Let’s be honest: Playoff bandwagon-hopping is a contentious subject. For some fans, it’s a total non-starter – you get one team and one team only, with no backup plans allowed. If your favourite team didn’t make the playoffs, then you’re just out of luck. You settle in for the playoffs and enjoy watching all the series play out, but you do it as a neutral observer.
But not everyone looks at it that way. Some fans just like having someone to root for, even if it’s only temporary. And those fans are faced with a tough decision at this time of year, as they try to figure out which bandwagon to punch their ticket for.
We’re here to help. So today, let’s take a look at all 16 playoff teams, and rank them by bandwagonability, which is not a word but probably should be. Ideally, we’re looking for a team that has a likable cast of characters, some fun storylines, and a good chance to win – but not so good that you’ll look like a front-runner, because we can all agree that they’re the worst.
Let’s get started, working our way from the worst possible option to the best.
#16. Chicago BlackhawksWhy you should get on board: Because you're also the sort of person who plays video games on the easy level, cheers for the Harlem Globetrotters, and wears a John Cena shirt to work.
Why you shouldn't: Come on. We can debate the ethics of bandwagon hopping in general, but if you're going to make the leap then you can't do it with the closest thing the NHL has seen to a dynasty in decades. When it comes to getting it done on the ice, behind the bench and in the front office, no organization has been better than the Blackhawks, and they have three Cups and counting to show for it. Admire their success, sure. Appreciate the skill on display, of course. Be jealous, absolutely. But if you jump on their bandwagon now, you're a terrible person.
Bottom line: No.
Why you shouldn't: See the Blackhawks.
Bottom line: If you bandwagon the Kings, may you be forced to spend the entire playoffs standing between two people having the Doughty vs. Karlsson Norris Trophy argument.
#14. Minnesota WildWhy you should get on board: If you are what your record says you are, then the Wild are the worst team in this year's playoffs by a pretty decent margin. In theory, that makes them the opening round's biggest underdog. But they've drawn a high-flying Dallas Stars team that looks at least a little bit vulnerable thanks to their shaky goaltending situation. If you're looking for a longshot that could actually pull off the major upset, the Wild might be your pick.
Why you shouldn't: This is a team that lost six more games than they won, and they head into the playoffs having lost five straight. Don't get too attached.
Bottom line: You're swinging for the fences here.
#13. New York RangersWhy you should get on board: They're a team built to win now, one that features the best goaltender of his generation. But the core is aging, the window is closing, and the sense of urgency is palpable. For a franchise that's won just one Cup in 76 years, this has the makings of a compelling do-or-die story.
Why you shouldn't: It's always hard to shake the image of the Rangers as the league's high-spending big shots, the sort of team you're supposed to hop on the bandwagon to root against, not for. That doesn't make much sense in a hard cap league, but it's a tough hurdle to get past nonetheless.
Bottom line: Lundqvist is one of the most likable players in the game and has won everything there is to win in hockey except for a Stanley Cup, but at 34 he's running out of chances. There may not be an easier superstar to root for in this year's playoffs.