Online pass sucks, but you can play all game modes without it, it's only their for online play. I mostly play be a GM, so here's my thoughts
Needs to improve...
Commentary, same old same old
Jerseys, still no Bruins Winter classic jersey, some jerseys you need to unlock with online code.
Goalies, often will pop rebounds up over there heads and it will land on them!? I see this once a year in real hockey at most. Fix it EA.
Fighting, better, but needs to be improved to be realistic.
Stats, PC NHL used to have a feature where you could look back on any game you played that seasons and see a box score. Here you can only see the final score. No other stats at all. Player stats are totaled throughout the season though.
Trades, could be a little better done, Teams just reject trades and rarely offer alternatives. Real NHL they'd at least throw a counter offer even if it is overpriced. Bartering just doesn't happen here, all the GM will tell you is, how close you are, not what he wants from you.
Line Brawl, not really a gripe here but it would be nice to see this feature added although the league might be against it. You can nearly kill a star player with a goon, and nothing will happen. Real NHL there'd be consequences (see NYI vs PIT for an example) at least have the star players goon come out and challenge the hitter next shift, adds some depth to the game.
Menus, could be a little better organized, the color scheme makes them hard to see. Not impossible to use, but could be a little more fluid/ visually helpful.
Breakaways, non-shoot out AI breakaways are usually complete failures. The player will push the puck out in front of them as to build up speed, but often times can't catch up with it in time to make a solid deke. He'll push it to far to the side of the net, and only have space to shoot (as the D is too close to curve back to the front of the net) or sometimes he'll even push it into the goalie.
All in all rent/ buy this game if you are a hockey fan.
EA has done a good job with this game. I played alot of the NHL games EA has made over the years. They did alot of new things to make this seem more realistic. Great new hitting engine, better one on one dekes, and new HUD look. The only thing I disliked about this game was the new EA Sports Hockey League... Instead of having a 2 groups of friends playing at the same time you have to wait till one group is done to play a club game. But after all the changes, it wasn't that big of a deal to me. I suggest people who never tried playing a NHL game or is a hardcore NHL fan to try it.