A Canucks fan’s guide to choosing a Stanley Cup bandwagon as round two of NHL playoffs begin
Photo credit:Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
6 months ago
The second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs kick off tonight, and if they’re anything like the first, we’re in for some absolute barnburners.
Thanks to some incredible upsets in the opening round, there is truly no clear favourite to win it all right now. Just about every team left in the Elite Eight has a legit shot at taking home Lord Stanley’s Jug.
Here in Vancouver, that means it’s finally time to start pledging allegiances.
For a brief while, you’re freed from the shackles of being a Canucks fan. But choosing a bandwagon doesn’t make you any less of one, either. Getting behind a new team, even for a short while, gives you the chance to dive in headfirst and have some fun with what little hockey we have left this season.
That’s why we’ve created this handy little guide to picking your new (temporary) favourite hockey team, with pros and cons for every team left competing.
Be sure to let us know what team you’re rooting for the rest of the playoffs in the comments below, too!
Why you should cheer for them: The Hurricanes have built one of the deepest young rosters in the NHL through strong development, solid trades and smart bets in free agency. The Canes play in front of one of the loudest crowds in the game and have revitalized North Carolina’s hockey scene too. If you’re all about enjoying the process of constructing a sustainable contender, Carolina’s the team for you.
Led by Sebastian Aho, Martin Necas and Jaccob Slavin, Carolina has a lot of the same vibes as last year’s Avalanche team. If they can just get over the big second-round hurdle, they might be unstoppable.
They also took out Bo Horvat and the Islanders, which might put them over the top for some of you.
Why you shouldn’t: The list of Carolina players on IR might be better than their actual on-ice roster right now, and the Canes are no strangers to underachieving in the playoffs. We get enough of that around here already.
Plus, their jerseys are some of the worst of the bunch. Go for a team like the Kraken or the Knights if cool uniforms are your thing.
Why you should cheer for them: The Stars have some of the best young stars in the NHL in Jason Robertson, Jake Oettinger, Miro Heiskanen and Roope Hintz. Dallas provides a lot of evidence for the Canucks that re-tooling around a small core can work, even with a more shallow-looking depth pool, if you’re willing to take your time. And have a game-stealing goalie to buoy your backend.
Plus with Pete DeBoer running things, they might only have this one shot to get the job done for a while.
Why you shouldn’t: The Stars are a hard team to get a read on. One moment they’re steamrolling opponents, the next they’re getting absolutely cooked by the Canucks in a season series. If you like a more sure bet for your bandwagon, Dallas might be a tough sell.
Their style of play might also be the most boring out of the teams on this list. Structure and poise in our Stanley Cup Playoffs? No thanks, give me weak defence and chaos!
Why you should cheer for them: First of all, Leon Draisaitl rocks. Not enough?
The Oilers are living proof that no matter how badly you bungle a rebuild or a retool, all it takes is a couple of generational talents and some decent goaltending to, eventually, turn your fortunes around. Their first-round series against the Kings was maybe the most exciting series of the bunch, and if they can bring that energy to the rest of the postseason they’ll be a great group to follow.
Also, they’re a Canadian team!
Why you shouldn’t:
The Oilers’ front office has done nearly everything wrong for over a decade and might stumble ass backwards into a Stanley Cup anyway. All because Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid are superhuman? Get outta here.
Also, they’re a Canadian team.
Why you should cheer for them: First of all, they broke the Bruins! That should be reason enough.
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The Canucks and the Panthers have had so many player and personnel connections over the years that South Florida might as well be South Vancouver. The Panthers have exuded ‘loveable loser’ energy since 1997, so the possibility of this finally being their year makes them an insanely fun choice.
Also, Roberto Luongo would finally get to hoist the championship he so richly deserves. Justice for 2011!
Why you shouldn’t: Let’s not kid ourselves, the Panthers winning a Cup before the Canucks would be a level of franchise embarrassment we may never recover from.
“The Panthers had only won a playoff series once in the last 25 years, and they still beat us to a Stanley Cup?! Alright, time for apply for contraction.”
New Jersey Devils
Why you should cheer for them: The Devils spent a long time wandering the desert before the oasis of the playoffs finally called to them again. And unlike previous incarnations, this version actually plays an entertaining brand of up-tempo hockey? I never thought such a thing was possible!
Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier and Dougie Hamilton might be the most recognizable talents, but make no mistake, the Devils are an ensemble cast. Their leading scorer in the first round was Erik Haula, Ondrej Palat put together one of the biggest shifts of the season against the Rangers in Game 7, and the New Jersey blue line has some of the most underrated defenders in the league including Damon Severson and John Marino.
Why you shouldn’t: How far do the Devils need to get to before Quinn Hughes wants to go play with his brothers? I’m worried it’s not much farther than this.
Why you should cheer for them: The Kraken are the ultimate underdogs. Fifteen different goal scorers played a part in their first-round upset of the defending champion Avalanche. And none of them were their leading goal scorer Jared McCann, whose series was ended early thanks to a late check from Cale Makar.
Seattle might not have the best goaltending, best defence or the best offence left in the final eight. But they’re not the worst in those categories either, and they might be well-rounded enough to shock the hockey world.
This ragtag second year expansion team is extremely likeable, plays close enough to Vancouver that you could drive down to see one of their home games, and has all the pizzaz of a Vegas or a Carolina. What’s not to love?
Why you shouldn’t: Oh, right. They’re the Canucks’ actual geographical rival.
If your hatred for Seattle has already arrived, this obviously ain’t it for you. For the rest of us, it’s going to be a crushing blow if NHL’s toddler-aged team wins the Stanley Cup on their first try. Especially if it’s the team from Vancouver’s twin city three hours down the road.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Why you should cheer for them: Listen, I know this is a hard sell. But hear me out for a second, won’t you?
The Leafs, in many ways, are everything the Canucks could be if they play their tanking cards correctly. A long suffering franchise with a talented young core, surrounded by enough strong depth that a top heavy defence can’t drag them down.
The Leafs winning their first Cup since 1967 would also provide the kind of evidence the Blues and Capitals’ wins have in season’s past; that no championship curse is truly unbreakable. And in Vancouver, we need that reassurance more than ever.
Also, Luke Schenn!
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Why you shouldn’t: Cause they’re the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Vegas Golden Knights
Why you should cheer for them: Vegas might be the only team strong enough to take out the two Canadian teams left, if that type of outcome is important to you.
The Golden Knights’ operation is the closest the thing the NHL has to an NBA front office, never afraid to trade half the farm for one star player and one more all-in push. Because if there’s one thing you learn in Vegas, it’s to always double down and never fold (I think, I haven’t been there since I was five).
Laurent Brossoit’s rise has become yet another example of a Vegas goalie turning into Dominik Hasek as soon as they become the starter. And if cool looking jerseys are an important selling point, their glittery gold uniforms are… no I’m sorry, those things are terrible. Their road whites are great though!
Why you shouldn’t: The Knights have been way too good for way too long already. Not only are the Knights the last team to eliminate the Canucks in a playoff series – which, by my time calculations, happened about 12 years ago – their time in that playoff bubble also outed them as a pretty insufferable group.
Yeah their roster’s changed quite a bit since then, but the core pieces are nearly all the same. Plus, the Knights getting to a championship in six seasons wouldn’t be Seattle-level bad, but it’s close.
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