Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Panthers or Knights? A Stanley Cup Final rooting guide for 30 other fan bases

The Stanley Cup final matchup has been set, and with hockey’s greatest prize up for grabs, only two teams are left standing.

Spoiler alert: Not yours.

I’m playing the odds a bit here, since 30 teams are on the sidelines. Plus I’m assuming that fans of the Panthers and Golden Knights have other things to worry about right now. Does that happen when your team is in the final? Let’s just say I wouldn’t know, but it sounds reasonable.

Great. What about everyone else? We’ve got what should be a great matchup ready to go, and maybe sitting back and enjoying the show without a rooting interest sounds good to you. But some of us aren’t wired that way, and we need to have a team to root for – or root against – to really get into a series.

If that’s you, I’m here to help. I’ve got a suggestion of which team to cheer for, for fans of all 30 of the loser teams valiant nonparticipants. Let’s do this.

Anaheim Ducks

Sorry Shea Theodore, but expansion cousins need to stick together. That’s especially true when your shared origin story is some random midweek announcement that came literally a few months before your first season would start.

Pick: Panthers

Arizona Coyotes

Has that desert-based rivalry with the Golden Knights ever turned into anything? Not really, but we can pretend. And besides, the Panthers may be the only other market that’s had to deal with more snotty remarks from old-timers about being better off in Quebec City.

Pick: Panthers

Boston Bruins

It’s tempting to pick the Panthers here, since that would retcon that first round from “all-time stunning upset” to “at least kind of understandable”. But if Florida wins, especially as easily as they did over Toronto and Carolina, it will just reinforce what a missed opportunity that loss really was. Do we want Brad Marchand to spend the rest of his life knowing one missed breakaway cost his team an easy Stanley Cup? Everyone else does, yes, absolutely, but not Bruins fans. Instead, go ahead and root for Bruce Cassidy to get the ring he couldn’t get in Boston.

Pick: Golden Knights

Buffalo Sabres

Hey, remember when the Sabres openly tanked for a few years and ended up with a pair of second overall picks, then figured the future was bright because Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart were the sort of players who could get you to a final? Turns out they were right, kind of.

Now it’s a question of which guy you resent more. Let’s just say I don’t think this is a tough call.

Pick: Panthers

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