One thing that I both love and hate about the NHL is the ongoing saga of a player in the midst of his contract year. It either gets done rather quickly, drags on for way too long before a deal is reached at the 11th hour, or you get teased of the possibility of an extension only for the player to either be traded or let go at season’s end. It’s stressful, exhausting, and is bound to take up endless hours of debate regarding whether or not said player is worth keeping and what constitutes a fair deal.
This year will once again bring up that never-ending tradition with Morgan Rielly being the main player on the Leafs’ roster whose contract is set to expire at the conclusion of the 2021-22 campaign. It would be foolish to suggest that he won’t be getting paid handsomely since he’s blossomed into a legitimate top-pairing defenceman in the half-decade since he signed the six-year deal. Regardless of whether his future remains in Toronto or he moves elsewhere, there’s no denying that he will be highly valued on the open market with many teams vying for his talents.
But what if we were to look into the crystal ball and see what lies ahead for the Leafs 2012 first-round pick? That’s where Franchise Hockey Manager 7 comes into play.
This is the latest feature in my series of using a video game’s simulation engine to make a prediction on what the future holds for your favourite players on the Leafs. This is my second entry using FHM 7 and I can confidentially say this will be my method of simming going forward given how much I enjoyed the previous simulation. Listed below are the previous entries in the series if this is your first time here:
Here are the rules that I will be following throughout this sim:
- I’m not allowed to control the Leafs at all during the sim, so I randomly selected a team prior to starting
- Auto-Sign is on so I don’t affect Free-Agency
- Injuries are left on
- Once Rielly retires, the sim ends
- Every five years, I’ll post his stats along with any awards he might have won
- I’ll update you guys on anything noteworthy regarding the Leafs and who won the Stanley Cup
Much like the previous entry, I was once again forced to skim over the previous season since I am not given the option to immediately start at the 2021-22 campaign. For those of you wondering, the Leafs make it to the third round of the playoffs but are swept by the Islanders who would go on to win the Stanley Cup. Also, Rielly sets an NHL record for most assists in a game with six (!!!) in a Zach Hyman and Nick Foligno went to the Devils, while Frederik Andersen is now a King, and Alex Galchenyuk signed with the Red Wings. Meanwhile, here’s how the Leafs’ lineup stacks up to begin the new season:
Side note: I still have no idea why the game decides to strip John Tavares of the captaincy and give it to Auston Matthews instead.
This is how Rielly fairs going into Year 1 of the simulation:
Year 1 (2021-22)
It proved to be a mixed-bag season for the Leafs as they put up a respectable record but fell well short of a playoff spot with a fifth-place finish in the Atlantic Division. To put into context how much they missed the playoffs by, the last Wild Card team (the Hurricanes) had 101 points, which is 14 more than what the Leafs had (87). Meanwhile, Rielly had a career year as he finished second on the team with 83 points and even led all NHL defensemen in scoring on the campaign. Despite this impressive stat line, he was somehow robbed of the Norris Trophy as Cale Makar snagged it (despite finishing 12 points behind Rielly in scoring).
In a rematch of the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals, the Lighting once again defeated the Flames in seven games to clinch another title. Now we await where Rielly ends up next season with his contract set to expire.
Year 2 (2022-23)
With the Leafs unable to come to terms with their 2012 first-round pick, Rielly packed his bags to be closer to home and signed with the Kraken. He also won a gold medal for Canada at that year’s World Hockey Championship so it proved to be an eventful summer for Rielly.
This is where the good times end for him as his first season in Seattle is a disappointment for both himself and the team in general. Despite pulling off a ludicrous trade where they got Quinn Hughes for just a fourth-round pick from the Cancuks (LMFAO Jim Benning), the Kraken finished 11 points short of a playoff berth in a stacked Pacific Division and had a losing record. Rielly had injury troubles and saw his production reduce to 55 points in 68 games, which is still an impressive number but nowhere close to matching his stellar season the year prior. Meanwhile, the Flames would avenge their Stanley Cup defeat and sweep the Blue Jackets to bring the trophy back to Canada.
Year 3 (2023-24)
The Kraken decide not to make any major splashes with their biggest move being adding Damon Severson. This isn’t an encouraging sign given how poor their previous season went.
If you thought the prior campaign was rough, then prepare yourselves for the 2023-24 season that was a straight-up disaster for the Kraken. They finished with the NHL’s worst record with a measly 58 points and with no other team close to them. Rielly’s point totals also went off a cliff as he could only muster up 26 points in 59 games, which may be an early sign that his best days are now behind him.
During the playoffs, the Golden Knights clinched their first Cup in franchise history as they took out the Blue Jackets in seven games.
Year 4 (2024-25)
In an attempt to reinvigorate life into the franchise, Seattle made some big splashes in free agency by going after veterans. Their new additions include Claude Giroux, Taylor Hall, Brady Skjei, and Dominik Kubalik who they traded for.
Prior to the season starting, Rielly was named the Kraken’s first captain in franchise history and he responded with a strong campaign. He finished the year with 56 points which led the team in scoring and was once again the highest-scoring defenceman in the league but was robbed yet again of the Norris Trophy as it went to Jaccob Slavin who had nine fewer points. Oh, and the Kraken missed the playoffs again because of horrendous goaltending.
In the playoffs, the Wild brushed aside the Hurricanes in five games to take home their first-ever Stanley Cup.
Year 5 (2025-26)
Not satisfied with the previous result, the Kraken decided that the solution to their problems was to go big-name hunting. This time they acquired the services of an ageing Steven Stamkos, Jeff Petry, and David Kampf.
It did not help, in fact, it made the Kraken significantly worse as they fell to the bottom of their division and two points clear of the NHL basement. So yea, the return to Seattle seems to be off to a disastrous start thus far. On the plus side, Rielly had another strong season where he led his team in scoring with 56 points. It still wasn’t enough to take home the Norris which went to SHea Theodore this time. The playoffs ended with the Avalanche demolishing the Islanders in five games to bring the Cup back to Mile High City.
After five straight years of missing the playoffs, here is where things stand for Rielly:
Year 6 (2026-27)
Because it worked so well the last time, the Kraken thought it was a brilliant idea to try going big-name hunting again, this time adding John Carlson and trading for Brock Nelson.
To the surprise of no one, it did turn things around as the Kraken once again fell short of the playoffs and were closer to the NHL basement than the second Wild Card spot. Rielly had some injury troubles that limited his playing time considerably; he finished with only 35 points in 66 games played. Considering his contract is set to expire, it’s hard to imagine he is feeling good about his situation in spite of being the captain.
The 2027 Stanley Cup Finals was a rematch between the Avalanche and Islanders, with Colorado pulling off the sweep this time around.
Year 7 (2027-28)
Tired of being on a perennial loser, Rielly packed his bags and headed a few hours south to join the Sharks (another perennial loser) on a three-year deal. Maybe a change of scenery and a reunion with Matthews will turn around his fortunes! Joining him was Andrew Copp and Nico Hischier, so some tidy work for San Jose I’m sure.
All of the moves paid off in spades as the Sharks dominated during the regular season and finished atop the NHL standings to take home the Presidents’ Trophy. Rielly missed nearly half of the season due to injuries but remained productive as he potted 32 points in only 44 games played. The dream season would sadly end in tragedy as the Sharks were eliminated ins even games by the Stars. For his part, Rielly tallied six assists in 15 playoff games for his first taste of postseason action since 2021.
The Stars would carry that momentum into the Finals where they beat the Sabres in seven games to win the Stanley Cup.
Year 8 (2028-29)
The Sharks opted not to make any sweeping changes and didn’t sign a player until just before the season started when they brought in David Farrance as depth insurance.
They probably should have though because San Jose regressed hard and fell out of the playoffs entirely, finishing closer to the bottom of the standings than the final postseason berth in the West. Rielly’s point totals increased by one but he also played in more games than the year prior, which signals a slow decline in overall play for a man who is now married to playoff misses.
The Jets would be crowned the Stanley Cup winner after sweeping the Flyers with four tidy wins.
Year 9 (2029-30)
What started off as a normal summer ended with a sudden move across the country as Rielly was dealt to the Red Wings, meaning he is now back in the Atlantic Division with the Leafs. Some new teammates joining him in Motor City include Jordan Spence and Owen Power, who was traded in a one-sided deal that sent Adrian Kempe to the Devils (lmao).
This season was a renaissance of sorts for Rielly as he renounced to the tune of a 44 point season, which was his best stat line in nearly half a decade. Detroit also had a strong season which saw them in a tight three-way battle for the division crown between the Leafs and Panthers. The Red Wings ultimately finished in second where they faced off against Florida in the first round but were eliminated in seven games thanks to an overtime goal from Paul Ludwinski. Rielly wasn’t as effective in the postseason, with just two points throughout the series. The Panthers rode that momentum all the way to the Finals before bowing out to the Jets to repeat as Cup champions.
Once the playoffs concluded, Rielly decided that he had enough and would call it a day on his playing career. With nothing but the joys of retirement life awaiting him, let’s look back on his career stats:
This simulation was much longer than the one I did on John Tavares which made for a more worthwhile experience compared to the last one. I was also able to figure out how to speed up the simulation even faster so the amount of time spent waiting was reduced a bit. What I was a bit disappointed with was Rielly’s limited success in the postseason, on account of him reaching the playoffs just twice in the entire simulation. It could be that this sim gave Rielly a bad hand and he was cursed into becoming a decent defender on bad teams, but it would have been nice to see him go on more runs for the Stanley Cup.
The Leafs went through quite a tumultuous period that saw half of their core leave and them reaching the NHL basement in 2023. They were able to turn it around by drafting Connor Bedard in that year’s draft and he went on to become the second coming of Matthews. The Kraken failed to make the playoffs throughout the entire duration of the sim, the Sharks were a mixed bag, and the Red Wings had their moments but could not reach hockey’s pinnacle. All of which is to say that none of the parties involved ended up coming out on top by the time Rielly’s career came to an end and that his presence must have placed some kind of curse on the franchises he played for.
Franchise Hockey Manager 7 has continued to prove why it is the far more enjoyable experience in simming careers when compared to EA Sport’s offerings because of the amount of depth, ease of collecting stats, and the ability to go back to the history books to track results. While my initial complaints of the default simming speed being slow is a legitimate concern, my new method of speeding things up makes for a far more enjoyable experience. I cannot stress enough how fun this game is to play and I highly recommend you get it from Steam if you haven’t already.
One final note, please remember not to take these results as biblical proof of what the future holds for Rielly. I hate to sound like a broken record, but we cannot ignore that this is a video game at the end of the day and the results will never be universal with each playthrough. So long as you enjoyed this journey through Rielly’s trials and tribulations of rotten luck reaching the postseason, that is all that matters to me. Hopefully, fiction does not become fact and Rielly has better luck at attempts to claim the Stanley Cup in his future!