What the hockey gods giveth, they taketh away. Last season's innovation, the skill stick, gave us a clean control to rack up goals. "Finally," the fans spoke, "something fun and fluid to play with on offence." Making the right analog an analog for your player's stick was as good a design decision as we'd seen in sports games, and for a while, this advancement was enough to overlook other faults.
But like a star player that doesn't share the puck, the skill stick's over-emphasis on individual offence made messy teamwork obsolete. A few flicks of the thumb produced an elegant, easy scoring shortcut, but there wasn't enough AI in place to support working the puck around in the zone. No longer.
Puck hogs, be gone: EA's spent time schooling its defencemen so they can school you. Last season's control scheme remains aboard in NHL 08, but the computer finally has the code to counter it: a dynamic AI that scouts your tendencies, forces you to adjust your playing style, and studies the tape while you sleep, we guess. This "on-the-fly AI" is the antidote to repetitive play, say EA. It's not HAL 9000 on skates, but it's enough of an improvement over last season's predictable defenders to earn some stick-to-ice applause.