All right, I admit it – I’m still a little miffed.
We’re told that the stages of grief are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. I am searching (thus far in vain) for any stages called “Heartily Sick of All This Crap,” “Whining Constantly,” or “Indulging in a Rich Fantasy Life.” Perhaps these are things one can do absent any sort of traumatic event to grieve. In any case, wherever on the spectrum my feelings fall, I am not quite prepared to hustle down to Stage Five here. After all, what bargaining can be done? And would depression change anything? We’re only getting three out of our five stages, which perfectly summarizes life as an Islanders fan, really – we can’t even be morose in a psychologically proper fashion.
So I’m inventing my own stage, where I
seize control of the means of production – uh, I mean, take over a numerical-based approximation of the New York Islanders during the summer of 2017, thanks to the fine work of Sega Interactive’s Eastside Hockey Manager 2017, and the EHM community user who created a 2017-18 start file (the default database uses the 2016 rosters).
To start, there are a few grounds rules for those who are unfamiliar and/or have nothing better to do:
- Fog of War is default. As the new GM I will come in knowing very little about the main club and almost nothing about the rest of the operations. As a result, my first order of business is to get scouting reports, depth charts, study the personnel files, and send out Ken Morrow’s loyal scouts to pull in as much information as possible about the league, the upcoming draft, and the various pros possibly available from overseas.
- EHM has no Commissioner Mode. I can’t simply turn on the “can’t be fired” toggle. If I don’t get up to speed quickly and get the team winning, I’m not getting a 12-year run here.
- Something’s always off. The ratings tend to be fairly close on many players, but of course there are exceptions, especially with prospects. There are algorithms to run how the newcomers develop, and sometimes a guy who’s a complete bust in real life turns into an amazing stud in the game, and vice versa. In my old EHM 07 sims, Nathan Horton never got hurt and guys like Kenndal McArdle and Michael Frolik became much bigger stars; meanwhile, Steven Stamkos wound up going in the SIXTH ROUND and never amounted to much.
- Also, there’s no time travel. I will do my best to document all game events as they happen, so I won’t be writing about November while I’ve already skipped ahead to March or anything like that. The only “future knowledge” that goes into this, is the knowledge I already have of having lived real life during the year… and (see Rule 3) that is only of limited value here.
As a result of these, some of my decisions will seem ridiculous for reasons other than the obvious, that they are actually ridiculous – some of them make perfect sense in bizarre world.
So anyway, here we go. ... It is April 9, 2018. Jon Ledecky, after watching the 2017-18 season through his fingers from behind the sofa, has had enough. He holds short, strange press conference, inspiring little confidence and much bewilderment – but as it happens, he perhaps had more to say, had he not been distracted. For a moment, he could have sworn that he saw Matt Moulson sitting in the back of the room.
Ledecky took a quick glance to his left. No, Garth hadn’t seen him… or if he did, he wasn’t saying, and since he never said anything, he couldn’t be sure. But something that strange would have gotten some slight reaction. And Doug Weight certainly should have noticed, but he wasn’t grimacing or wrinkling his nose or doing comic spit-takes, so … well, no, he must not have seen him either.
He was gone when Ledecky looked back. Ledecky had more to talk about, but he couldn’t remember what it was. Instead he shuffled off to the side of the stage, leaving many puzzled faces. Art Staple coughed once or twice, as if uncertain whether this meant they could start asking questions. Shannon Hogan, Mark Herrmann, and Andrew Gross fidgeted, not knowing if Snow or Weight would then step up to the podium. Ledecky searched the audience quickly. Who else would he see? Alexei Yashin? A mysteriously de-aged Ken Morrow? The spirit of Al Arbour, perhaps, chiding him silently, or Roy Boe offering to re-buy the team with ghostly cash?
Ledecky saw nothing else amiss. He also didn’t see Stan Fischler. And that’s when he knew. The Maven may have retired but he always knew where the story was, and right now, Jon Ledecky wasn’t it. Matt Moulson was.
Where to go? Maybe he’d catch a glimpse of him in one of the hallways leading away from the conference, or see him calling him into an office. He wandered, seeming at random, until the voice of his secretary was lost and the murmur of the media was still, and he found himself outside the arena.
“Hey, man,” said Matt Moulson.
“So it was you!”
“Of course,” said Moulson. He was dressed oddly – riding boots with tan breeches and brown suspenders, a buttoned shirt, a calf-length maroon jacket, and a battered slouch hat. But that was nothing next to Jack Capuano, who wore an impeccable three-piece suit with no shirt beneath the vest, and the jacket’s arms expertly removed to show off his well-tanned arms. The open vest revealed an impressive six-pack. Moulson nodded in his direction. “I assume that you know my colleague?”
“How are you, Cap?” Ledecky asked slowly.
“Better than you, Jonny boy,” said Capuano. “Your guys are in a mess.”
Ledecky would have gotten mad but then he heard Stan Fischler’s voice. “You ought to listen to him,” he said. “They’ve been going over it with me, and it’s bad.”
Ledecky was afraid to ask, but after a few awkward moments of silence, he sighed. “How bad is it?” he asked theatrically.
“Check out these numbers, boss.” That was a new voice. Ledecky looked over his shoulder and it was Marty Reasoner, dressed like an accountant who’d just stepped out of a 1910 photograph, complete with spats, pinstriped shirt with sleeve garters, and a green eyeshade. At least, he assumed it would have been green, but it wasn’t. Both it, and his clothing, and Reasoner himself were all in greyscale. Ledecky couldn’t understand it, any more than he could follow the information on the sheaf of handwritten foolscap that Reasoner handed over: page after parchment page of calculus, with notes in the margins about spacetime, Poincaré, Riemann, and Euler, and doodles of both technical equipment and a hockey player riding a dinosaur.
As he shuffled through them, a scrap fell out; he picked it up and saw that it was a receipt for two cases of Corona Light. “Whoa, don’t lose that,” Capuano said immediately, snatching the receipt. “That goes on the expense report.”
“Now hold on!” Ledecky shouted. “Why are you all here?”
“Why Jon,” replied Moulson, “You sent us.”
TO BE CONTINUED, of course, because otherwise this would just be some strange psychotic break I was having, and we can’t have that.