Friday, September 18, 2020

A Stanley Cup Final rooting guide for every other fan base

We’re almost there. After seven weeks in the bubble, zero positive tests, and some surprisingly solid hockey, we’ve got our Stanley Cup Final matchup. Just two teams remain.

Which means, of course, 30 teams on the sidelines. That makes it time for the annual Stanley Cup Final rooting guide, in which we go through each of the other teams to try to figure out which of the conference champions they should be throwing their support behind.

Most years, the results split out pretty close to 50-50. That didn’t happen last year, when the final delivered a matchup between an inspiring underdog and a favorite that was too easy to hate. I’m happy to report that this year’s matchup between the Stars and Lightning gets us back to something close to balance. That’s important, because if we’re all going to spend the next week yelling at each other over bandwagons we just joined, it should at least be a fair fight.

As always, these are merely suggestions, and you are of course not obligated to follow them. If you disagree with my pick for your team, or just feel like you’d prefer rooting for someone else, simply fill out an appeals form and send it to the head office. We’ll notify you of our decision by next month.

In the meantime, here’s who to root for …

Anaheim Ducks
Put it this way: If Corey Perry wins the Cup, everyone has to talk about 2007 a lot. That’s a good thing for Anaheim fans, especially with those glory days feeling further away than ever right now. Add in longtime Duck Andrew Cogliano chasing his first ring, and this one’s easy.

Pick: Stars

Arizona Coyotes
Rick Bowness joined the Coyotes as an assistant in 1999 and was there for five years before getting a shot as head coach … for 20 whole games, before the owner demoted him so he could name himself head coach, despite never having coached before. It did not go great. The Coyotes are one of several teams that should be rooting for Rick Bowness.

Pick: Stars

Boston Bruins
It’s tempting to go with Dallas, thanks to the Anton Khudobin factor, not to mention that the Bruins got smoked by the Lightning. But that series was over so quickly it didn’t really have a chance to elicit as much bad blood as it could have, and seeing the Lightning lose in the final, while vaguely cathartic, wouldn’t really change the fact that they were a better team.

Besides, do Bruins fans really want to read a bunch of seven-year-old “trading away Tyler Seguin was a mistake” takes? Do you really want to have to see this clip a million times next month? Grit your teeth and root for the Lightning to win, so that beating them next year will feel like an even bigger deal.

Pick: Lightning

Buffalo Sabres
The easiest call on the list. The Stars are in a Stanley Cup Final? Sabres fans don’t just get to root against them, they get to wish every misery imaginable on them along the way. Oh, sorry, would that be over the line? That’s OK, it’s the Dallas Stars in the final, nobody notices when someone’s over the line.

Pick: Lightning

Calgary Flames
If the Lightning win and he’s healthy, the Conn Smythe will probably go to Calgary born-and-raised Brayden Point. That and the lingering resentment from a Round 1 loss to Dallas is more than enough.

Pick: Lightning

Carolina Hurricanes
Dallas, for three reasons:

1. Cities that stole teams from traditional markets in the ’90s should stick together.

2. Screw the Lightning, because Southeast Division rivalries never die.

3. If the Stars win, people will say the turning point was when an executive went on an expletive-laden tirade about the team’s best players, and let’s be honest, you could kind of imagine Tom Dundon doing that someday.

Pick: Stars

Chicago Blackhawks
The Hawks beat the Lightning in the 2015 final, but only after Ben Bishop got injured, so karma says Chicago fans should root for … wait, I didn’t think this through. Huh.

Do the Blackhawks and Stars even have a rivalry these days? Maybe not, but they did back in the Norris days, and I know Hawks fans have long memories.

Pick: Lightning

Colorado Avalanche
A team that barely beats you in seven games even though half your team is injured and you’re down to your third-string goalie, then rolls through the rest of the playoffs to win the Cup? You do not want that sort of regret in your life.

Pick: Lightning

Columbus Blue Jackets
I’m going with Dallas, for two reasons. First, a Stars win would be a reminder that low-scoring hockey can win. Only two teams in the league saw a combined total of fewer than 370 goals (for and against) in their games this year, a mark that even low-event teams like the Coyotes and Islanders couldn’t reach. Those two teams were the Stars and Blue Jackets, and they even scored an identical 180 goals along the way.

Also, the Blue Jackets’ sweep psychologically decimated the Lighting last year, and you’d hate to see them fully recover from that in just one season.

Pick: Stars

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