With NHL training camps and the pre-season wrapping up over the next week, hockey analysts from across the land are speculating how the season will play out. Locally, everyone is curious how the newly reborn Winnipeg Jets will fair in the first NHL season in Manitoba since 1996.
Here at the Manitoban, we hope to provide a potential answer to that question by simulating the entire NHL season in EA Sports NHL 12. For the simulations we used the Xbox 360 version of the game, set the skill level to superstar and the game style to hardcore. Period length was set at 20 minutes; we’re not sure if that actually affects anything in simulated games, but we might as well be as “scienticious” as possible.
According to our simulation, in the Jets’ first regular game of the season against the Montreal Canadiens at the MTS Centre on Oct. 9, Blake Wheeler will be credited with the first non-preseason goal in modern Winnipeg Jets history 48 seconds into the first period on a Dustin Byfuglien shot deflection. Jets forward Brian Little will score the second goal of the game with only seven seconds remaining in the first period with assists from Zach Bogosian and Nik Antropov. The simulated fans at the simulated MTS Centre were surely losing their simulated minds.
The remainder of the inaugural game would be dominated by the Jets, as they lit up projected Montreal starting goaltender Peter Budaj three more times on their way to a dominating 5-0 victory. Ondrej Pavelec saved 33 shots for his 17th NHL career shut out and claimed first star honours for his dream debut as the Jets starting goaltender.
As we jump ahead to the mid-point of the season, heading into the All-Star break the Jets amass a record of 17-23-10 and sit nine points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Left-winger Evander Kane led the team with 13 goals and 34 points at the break and was the lone Jet selected to play in the All-Star game. It’s also worth noting that 50 games into the season, Jets captain Andrew Ladd had only played in 31 games, indicating that he had suffered a simulated injury that had held him out for a significant number of games.
Heading down the stretch towards the playoffs, the Jets would need to put together a few solid win streaks if they had any hope of making the playoffs. March would, unfortunately, prove to be a disastrous month, as the team only won five of 15 games. By season’s end, the Jets missed out on the playoffs in their first season, finishing with a record of 31-40-11, the second worst record in the Eastern Conference.
Kane finished the season as the top scorer on the team with 25 goals and 35 assists. Pavelec spent the majority of time between the pipes, playing in 67 games and sporting a record of 23-34, a 2.79 GAA and achieving three shut outs.
So there you have it. According to our NHL 12 simulations, the Jets will have a fairly disappointing inaugural season. We’re sorry for being such a buzz kill. If you’ve run your own simulations we would love to hear about them. Go to themanitoban.com/categories/sports and leave your results in the comments.