Well it looks like this will be another rough year for Vancouver Canucks fans. EA Sports has once again run their annual simulation of NHL 12 to determine how they believe the coming NHL season will turn out. The Pittsburgh Penguins will be taking home Lord Stanley’s mug once again, led by the injured-but-not-broken Sidney Crosby. If NHL 12‘s predictions turn out to be anywhere close to accurate, then it looks like there will be plenty of compelling drama over the coming season and playoffs.

It’s often easy to write off the predictions made by sports simulations, since the gap between the real sport and the AI of a game is obvious to anyone. But the development team behind NHL 12 has proven that they know the game inside and out, and their past predictions have used their knowledge to make some startlingly inspired choices.

Whether it was selecting the Chicago Blackhawks to take home their first Stanley Cup in 40 years in 2010, or picking the Vancouver Canucks as both the best team in the league last year, and the Stanley Cup finalists against the Boston Bruins, the NHL series has proven that it knows its stuff. After all, this is a top of the line sports simulation designed by and for hockey fans, not some monkey spinning a wheel.

So if you’re a Pittsburgh Penguins fan fearing that your season may be lost due to Captain Sidney Crosby’s concussion, then have no fear. NHL 12 predicts that after missing just 17 games Sid The Kid will lead his team to a championship with a game to spare. Having the best player in a given sport sitting in the press box is never a good thing, so we’ll let Penguins fans enjoy this bit of good news before getting into the other stories of the regular season.

Mario himself would be more than proud:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsGZ85ZDzyU

A championship is always a plus, but the NHL 12 season simulation generated more than a few new storylines that deserve attention. This season will feature old powers returning to glory, rivalries growing stronger and nastier, and deserving individuals finally being recognized. At least, according to EA Sports:

  • Last year’s Champion Boston Bruins will be taken out of the playoffs in the first round, losing to the overhauled Philadelphia Flyers in 5 games.
  • Despite cover athlete Steven Stamkos taking home the Rocket Richard Trophy for 53 goals, his Tampa Bay Lightning will be defeated by the Penguins in a 7 game Eastern Conference Final.
  • Chicago Blackhawks will recover from last season by making it to the Stanley Cup Finals over yes, you guessed it, the President’s Cup-winning Vancouver Canucks. In 7 games, no less.
  • Montreal Canadiens will fail to make the playoffs, while the Toronto Maple Leafs and Minnesota Wild will capture the 8th seed in their respective conferences.
  • Washington Capitals Captain Alex Ovechkin will lead the league offensively in Crosby’s absence, posting 110 points and claiming the Art Ross, Ted Lindsay and Hart Memorial trophies. Crosby will rack up 92 points in 65 games, taking home the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe trophy.
  • New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist will be awarded his first Vezina Trophy, with 41 wins and 9 shutouts.
  • Nashville Predators’ Shea Weber will take home the James Norris Memorial Trophy (finally).
  • Chicago Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews named the recipient of the Frank J. Selke Trophy.

It’s hard to argue with many of these predictions, but that won’t stop fans from criticizing the obvious assumptions being made by the developers. But whether your team is in the playoff picture or not, the plausibility of most of the results is a testament to the accuracy of NHL 12‘s AI. The improved physics and gameplay helped the series to shatter sales records, but it also seems like it would kill in a fantasy draft.

Do any of these predictions seem particularly unlikely to you? Think that EA Sports is underestimating the importance of new young talent, or a franchise relocation, perhaps? Share your thoughts in the comments.

NHL 12 is available now for the Xbox 360 and PS3. Head over to the NHL 12 Blog for all of the simulation details.

Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.

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