EA Sports has released the final eight candidates to be on the cover of NHL 15.
The winner, which will be announced at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas, will be decided in a head-to-head bracket format using a fan vote from May 5 through June 1.
The opening round, for which voting runs May 5-18, features the following four matchups:
P.K. Subban (Montreal) vs. Phil Kessel (Toronto)
Patrice Bergeron (Boston) vs. Erik Karlsson (Ottawa)
Matt Duchene (Colorado) vs. T.J. Oshie (St. Louis)
Logan Couture (San Jose) vs. Drew Doughty (Los Angeles)
Currently, #NHL15Kessel is the most atop of the Twitter trends list in all of Canada. @AllLawrence even posted this hilarious photo.
Here’s the question: Is being graced with the cover a good thing?
In the EA’s Madden NFL video game series, there’s a been an ugly track record for the player chosen to be on the cover. The jinx got so bad, when they went to a fan vote, run-of-the-mill Cleveland running back Peyton Hillis was chosen.
Examples of players who have suffered the Madden Curse include Daunte Culpepper (injury), Michael Vick (injury), Donovan McNabb (injury), Shaun Alexander (decline) and Vince Young (exactly).
On the surface, there doesn’t appear to same phenomenon with regards to the NHL series. So we took a look at the last decade and how the player has performed after he was graced with the cover.
(Side note: It’s interesting that the sports’s most recognizable player, Sidney Crosby, has never agreed to be on the cover.)
NHL 14, Martin Brodeur — Brodeur’s selection was more of a legacy pick, and there wasn’t much expected of him in 2013-14. He had one of the worst statistical seasons of his career, but he’s also freakin’ 40 years old. This can’t count as a curse.
NHL 13, Claude Giroux – You can’t blame Giroux for the NHL lockout, but Giroux’s Flyers missed the post-season for the first time in his career after landing on the cover. He still managed 48 points in a lockout-shortened 48 games. Not too shabby.
NHL 12, Steven Stamkos – The Lightning superstar handled the pressure of his NHL cover selection as well as anyone. He posted a career-high 60 goals and finished the year with a total of 97 points in 82 games. What a beauty.
NHL 11, Jonathan Toews – Toews appeared on the cover a year after winning his first gold medal and Stanley Cup. He obviously could not match his previous year’s production. Statistically speaking, Toews didn’t suffer much of a dropoff (32 goals and 44 assists in 80 games), but the cover boy's Blackhawks only played in seven playoff games.
NHL 10, Patrick Kane – The Blackhawks sniper has to be one of the most successful cover boys in the history of the game. Kane had a career-high 88 points (30 goals, 58 assists) and added 28 points in 22 playoff games in a year topped off by his first Stanley Cup victory.
NHL 09, Dion Phaneuf – Phaneuf may be the closest thing to a curse on this list. After landing on the cover, the Flames defenceman posted the worst plus-minus of his career and his play began to decline in his fourth season. A year later, Phaneuf was shipped out of Calgary in a surprise deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
NHL 08, Eric Staal – One of the premier centres in the NHL, Staal had the second-best statistical season of his career in 2007-08. Staal finished the year with 38 goals and 44 assists, but his Hurricanes failed to qualify for the post-season. Blaming the miss on Staal, however, would be a silly practice.
NHL 07, Alex Ovechkin – Ovechkin was put on the cover after his pheominal rookie season, in which he posted 52 goals in 81 games. The Capitals superstar couldn’t match his rookie statistics, but he didn’t exactly have a sophomore slump, scoring 46 goals and 46 assists in 82 games. Like this year, Washington was unable to qualify for the playoffs back in 2006-07.
NHL 06, Vincent Lecavalier – Coming out of the NHL lockout, EA decided to put Lecavalier in the cover – revealing the glaring lack of star power during that time. Lecavalier’s Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004, but he was still an elite forward in 2005-06, finishing with 35 goals and 75 points in 80 games. Tampa went out in the playoffs in just five games, though.
NHL 05, Markus Naslund – If he wins the honour this summer, Erik Karlsson will be the first Swede since Naslund to be featured on the North American cover. Naslund was part of one of the hockey’s best lines in 2003-04, but a lockout cancelled the entire 2004-05 season, so there’s no statistics to prove whether Naslund’s play was cursed by the cover. At the same time, one could make the argument he’s the most viciously cursed cover athlete ever. Your call.