The number of players in the game is truly staggering. The downloadable editor loads something like 30,000 players Ė all real (except NCAA players, who have fake names), all scouted at least roughly and evaluated. No doubt there are educated guesses for many fringe players, but just as many are accurate. Names that are generating buzz in the CHL, WHL and in Europe now, are already in the game and also getting your virtual scouts up in a tizzy. The sheer number of leagues and teams is staggering Ė all NHL, AHL, OHL, WHL, ECHL and QMJHL teams Ė and thatís just North America! On top of that, the game has all the major European leagues, though in less detail. Still, if itís been your lifelong ambition to manage Dynamo Moscow in the Russian Super League, youíre welcome to try.
Players have a wild assortment of stats, preferences and attributes Ė some hidden. It takes scouting to reveal a playerís physical and mental attributes, and skills, but these can change. Furthermore, scouts can only guess at a playerís potential, and even the best scouts are wrong sometimes. Players can seem very good in the minors and destined for greatness in the pros, but once they arrive on the scene many are unable to take the next step. Often this is tied to their potential limitations, but sometimes itís because they were brought up too early to the pros and not given a chance to develop at a more reasonable pace. You may think you need some hotshot rookie center now, but odds are heíll struggle. A year or two of terrorizing the competition in the minors could be just what the doctor ordered.
As manager, you have the option of coaching the games yourself. You can set line-by-line strategies and individual player mentalities, though the actual consequences of these changes are not fully explained. Obviously having an offense-minded team produces more chances for you and your opponent, but what you wonít know is how youíll stack up against a team that uses the neutral zone trap or prefers a finesse defensive style of hockey. The counters to each strategy are just not explained. Of course, it isnít a good idea to change tactics too often either Ė it appears to reduce the playersí capability at any single one of them. Going back to that Oilers season that broke my heart, none of my players averaged over a point per game, but when I resigned and let the AI run a team whose roster was virtually unchanged, the top two scorers Ė Smyth and Daze Ė both made 120+ point runs in the regular season. Clearly, even by handing off the running of practice and coaching to the head coach, there was something missing. The game and manual must do a better job of explaining what works.
Running solely in 2D menus at 1024x768, EHM 2005 isnít exactly pretty, but it isnít unattractive either. Perhaps itís a legacy of my being brought up on DOS games, but the gameís lack of visual appeal is not significant. The lack of sound and music isnít bothersome either. In fact, for what is essentially a giant database tied to a fancy spreadsheet, Eastside Hockey Manager is quite an attractive title.