Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The 2018 playoff bandwagon ranking

This year’s NHL playoffs feature the usual standard field of 16 teams. But thanks to expansion, we’ve also got an all-time high of 15 non-playoff teams, meaning we’ve never headed into a post-season with so many fans without a team to root for.

That’s where the bandwagon comes in. It’s a controversial subject, and many fans swear that your team is your team and you can never jump ship under any circumstances. That’s a fair stance, and if you want to spend the next few months clinging to your Calgary Flames throw pillow and hissing at the television through tears, I get it.

But not everyone feels that way, and some fans like to adopt a temporary team for the playoffs. If that’s you, then this guide will help you make the best choice. We’re looking for teams that are reasonably likeable, fun to watch, and carry some decent storylines into the post-season. We’d also prefer a team that had at least a plausible chance of winning, since hopping on a bandwagon just in time to get swept in the first round isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time.

With that in mind, let’s count down this year’s 16 playoff teams as we search for the optimal bandwagon destination for fans in search of a short-term backup plan.

No. 16: Minnesota Wild

Why you should get on board: They’ve got a lovable coach in Bruce Boudreau, and one of the great comeback stories of the year in Eric Staal. And with Ryan Suter out with a broken leg, it would be a nice case of overcoming adversity if they made any kind of a run.

Why you shouldn’t: I mean… I like the Wild. They’re a decent-enough team. But the big problem with this year’s edition is that they land right in that sweet spot where they’re not good enough to feel like they have any real chance at a Cup, but not quite bad enough to be a gutsy underdog pick. And given what their path out of the conference might look like, they’d almost always be lining up against a team that was way more likeable.

Bottom line: Sorry, Minnesota, but somebody has to be last. If it’s any consolation, think how much you’ll enjoy sending me links to this post every hour when the Wild are getting ready for the Cup final.

No. 15: Los Angeles Kings

Why you should get on board: Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are great. They’ve had a nice rebound under new management after a few iffy years. And of all the wild cards, they seem like the one most likely to pull off the upset and send a No. 1 seed home.

Why you shouldn’t: That No. 1 seed is the expansion Golden Knights. Do you really want to root for a team that’s already won two Cups as it tries to snuff out the best NHL story in years? Somebody has to be the town dog-catcher, but nobody should be cheering him on when he’s hunting down adorable puppies.

Bottom line: Also, Dustin Brown. So that’s a no.

No. 14: Pittsburgh Penguins

Why you should get on board: The champs are chasing a three-peat, which is kind of ridiculous. This is the salary-cap era, when parity reigns and everything feels dangerously close to flipping coins. But here’s Sidney Crosby and friends trying to pull off something that Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky couldn’t do back when dynasties were still a thing. That’s pretty cool.

Also, they have Phil Kessel, and if you don’t love Phil Kessel by now then you don’t have a soul.

Why you shouldn’t: They’re still the two-time defending champs, so you’re not just bandwagon-hopping — you’re front-running.

Bottom line: We do this list every year, and we almost always put the recent champs at the bottom of the list. The sheer novelty of the Pens’ quest for history keeps them out of that spot this time around. But only barely.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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