Tuesday, May 3, 2022

The bandwagon-hopper’s guide to the 2022 playoffs

It’s playoff time, and almost everyone knows who they’re rooting for. Almost everyone.

Obviously, half the league’s fan bases get to watch their own team in the postseason, so that’s easy. Of the team’s that didn’t make it, plenty of you will be hate-watching a rival, rooting for whoever they happen to be playing. That’s always a bit weird, but we’ve all been there, so do your thing. And of course, you’ve got the Team Chaos sickos, who just want to watch the world burn.

Then there’s the group that won’t root for anyone, because you don’t get to have a second favorite team any more than you can have a second favorite spouse. You’ve committed to one team, and if they’re not in the playoffs then that’s the end of that. You can still watch, but you’re going to do it as a neutral party, and you feel very strongly about this.

That leaves one last group of fans, and it’s a bigger one that you might think: The bandwagon brigade. These are the fans who are willing to pick a temporary team for the next few weeks or months. For these fans, the playoffs are just more fun when you’ve got someone to root for, and if your team didn’t make it then that means you need a short-term fling. Debate the ethics of it all you want, but these fans are out there, and we’re not here to judge.

Today’s column is for them, because if you’re going to bandwagon hop, you want to at least do it wisely. For the truly undecided, let’s cover the pros and cons of who you should consider throwing your support behind. As always, we want a team that has a decent chance of winning but won’t make your feel like too much of a front-runner, with bonus points for likeable players and/or a neat subplot or two. Oh, and you’d prefer the games to be exciting, because nobody’s got time to bandwagon a 1-0 game.

Spoiler alert: This year, there is a right answer. But we’ll start at the other end of the list…

16. Washington Capitals

Why you should get on board: Alexander Ovechkin is still ridiculously cool to watch, and we know that their Cup celebrations are the stuff of legends.

Why you shouldn’t: They already won in 2018, and while that team was eminently bandwagonable, you kind of missed your window. More importantly, they’re heavy underdogs in the first round, they’ve been cold down the stretch, and the goaltending isn’t good, so you’re probably going to need a new team in two weeks.

Bottom line: There’s something to be said about picking an underdog and riding them through a surprise run, but this isn’t the year to take the Caps.

15. Nashville Predators

Why you should get on board: They’re a likable team that’s never won a Cup, and their fans are super-cool while also seeming like the type of fan base that wouldn’t get all weird about welcoming a few new friends onto the bandwagon.

Why you shouldn’t: They’re going to get absolutely destroyed by the Avalanche.

Bottom line: Or will they? Look, no guts no glory, and fortune favors the bold. If the Predators can pull this off, or even make a series out of it, you’re going to see the hockey world perk up quickly. Getting in on the ground floor of something special is always fun, so there’s a certain what-the-hell appeal here. But yeah, you’re probably getting five games as a best case.

14. Pittsburgh Penguins

Why you should get on board: It may be the last ride of the Crosby/Malkin/Letang era.

Why you shouldn’t: That era has already produced three Cups, so they’ve had their fill. Also, their goalie broke his foot right before the playoffs. You might want to take the hint.

Bottom line: Look, Crosby’s cool and you should absolutely root for him when you get the chance. I recommend the next World Cup.

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