This year’s iteration of EA NHLs franchise mode has tried, more than any before it, to radically change the way in which the player builds their team. They have attempted this by shifting the “meta” of the mode away from the idea of just getting the highest rated players, to a much more holistic approach, where in order to have a good team you will need to juggle a host of intertwined factors.
Heading up this radical change is what EA are calling a “coaching overhaul”. In NHL 20, coaches will effectively be ‘players’ behind the bench, they will have their own set of attributes, goals, statistics, even a generated face to put to the name, both in game and in the menus. It should be noted here, that the statistics screen for both coaches and players will now show which team they ‘played’ on for each year, a minute change, but a very welcome one for sure. In fact, players can retire and have their likeness preserved in game if they decide to 'become' a coach, using the same system that allowed players to retire and become scouts in 19.
Coaches with a penalty kill attribute for instance will effectively act as a ‘buff’ for penalty killers on the team. Whereas, a bad attribute here will result in a detrimental impact on the ability of the penalty killers. In addition to this, coaches will now have a ‘teaching speciality’, what this means is that each coach will have a bias towards how they grow (or even stagnate / decline) skaters (offensive or defensive), or even goalies. This is tied quite heavily with the ‘teaching’ attribute. In essence then, certain coaches may be good on a rebuilding team, where the teaching attribute will be valued highly, but will have reduced ‘value’ on an older, more established team, as there are less players to ‘grow’. Furthermore, it sounds as though that with good teaching, a coach may in fact be able to increase a player’s potential, raising their value to a rebuilder even further.
Not only will coaches now have individual attributes for you to weigh the value of, but they will also have specific strategies that they would like the team to use, as well as a general bias of how offensive / defensive / physical they want to play.
Of these ‘strategies’, there are three distinct types, namely: Line strategies, Team Strategies, & Scheme Fit. The last type is not strictly a strategy, rather it’s an indicator of how well the team’s composition and the coach synergise with each other in a way.
Line strategies effectively signifies how the coach wants each line to play. For instance, in the video ‘Coach Toms’ wants the 1st Forward line to play an overload strategy, with a carry and shoot bias, with a balance between efficiency / energy, and don’t block / blocking of shots. With the 4th Forward line however, ‘Coach Toms’ would rather that that line played a much more direct style of play and ‘crashed’ the net. These line strategies pair with an individual players’ propensity to play a certain way, to give us ‘Line chemistry’, which we will cover later.
Moving on to the second type now, we have Team Strategies. Generally speaking, this is how the coach wants the team to setup as. For instance, ‘Coach Toms’ wants the pressure exerted by the defensive and offense in 4v4 and 5v5 to be ‘normal’ and ‘standard’ respectively. Whereas, in 3v3, he wants the offense to be aggressive. Additionally, the team strategies page also lists the coach’s individual style in how he wants the team to be set up. Apparently, the four styles at the moment are offensive, defensive, balanced, and finally physical. Which style the coach ‘subscribes’ to will determine in turn which individual strategies he wants to use, as well as affect how he assigns ice time. For instance, a physical / defensive coach is much more likely to rely on his bottom 6 than an offensive coach is.
Finally, we have Scheme fit. Essentially, scheme fit is a representation of how well a coach thinks a player (as well as the team as a whole) fits into his preferred style of playing. In other words, an offensively geared coach will prefer offensive players to balanced, or even defensive players. As far as gameplay impact goes, it does not seem as though that having a bad scheme fit in and of itself results in anything, instead it simply gives you a quick way to check how well everything synergises, since having a higher team / scheme fit can be an incredibly useful thing thanks to another new feature in Line Chemistry.
Line Chemistry looks to add more depth to line-up creation for players. Instead of the only challenge in assembling a ‘good’ line being cap restraints, players will now have to contend with the line strategies set by the Coach, and the preferred way that the individual players would like to play. Maximising line chemistry can be especially important, as a poorly managed line can result in an extreme penalty of -5 ovr across the three players, whereas a line that works well together can receive a +5 ovr boost. In addition to this, players will also receive negatives for chemistry is they play in the wrong position (e.g. a RW on LW), as well as if they are set up with player types that don’t mesh together very well (e.g. three snipers, instead of twf, grinder, sniper).
What this means in practice then, is that it should be worth having ‘role’ players that fit with the coach’s ethos that are technically not the best, but can easily slot in and out of the line up across all lines, as a way to give a ‘boost’ to a line that maybe does not have the greatest chemistry to begin with.
Finally, with an overhauled conversation system, players can now conduct interviews with coaches that you may want to hire, in order to see how interested they would be in joining the team, as well as what strategies in particular they subscribe to. For example, some coaches may have a preference for teams with a large (or even small) fan base. In fact, with the said conversation system, coaches can come to you the GM / owner with suggestions of how to better the team. You will then be prompted with three main options (Agree / Disagree / Persuade), with a fourth option in ‘Promise’ being available after the first statement has been replied to. The persuade option in particular has a likelihood of failing dependent on the subject of the conversation. Additionally, if you promise to make a change, you will receive morale, however if you fail to carry out said promise, you will lose double what you gained in morale for the coach.
To help with finding players that could be a good fit with your team, the scouting for franchise mode in NHL 20 has been updated as well.
Pro scouting now provides you with a readout showing how well a certain player would slot into your team, naming which lines in particular would be a good fit for him. For instance, in the video Vancouver’s pro scout assessed Hampus Lindholm and decided that the only lines he would fit in with ‘Coach Toms’’ strategies would be on the power play, whereas Getzlaf would fit in on the power play, as well as the 1st line.
Additionally, pro scouts will now provide information on which strategies a certain team employs. As far as pro scouting goes, this appears to be the main changes, so with that let’s move on to Amateur scouting which has received a bit of a facelift.
To help inform the player on prospects, there will now be two additional pieces of information that a player will have access to, namely: NHL ETA, and Scheme Fit. NHL ETA mostly does what it says ‘on the tin’ in a way. It tries to make a guess on how close / far away a particular prospect is from making the NHL, whether he’s ‘NHL Ready’, 1,2,3,4, or even 5 years away. Whereas for scheme fit, the amateur scout tries to decide how well the prospect in question would fit in with the team / coach quite simply. These two new categories combined should make the entry draft even more important than in previous iterations, as players can now make more informed decisions regarding who to draft, since if you happen to be contending, it may be better to draft someone who can play almost immediately and make some form of an impact. Whereas, if you’re a rebuilder, you can afford to take the hit of not getting any impact from the players for a few years before he’s properly NHL ready. Furthermore, with the scheme fit element, it may promote players to select slightly lower potential players, if they will fit in well with the team once they grow enough, in turn raising the chemistry of the line they happen to find themselves on.
Finally, players will now have the ability to conduct draft day interviews with players. Similar to the interview that can be conducted with prospective coaches.
Moving on to quite possibly the biggest feature for playability and reducing annoyance, we have the trade finder. Previous to NHL 20, if you wanted to trade a player, you would just have to flick through all the teams across the league, and just start plugging away, throwing in players and draft picks, getting rejected a bunch of times, before finally arriving at a deal that the AI would accept. Now, instead of having to go through that arduous affair, players have the option to select what they want to trade, then simply hit “Find trade (Open block)”, and voila, the game will go through each team automatically and give you a list of trades that each team can do with the players you selected being the principal pieces.
In addition to this, the logic behind trading has been updated. So, it seems as though that rebuilding teams will be much more likely to take on cap dumps (provided they receive a good enough ‘sweetener’). Furthermore, AI teams will be able to make use of this as well as human players, meaning that teams will prioritise shifting cap burdens in order to make space for their expensive UFAs / RFAs.
- Users will now find that players who have yet to play in an NHL game but have a decent enough overall (e.g. ~84), will no longer ask for a contract around the 3-4mil mark, but instead will ask for a contract around the 900k-1mil mark, as they have not in a sense ‘proven’ that they are worthy of such an expensive price tag.
- Carrying the topic of price tags, players will not be priced based on their performance in the last season, and not just their overall. So, if a player scores at a point per game pace but is a fairly low overall (say, 80), then they will ask for a larger contract the proceeding off-season compared to NHL 19. This also goes the other way as well, in that a highly rated player will ask for a lower than usual contract, if they just so happened to have a pretty poor year previously. For goalies, this is also the case and they will go off of SV%.
- Additionally, there are now exempt contracts. Specifically, players that are signed to entry deals and currently play in the OHL, WHL, and the QMJHL, will no longer count towards the 50-contact cap, instead they will now have their own internal cap of 40. This means that players will no longer have to let prospects walk because they simply don’t have enough space, furthermore it means that the AI will have some flexibility now that has not been afforded to them in the past, leading to potentially more AI - AI trading.
- Better goalies will now be more likely to appear later in franchise mode than years past
- Goalies and wingers by default will have less trade ‘value’ than centres and defenders. Although, if a goalie has a high rating (90+) for instance, their trade value will be comparable to that of a similarly rated centre, however, as the goalie’s rating falls, his trade value will drop off very quickly and no longer be comparable to an equally rated centre.
- Players on 1yr deals will have reduced value as the year goes on, being significantly lower on draft day. This should make rental deals much more attainable and affordable. Additionally, teams will no longer reject trades on the day of the draft if a player with an expiring contract is involved.
- There will be fewer franchise and elite goalies available in the draft
- An ‘auto-owner’ mode will be an option; in case you do not want to have to deal with the upkeep of the stadium and its facilities
- Players will now receive trade alert pop-ups
- The efficiency of scouting has been reduced, making it harder for players to find ‘gem’ and franchise level players as it will take longer for the scouts to compile a complete report.
- By default, there will be more 100pt scorers in the simulation. However, players will now have the option of changing the rate of scoring league wide, ranging from High, Medium, to Low.
- Finally, franchise mode will have ‘Icon Integration’, allowing players to play against legendary ‘all-time’ teams, such as Gretzky on the Oilers.
For the full write up by EA, click here.
Additionally, you can find @Tougie24's take just below!