For the sixth season in a row, the NHL's final four is taking place without an appearance by the Maple Leafs. That means that the league's largest fan base has nobody to cheer for. And with the second round elimination of the Canucks, there's not even a Canadian team left for Leaf fans to pretend to be cheering for while secretly rooting against.
What's a Leaf fan to do? Yes, OK, but besides watching John Tavares highlight tapes and fondling themselves, what's a Leaf fan to do?
I'm not here to give you the answer, but I do want you to make an informed decision. So here, from a Leaf fan's perspective, are some of the reasons to root for (or against) the four remaining teams.
Detroit Red Wings
Plus: In this economy, having the Stanley Cup stay in Detroit for another year increases chances that Maple Leafs will eventually be able to buy it in a Windsor pawn shop.
Minus: Their second round victory over the Anaheim Ducks provided disturbing evidence that teams built by Brian Burke can sometimes still lose.
Plus: As the top remaining seed, are the team most likely to win the final round in a sweep. Which, based on the schedule, is the only way these playoffs are ending before July.
Minus: A raucous Stanley Cup celebration could endanger us all by startling Zombie Chris Chelios.
Plus: Occasional news of a Red Wings championship is the only joy left in the life of Bob Probert, as he spends his post-retirement days in the concrete underground bunker he constructed to avoid Wendel Clark.
Plus: Sort of tough to root against the team that gave us Stu Grimson, Dave Manson, and the quivering corpse of Mike Peluso.
Minus: Their upset win over the Canucks brought on the start of Kyle Wellwood's off-season much earlier than expected, possibly leading to summer-long food shortages in Western Canada.
Plus: An appearance in finals might lead to someone mentioning that the Hawks have the longest current NHL championship drought, which would be news to the majority of Canadian hockey fans who assume that the Leafs do.
Minus: If the Hawks win a Cup, a gleeful Toronto media will no doubt produce a flood of stories about the Leafs drought now being the NHL's longest, including one article produced solely by Howard Berger dry-humping his keyboard.
Plus: Are proving that a team can win despite overpaid and sub-par goaltending, which might help create an off-season market for Vesa Toskala.
Plus: Offer hope to Leafs fans by proving that a decade of constant losing, front office incompetence, and almost total irrelevance can result in a pretty darn good roster.
Minus: Every game they win means a few more days of having to look at Sidney Crosby's
Plus: Jordan Staal's showdown with brother Eric will inevitably result in TSN doing a "top ten hockey brothers of all-time" countdown, and it will be nice to see Luke and Brayden Schenn in the #1 spot.
Minus: Not really fair for them to win this year's Stanley Cup, since they're already pencilled in to win the next five or six.
Plus: Feature an inspiring feel-good story in form of defenceman Hal Gill, the only player ever signed by John Ferguson Jr. who is still playing in the NHL.
Plus: Each win results in more momentum for the idea of Cam Ward starting for the Canadian Olympic team in place of Roberto Luongo, which is great news assuming you're among the 99.5% of the world's population that isn't from Canada.
Minus: Sometimes, their runs to the Cup final result in Leafs getting stuck with their loser coach.
Plus: If they win, Leaf fans won't have to put up with annoying trash-talk from die-hard Hurricanes fans, since there aren't any.
Minus: Yet another Cup ring for Frantisek Kaberle might make brother Tomas start to have second thoughts about this whole "have zero interest in ever playing for a winning team" policy.
Plus: A championship run would help with publicity for Scott Walker's admirable new charity, "Beat Cervical Cancer by Sucker Punching it in the Face".
The bottom line: I think when you weigh the evidence, the final verdict is pretty clear. Leafs Nation, we can all agree on this, right?
Yeah, I thought so. Pass the Tavares highlights.