A Carolina Hurricanes blog with occasional news about the rest of the NHL.

Monday, June 09, 2008

An open letter to Flames fans

Dear Flames fans,
Don't be alarmed. Put away the razor blades. Get off that ledge. Everything is gonna be okay. Dion Phaneuf isn't doomed for failure. This isn't the NFL. Everything is gonna be okay.


To explain: Dion Phaneuf has been selected to be the cover star for EA Sports' NHL '09 video game. If this were the NFL, there would be cause for alarm. No Madden cover star has escaped without going on the IR or to jail. This, however, isn't the NFL.

Last summer, when it was announced that Eric Staal was going to be the cover star for NHL '08, I did some exhaustive research, and I concluded that there is no "curse". In fact, starring on the cover of the EA hockey game has generally been a good thing.

The first EA NHL game that used a "cover boy" was NHL '97. Here's how things worked out:

1997 -- John Vanbiesbrouck. The goalie for the Panthers saw his numbers improve slightly over the previous Cup-run season. Cover boy done good!

1998 -- Peter Forsberg. Foppa's productivity was slightly up during the 1998 season. He went from 86 (28/58) to 91 (25/66) points, and was healthier than he'd been in years. Cover boy done good!

1999 -- Eric Lindros. "Big E" went from 71 (30/41) to 93 (40/53) points. Cover boy done real good. The only thing is that it was his last really good season while he was on the box.

2000 -- Chrissy Pronger. Prongs had the best season of his career that season, so EA was good to him. Cover boy done real good.

2001 -- Owen Nolan. This was the best example of EA being bad to its cover boy. After a career best season (by far) in 2000, Nolan came down to earth. He went from 84 (44/40) to a more characteristic 49 (24/25) points. CURSED!!!

2002 -- SuperMario. Lemieux was plagued with injuries in 2002 and only played in 24 games, but he still put up SuperMario-like numbers, tallying 31 (6/25) games in a quarter of a season. He was never fully healthy again.
No ruling on this one.

2003 -- Jarome Iginla Iggy won the Richard trophy in 2002, but had a letdown of a season in 2003. He went from 96 (52/44) to a less exciting 67 (35/32) points. He was in the 70's the next season, then the '60s in '06, then in the '90s in '07 and '08. The box was unkind to him, putting him on a three-year skid. BADLY CURSED!!!

2004 (a) -- Dany Heatley and 2004 (b) -- Joe Sakic. The game had already hit the shelves when Heatley had the car crash that killed Dan Snyder. After returning from his own massive injuries, he played well, but it's fair to say that he was CURSED TIMES INFINITY!!!!
The Heatley box was pulled, and the replacement was Sakic. He went from 58 (26/32) in an injury-shortened season to 87 (33/54) points, which was very close to his career average of 1.2 points a game. Auxiliary cover boy done good!

2005 -- Markus Naslund. NHL players were locked out. Coming out of the lockout, he was pretty much on par with his career numbers, but since then, he's had a sharp decline in production. Since there was the lockout, there's no judgement on this one.

2006 -- Vincent LeCavalier. He had a marginally better season while on the box than the season before. He won the Richard trophy the following season and kept that pace in '08. Cover boy done real good.

2007 -- Alexander Ovechkin. Ovie's '07 numbers were just barely less than his '06 numbers, but not enough (from 106 to 92) to be concerned. He bounced back the following year with 112 (65/47) and the Richard trophy. Cover boy done good!

2008 -- Eric Staal. After having a "letdown" season in 2007, being on the box did him some good. He went from 70 (30/40) to 82 (38/44) and his third straight season with 30+ goals. Cover boy done good!

For the 2009 game, Phaneuf becomes the second Flames player and only the second defenseman in the series. He'd be hard-pressed to do much better than the 60 (17/43) that he put up from the back end last season.

The point is, there is no curse. If anything, it's been a good thing (for the most part) to have been the coverboy for the EA NHL series. I think Heatley's case stands out as an extraordinary counterexample.

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