Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The bandwagon-hopper’s guide to the 2019 playoffs

The​ playoffs begin tonight,​ as​ we​ start​ a journey​ that​ will see​ 16 teams battle​ it out until​ only​ one is left​​ to lift the Stanley Cup. Of course, that means there are also 15 teams that didn’t get an invite, so nearly half the league’s fans don’t have anyone to root for.

When your team doesn’t make the postseason, there are two ways you can respond. The first is to spend the next two months hating the world, openly cheering against all 16 playoff teams and dedicating yourself to stomping out any spark of happiness you find in any other fan base. This is the default setting and I highly recommend it.

But not everyone leans that way. For some, it’s more fun to have some sort rooting interest in the postseason, even if it’s only temporary. Those fans have an important decision to make, and they’ve only got a few hours left to make it.

Those fans need a bandwagon.

It’s a tough call to make. You want to pick a team that’s fun and easy to get behind. Some inspiring plotlines certainly help. Ideally you also want a team that might actually win something, so that you’re not just signing up for the misery of an early exit. But you also don’t want a team that’s already got a trophy case full of hardware, because even in the bandwagon game there’s nothing worse than a front-runner.

I’m here to help. So today, I’ve ranked the 16 playoffs teams in terms of their bandwagon potential for you fans who are into that sort of thing. We’re here for a good time, not for a long time, so let’s find you a temporary team.

16. Pittsburgh Penguins

Why you should get on board: They’ve got Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and a ton of star power, and there’s a decent chance they’re gong to win it all. You know… again.

Why you shouldn’t: Remember what we said about front-running? The Penguins have won three Cups in the last decade, including two of the last three. They didn’t win last year, so this wouldn’t be quite as bad as jumping on the bandwagon of, say, the Patriots or Warriors. But it wouldn’t be far off.

Bottom line: Also, they’re facing a classic feel-good story in the first round. If you choose this moment to jump on the Penguins’ bandwagon, you might be a bad person.

15. Dallas Stars

Why you should get on board: It’s always fun to hop on the bandwagon of an underdog and then watch them pull off an upset or two. The Stars could certainly do that, as they’ll face a favored Predators team that seems beatable. If they can pull it off, you’ll be along for the ride. And if they can’t, there’s a good chance they’ll at least get all dramatic about it.

Why you shouldn’t: The Stars feature great defence and goaltending but don’t score much. If you can pick any team in the league to root for, do you really want to go with the one that’s going to try to bore its way to a title?

Bottom line: I’m all for a classic underdog pick, but there are better options available.

14. Colorado Avalanche

Why you should get on board: They’re a fun team with three star forwards, not to mention plenty of underdog cred given where they were just a few years ago. And like the Stars, they’ll go into the first round as longshots but it’s hardly inconceivable that they could pull of the upset.

Why you shouldn’t: Could they beat the Flames? It’s possible, sure. Are they going to win the Cup? It would take a near-miracle. That means you’re basically signing up for heartbreak, and it’s just a question of how quickly it arrives.

Bottom line: They should be more fun than the Stars, but you’re still probably looking for a new team after a round or two.

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