Enforcers Fight for Ice Time in Strat-O-Matic
By Glenn Guzzo
With one ultra-simple rule change, Strat-O-Matic is adding strategy, realism and excitement to its hockey games.
The new Enforcer Rule dictates that whenever a team has a skater on the ice rated A or AA for penalties – and the opposing team does not – the less physical team loses a grade on its penetration ratings (e.g. a skater with a 4 penetration becomes a 3, a 3 becomes a 2, etc.)
The effect applies only on penetration plays, not potential breakaways. The optional rule debuts for the forthcoming 2010-11 hockey season but can be applied to all seasons and will be used for all in the computer hockey game.
Strat-O-Matic Director of Development Bob Winberry said the company wanted to do more to simulate the physical aspect of hockey by capturing the value that intimidating players offer their teams even if they have few other skills. These players typically get more ice team in the National Hockey League than in Strat-O-Matic, Winberry pointed out.
“The motivation for developing this rule came about as I read posts in the hockey section of Dan Patterson's forum,” Winberry said.  “A few people there suggested that we come up with a way to better reflect this reality.”
Now, gamers can deploy enforcers to slow an opponent’s offense, but playing such skaters excessively is likely to force your own team to play shorthanded.
Now, forwards such as Anaheim’s George Parros, who led the NHL with 27 fighting majors in 2010-11, but who managed just three goals and one assist in 78 games, should earn more ice time in Strat-O-Matic. So should Islanders center Zenon Konopka, who had two goals and seven assists on his way to a league-high 307 penalty minutes. Their jobs, in the NHL and now in SOM, are to make foes more timid – or to aggravate them into matching penalties.
Your opponent also will be confronted with counter-strategy. Does he send out his own tough guy to neutralize yours? Then what happens? Undoubtedly, more majors and fights than would occur in Strat-O-Matic otherwise.
That’s NHL-style realism. So is the vulnerability some teams face when they are matched against tougher teams. Nine teams had no one with even 100 penalty minutes. They can’t neutralize opponent tough guys – except through finesse, taking advantage of those players’ defensive liabilities and scoring on power plays.
The chess game evolves: Will it be effective for Columbus to bring out battling wingers Derek Dorsett (4 goals, 184 PIM) and Jared Boll (7 goals, 182 PIM) against high-scoring finesse teams like Vancouver and Detroit?
It’s time to find out.
Here is the rule:  Whenever one team has an "enforcer" on the ice and the other team does not, reduce the Breakaway/Penetration rating of all opposing team players by 1 when consulting the penetration chart (the minimum result of this adjustment is always 1).  This adjustment applies only to penetration -- it is not used for breakaways.  For purposes of this rule, an "enforcer" is any player with an A or AA Penalty Rating.