort of fresh coat of paint
While I’ll admit that I’m still very early on when it comes to this mode, so far, it seems like it mostly works.
Personally, I’ve never been all that into heavy player customization; “World of Warcraft” and other online-heavy modes have rarely been my bag. (Considering how addictive many of those games can become, that’s almost certainly a good thing.)
A lot of people do love decking out their characters with “Office Space”-approved flair, though, and this mode seems to bring previous “Be a Pro” elements to a new level. Credit EA with not ruining “World of CHEL” by adding microtransactions, either. Maybe you can chalk it up to HUT covering those bases, or just the backlash to NBA2K’s decisions and EA’s own heartache with Star Wars titles, but it’s nonetheless appreciated.
Ones of a kind
After introducing a more arcade-style, 3-on-3 mode title “Threes” in last year’s game, “NHL 19” adds “Ones.” It’s hockey’s answer to pro wrestling’s triple-threat match, as three individual players battle for the puck and try to score the most goals against a computer goalie.
Yes, it’s as hectic as that sounds. It’s also a fantastic “palate cleanser” compared to more straightforward modes.
As someone who misses the days of arcade-style games (EA’s own “BIG” label churned out truly fantastic titles like SSX and NBA Street, for instance), I appreciate the efforts with these modes. Actually, such thoughts make me hope that EA goes even further with the zaniness in future editions.
Regardless, it’s a nifty, refreshing new flavor for the NHL series.
A lot of times sports games will trot out gameplay tweaks with goofy, corporatized titles. “NHL 19” isn’t immune to this when it comes to “Explosive Edge Skating.”
Luckily, skating really is drastically improved in this one.
In earlier additions, players sometimes felt like they pivoted with the grace of tugboats. Mediocre responsiveness exacerbated issues where star players didn’t always stand out enough compared to their peers.
“NHL 19” makes big strides in that area, as it’s far easier to turn on a dime and find space, particularly with the Connor McDavids of the world.
Such improvements are felt in other ways – hitting has improved – but you’re most likely to feel the difference in skating.
Death of the pokecheck?
In recent titles, I’ve “spammed” the pokecheck button on defense, albeit at the right moments. Sometimes it almost felt a little dirty that it was so successful, so often.
“NHL 19” shakes a finger disapprovingly at my old methods, however. Penalties generally seem to have been ramped up in this version, with a borderline overcorrection happening regarding pokechecking leading to tripping penalties.
It’s not clear if EA found the sweet spot with this yet, but after grumbling through some early growing pains, I think it’s probably for the best.
EA Hockey Manager
Sometimes you want to feel the rush of deking around defensemen, landing big hits, and roofing pucks beyond a goalie’s glove. Other times you want to feel like you’d do a better job than Marc Bergevin and Dale Tallon.
In past NHL games, you’d probably get an overly inflated feeling that you’d school Bergevin, aside from maybe in a bench-pressing contest. If you engage with all of the modes in “NHL 19,” you may actually end up feeling some empathy for the league’s most embattled execs.
That’s because the franchise mode feels a lot beefier.
For one thing, scouting feels closer to the spreadsheets-as-games experiences you could get if you nerded out with “Eastside Hockey Manager” or “Franchise Hockey Manager.”
Rather than merely budgeting time in weeks and sending a scout out to different locations like in previous games, “NHL 19” allows you to hire and fire scouts. You can align your pro and amateur scouts in a number of ways, including which details you survey in a given prospect.
(Bonus points for EA adding the player comparison element to prospect profiles, so you can experience the fun of some 18-year-old never becoming the next Zdeno Chara. How life-like!)
Refreshingly, you’ll need those pro scouts if you keep “fog of war” on, and that element might be what makes you feel a simulation of a GM’s pain.
In past NHL games, you’d know the rating for every player – even ones on opposing teams – aside from players you were scouting. If fog of war is toggled on in “NHL 19,” you’ll sometimes only get hazy reports, and you’ll need to trust the accuracy of your professional scouts.
It opens the door for fascinating differences of opinion. Maybe you’d also pull the trigger on a trade akin to Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson if you were going off the opinion of a C-grade pro scout?
If this all sounds like way too much for a video game – understandably – note that customize it by turning fog of war and other things off. (Personally, I tend to turn off owner mode, as I’m not really interested in deciding how much money I should spend on bathroom repairs.)
HUT gets some tweaks
One bummer with long-lasting NHL modes is that they don’t carry over. Your franchise mode team can’t continue on, and your Be a Pro must be a scrappy up-and-comer even if your “NHL 18” version made the Hall of Fame.
So, on one hand, I’m not sure how I feel about soccer-like “loan players” in HUT. I’m also not sure if changes to player ratings are really just a way to nudge the mode closer to “pay-to-win.”
Either way, seeing fairly noteworthy tweaks to HUT might make it easier for those who’ve paid for previous teams to start from scratch. Maybe.
As far as the wider quality of the mode goes – particularly how feasible it is to be competitive if you make it a point not to spend an extra dime on “NHL 19” – it will probably take months to know for sure if it’s truly better, the same, or worse. Early on, there’s some value to the sheer novelty it represents.
Long story short, “NHL 19” presents more than just token changes to EA’s formula for NHL games. These changes should be refreshing for series veterans, while the improved gameplay and other tweaks make for a solid start for anyone new to the titles.
More than anything else, it all feels so much better to play, even if it’s unlikely to convert its loudest critics.
This series has been providing quantity for quite a few years, and you’re getting even more of that with “NHL 19.” Thankfully, this iteration presents a big jump in quality, too.