Eastside Hockey Manager Episode One: New Beginnings

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After about four years of being on the fence about buying Eastside Hockey Manager, I finally bit the bullet and am the proud owner of my fourth game on Steam. That’s right, you’re looking at an MLG gamer over here and this GM mode simulation is going to be filled with big brain plays. Anything less than 500 IQ is a failure.

If you don’t know, Eastside Hockey Manager doesn’t come with any NHL players at the start. It’s all randomly generated names, faces, and more. So we won’t have any familiar faces here. Instead, we’ll be starting anew and building a dynasty from scratch! Move over Don Waddell (and everyone else, really), there’s a new sheriff in town!

Get to Know the Team

Matthew Somma has accepted the role of General Manager of the Carolina Hurricanes. As he takes a look at the roster, he makes a few notes of what stands out. Charles Cyr is the team’s head coach. Assistant GM Ales Quercia informs Somma that the team’s star players are Carman Boyle (C), Ryan LaZazzera (D), and Rod Watt (W). The Hurricanes’ top prospects are Stenka Savolainen, Robbie Knowles, and Byron McNutty. With elite names such as these, it’ll be difficult for other teams to pry these players from the Canes.

We get things started by releasing an AHL veteran to get under the contract limit. He wasn’t a good player and I feel that the team won’t be too hurt about missing him. With my team doing some open tryouts, I’m hoping that my head coach picks up on some hidden gems in camp. If not, oh well!

It’s the final day of training camp and I’m happy with the way things are shaking out. The team is looking strong and could be poised for a decent run this year. The Canes did not offer contracts to any of the twelve players that attended camp on tryouts, feeling that they lacked any sort of potential.

It’s the Canes versus the Predators in the first game of the preseason. Carolina is looking to capitalize on a strong camp with a strong showing in the preseason. Players such as Theo Östman, who stood out in camp, will be watched closely. Unfortunately, your heroes fall 5-2 in their first preseason game. The goals were scored by Pierce and Shaw, both on the power play.

Preseason

Next up are the Washington Capitals, a bitter rival in division. Before the game, I made sure to change our team’s needs to Defense and Goaltending. I feel that the Hurricanes lack a true starter and that our defense is underwhelming as well. We have prospects coming but I don’t want to wait forever. Washington downs the Hurricanes 3-2 in the second exhibition game. A much better showing for Carolina but it still ends in defeat. Miettinen and Palmer get the goals for Carolina.

Up third this preseason is Edmonton. No changes were necessary before this game so let’s get right to it! Penalties haunted Carolina in this game, losing 4-2 thanks to three power play goals. Åkeson and Pierce got the goals for Carolina, who have yet to score more than a pair in a game.

It’s now time for the last preseason game against St. Louis. Carolina takes an early 1-0 lead but the score will be 1-1 after 20 minutes of play. Both teams fail to score in the second period, setting up a wild third period. Carolina ends up winning a shootout thriller 3-2, and despite not scoring more than two goals, they still come away victorious.

Regular Season

Your Hurricanes are ranked 30th out of 30 in the preseason polls, proving that media knows nothing about our greatness. I *will* make this team competitive. I *will* win a Stanley cup. Our conquest begins in Nashville.

*John Cena voice* Are you sure about that?

The season opener was a tough 3-1 loss for Carolina, who failed to score until the last five minutes of the game. I’m offering two contracts after failing to reach the cap floor. The Hurricanes need a forward and a defenseman, so I’m looking at bringing one of each in to try and help the team. Carolina has also decided to trade for Don Hutchinson for a 2018 2nd round pick. The Canes need offensive help and this should provide a bit of offense. I have also signed an AHL player to an NHL deal to help reach the salary cap. Hutchinson won’t play just yet, but the Canes have him as the 13th forward in case another move comes along. Our AHL forward might actually see playing time, however, as he is set to become our fourth line RW. As a result, the Hurricanes are able to pick up their first win of the season, defeating Detroit by a score of 3-2.

We’re past January 1, and the Hurricanes are bad. Like 2019-2020 Detroit Red Wings levels of bad. As a result, I have called up a few prospects and fired my head coach. Turns out, he was terrible at evaluating talent and deploying his roster. I hired a coach that was better all across the board, and as a result, the team has slowly started to improve. It’s not a great team still, but we’re staying competitive in games and winning more often.

A quiet trade deadline has passed for the Hurricanes. I made some calls, but no teams seemed interested in what I had to offer. Instead of throwing in the towel for the season, I’m bringing in forward Jean-Luc English over from Finland for the rest of the season. It’s a “prove yourself” contract for a player that could slot into the team’s top six. If the move works out, it’s possible that we keep him on the team for next year. We’re desperate for help up front, so he provides some much needed insurance.

That was a season that I’d prefer to forget. The Canes had less than 20 wins and looked flat out awful most nights. There are some encouraging players on this team, but it’s clear that this team won’t cut it. English only had four points in 22 games with the team, so I’m not convinced that he’ll be back. It was worth a shot, especially given how the rest of the team was performing. We needed the help, and unfortunately he was unable to provide any help.

Offseason

Despite an abysmal record and one of the worst seasons by a team in recent history, the Carolina Hurricanes will be picking fourth overall in the Entry Draft. We’ll be looking for a forward with this pick, preferably a winger, and preferably one that can step into the lineup right away. The Hurricanes have some talent up front, but what they lack is a legitimate first line right winger. Hopefully the Canes can pick up one at the draft!

In talking with my AHL affiliate in Charlotte, I have learned that the Hurricanes have three prospects that are close to making an impact at the NHL level. Two prospects should feature in the top six for years to come, while Byron McNutty should see time as an NHL goaltender in the near future. That’ll be something to keep an eye on as we get closer to training camp.

With the draft coming up, it just dawned on me that I have no idea how to play the game. I’m entering the draft blind, using my intuition as opposed to the game’s great scouting tool. I hate it here. Regardless, we press on. Our team’s needs are great, as we could stand to improve at every position, however, I won’t be addressing any immediate needs at the draft. I’ll be picking the best player available with each pick, just as you should do in real life. At fourth overall, I’m picking Andro Steen, a center from Sweden. He was ranked third overall by most scouts, so getting him at fourth seems like a steal for the Hurricanes. Here’s the list of the rest of my picks in the draft!

31. Colby Donati, G

61. Lou Freeman, RD

91. Slater Glover, RW

121. Roy Montgomery, LD

151. Kim Furs, C

181. Francois Turnbull, LW

Overall, I’m happy with the draft. I went ahead and signed Steen right after the draft, which proved to be the right call as six teams wanted to trade for his rights. Heck no, I’m keeping my top pick!

As free agency nears, I’m offering contracts to a handful of players that meet the standards of an NHL organization. Those players or the team’s prospects are few and far between, so the Hurricanes are saying goodbye to nine players this offseason. As sad as it is, I can’t waste money on players that simply weren’t cutting it last season. It’s high time for some changes around here. I have determined that our greatest needs heading into free agency are a starting goalie, a right winger, depth scoring, and any sort of defensive help. Free agency is going by slowly until the Hurricanes manage to sign Nicolas Davenport to be the team’s third line left winger. The left wing was strong for the Hurricanes this past season, and it was without a doubt where most of the offense came from. Adding Davenport gives the Hurricanes a bit of scoring depth, something they sorely lacked last season. The Hurricanes also manage to sign Christoph Durr, a solid starter that is a massive upgrade over what the Hurricanes currently have in net. We said goodbye to our former backup and now third string goalie, sending him to Pittsburgh in exchange for a 2018 second round pick.

This trade proved to be a PR nightmare for Carolina, as fans rioted in the streets. The simulation didn’t pick up on the fact that this goalie was an actual starter, otherwise they would have been cheering that I made an upgrade in net and got a draft pick for it. Our next signing was Phillip Diem, a player brought in to be the fourth line right winger for this team. I wasn’t thrilled with the options in free agency this year, and I lost out on the top free agent RW in the market. Alas, I had to settle for a small upgrade at forward. Diem is fine and was good for 30 points last year, so if he can come close to that with the Hurricanes, that’s a huge bonus. By deciding to bring back English for another season, the Hurricanes look to be set up for the season!

My assistant GM comes to my office in the middle of August. “Hey Matt, I just got off the phone with an agent. His client, Kenny Wells, is looking for a cheap contract. He might be able to give our defense a boost. Interested?” “Why not?” I reply, “We’re always looking to get better.” A few hours later, Kenny Wells is a top six defenseman on the Carolina Hurricanes.

There are a few questions heading into my second season as GM of the Carolina Hurricanes. Is this team better than they were last year? Unquestionably. We made improvements at nearly every position and signed the team’s top prospect to an Entry Level deal. Is this team good enough to make the playoffs this upcoming season? I doubt it. While this team is better than last year’s, I’m not convinced that we’re a playoff team just yet. The upgrades that we made to the roster are enough to make this team more of a threat in a competitive division, although I believe we’re still a year or so away from the playoffs. The final and most interesting question is: Will Andro Steen make the team? It’s hard to say at this point, especially with the Hurricanes having strong center depth. I wouldn’t be surprised if he sees a game or two, but it all depends on how he develops.

Well folks, that’s it. The first season of my journey as the General Manager for the Carolina Hurricanes is in the books. The board is mad at me, the fans are mad at me, and I’m mad at myself for allowing this team to lose so many games. Now, with a better understanding of how the game works, we can all look forward to a better tomorrow!

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