After running literally hundreds of full season auto replays and measuring the results against league, team and player targets in multiple categories, I've come to the disappointed conclusion that a number of the cool features and settings which seemingly elevate this game over its competitors may be nothing more than bells and whistles with no discernible impact on game results. Here are some that I've tinkered with, and my findings.
Yearly Era settings. Worst offender is Power Play %. I'm most convinced that it does absolutely nothing. About as useful as your appendix. Your league's overall power play success rate too high? Well, don't bother changing this Era setting, since you'll see no resulting change in replay percentage. Equally useless setting seems to be Assists/Goal, which is odd because that one should be easy for the program to handle (given that assists are artificially generated by the program for the most part). The game seems to prefer 1.72 - 1.74 assists per goal on average. You want an average in the 1.64 area? Forget about it. Adjust the Assists/Goal setting up or down, and nothing changes. As a side note, oddly, there is no Era setting for short handed goals, which may be why the game seems incapable of generating enough of them (although, admittedly, I've only measured results against targets for an original six, multi-year draft league).
Roster Coach Settings, Game Plan menu. I've tinkered with the following settings, mostly in an effort to modify power play % and number of short handed goals (which are always way too low in my replays -- half of what they should be). On Strategies tab, I've fiddled with most of the settings. Forechecking, Defensive Zone play, offensive zone emphasis: slide 'em left, slide 'em right, watch them do ... nothing! Line Strategies tab. I've tried to message results for individual PP and Penalty kill units, by changing offense type and forecheck and DZ Agg. Again, no noticeable impact on full season results.
Roster Coach settings, Roster Management menu. In an effort to adjust SOG among linemates and to increase or decrease individual players' shooting percentage results, I've played a lot with the usage preferences. Your left wing has too many shots, while your right wing has too few? As a remedy, you would think you could move all of the left wing's usage preferences from shoot to pass, and vice a versa for right wing. Left wing's shooting percentage coming out way too low in replays? Then, why not adjust usage preferences to pass more outside and shoot more inside? Problem is, nothing changes. And in this case at least, I think I know why. Those settings only come into play in those limited instances when offensive zone gives game player the pop up menu choice of what to do. It's FRUSTRATING though, because these settings could be so useful in controlling computer-managed teams if the settings actually modified players' overall usage preferences.
Individual Player ratings. The ones I've tinkered with which don't seem to work are passing and shooting ratings. When players have too many or too few assists, modifying passing rating doesn't change the results. Similarly, I've had no success altering shooting percentage by raising or lowering inside and outside shooting ratings.
Look, I recognize that this game is designed for stock season replays. And it's programmed to recreate stats for stock season replays. In other words, the stats drive the ratings and game settings. So, as I've found, the only way to modify results in certain categories is to change the real life stats. I just wish the game worked the other way around, with the ratings and settings driving the stats. Then, all of those bells and whistles would actually do something, and someone like me who likes working with multi-year draft leagues could obtain results in an acceptable range by changing ratings and game settings. In any event, I don't understand why the game seemingly has been programmed with all these apparent strategy settings and adjustable ratings that appear to nothing.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this is a simple matter of lack of information regarding how the game is programmed and how properly to adjust settings and ratings to alter season results. But if so, then Dave is remaining mum on the subject. I've asked him for suggestions on how to adjust game results in the areas I'm interested in, and he's ignored me (which suggests to me that he has no answer).