A second run
So things continued the next two days. I’d learned the tricks of the interface, I began listening to internet radio (especially hockey broadcasts
) to make up for the lack of a soundtrack, and how to scout, pick in drafts and deal with trades. Finally, I launched a new game with the Oilers again, made the right moves, narrowly missed the playoffs in the first season – but fulfilled the owners’ expectations by improving the roster. The season after that, with some huge free agent signings like Olaf Kolzig, Eric Daze, Andrew Brunette and Chris Drury, I was ready to make a run at the playoffs. After bouncing between 2nd, 4th and 5th through the first half of the season though, things took a dire turn for the worse as the playoffs approached. My position dropped to 6th, 7th and finally 8th. The red-hot Minnesota Wild had been stopped twice in the last two weeks by my struggling Oilers, but in the second-last game of the season, the slow-but-steady San Jose Sharks beat the Oil to secure the last playoff spot in the West for themselves.
I was crushed. I’d spent days managing the team, getting the best coaches, making great strides in practice with the players, and even figuring out a tactic that generally worked well throughout most of the season. I’d invested some thirty hours over two days into building this team that had, albeit briefly, danced around 1st place in the western conference only to collapse. With the owners expecting a playoff appearance, I resigned as soon as the Sharks beat me in the second-last game of the season. Unbelievable as it is, that was one of the most emotionally draining experiences a game has ever produced, simply because I invested so much into it.
NHL Eastside Hockey Manager compares to NHL 2K6’s management mode the way a Lamborghini Murcielago compares to a 1977 Honda Civic. Both do roughly the same thing, but one of them is much, much better at it. NHL 2K6 lets you trade players and draft picks, sign new players, and release unneeded ones. NHL Eastside Hockey Manager makes sure you care for the fitness of your players, hire the right assistant coaches to help out in practice and get the best out of your rookies and vets alike, the best head coach you can find, a good scouting staff and of course trainers to properly diagnose and treat injuries.
Of course, all this is on top of an impressive trade and signing system. The AI is very, very savvy about who it lets go and for what. Don’t expect your team to be comprised of the Western Conference All-Stars. In fact, you should expect to be very careful in your initial offers and weighing player concerns quite carefully. In an apparent concession to gameplay, the actual negotiations are very limited – rarely does a notable free agent last long enough on the market to be tendered more than one or two offers. Often, they take a great while to accept or reject them – or they don’t even bother.