STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS PREVIEW
"Hey Mark, didn't the playoffs start two nights ago?"
Shut up, hypothetical straw man! I'm sorting the 16 teams by now much I want them to win the Cup.
NO FUCKIN' WAY
Anaheim Ducks --- Won the Cup last year, warm-weather American team in a city that doesn't really care about hockey, and a playoff collapse might push Brian Burke one step closer to leaving Anaheim and coming to Toronto. You know, the more I think about the Ducks franchise, Disney really missed an opportunity to make some money. If Disney and the NHL had held off of expansion for a couple of years, they could've waited until the North Stars left for Dallas, and then brought the new team into the hockey-crazed Minnesota market. We could've had the Minnesota Mighty Ducks, which would've been awesome, rather than the Anaheim Ducks, the least-fitting franchise name in sports. This is all Michael Eisner's fault. Damn that wide-foreheaded jackanape.
Ottawa Senators --- Well, obviously. In past years, when the Leafs have been eliminated, my allegiances shift to rooting for the other Canadian teams. This strategy was shot to hell last year when Ottawa made the finals. I just couldn't bring myself to root for the Sens, even against a warm-weather American team with no history. The one silver lining of Toronto's playoff futility is that as bad as the Leafs have been, Ottawa has been even worse. Sure, the Sens may have actually made the finals, but they made it only to get humiliated by the Ducks. Yer brutal, Senators. YERRRRRRRRRR BRRRRRRUTAL.
Nashville Predators --- City doesn't care about hockey, no history to speak of, and well, blah. Wake me when they move to Hamilton.
Boston Bruins --- The city of Boston has had too much sports success this decade. They don't need the Stanley Cup too. By the way, did anyone see that emotional ceremony for Bill Buckner at Fenway Park last week? Buckner threw out the first pitch to Dwight Evans, and if Evans had intentionally led the pitch roll through his legs, that would've been enough for me to lead the movement to put Dewey into the Hall of Fame. It also would've led to the amazing sight of Buckner and Evans getting into a fistfight at home plate while a horrified Jerry Remy openly wept in the broadcast booth.
Dallas Stars --- Nah. You steal one Cup, you don't my support for at least a decade. Besides, there's no fun in cheering for a Texas-based sports team.
New Jersey Devils --- I'm still not over the trap years. This is what happens when you have a franchise called the Devils --- they end up almost destroying the sport.
I'D RATHER NOT, BUT I GUESS I COULD, MAYBE, BEGRUDGINGLY (a.k.a. What My Prom Date Said)
Philadelphia Flyers --- This armpit of a franchise would normally be in the bottom group, but then again, the city of Philadelphia is so starved for sports success that the Flyers winning wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Maybe if they win, Bobby Clarke could slip and fall and hit his head on the ice like that Calgary anthem singer and not get to celebrate with the Cup. That'd be okay.
Colorado Avalanche --- My only allegiance to the Avs ran out that year when Ray Bourque was on the roster and finally won his Stanley Cup. I remember listening to updates of Game Seven at my cousin's wedding reception. Nice scheduling, Steve! Obviously you should've run your wedding plans past the NHL home office.
Detroit Red Wings --- Ugh, the original team I hated back in the day. My Leaf fandom was born in 1993 when I started to follow Toronto solely to shut up the scads of fair-weather Wings fans who jumped on the bandwagon. Nikolai Borschevsky gave me bragging rights for years. Anyway, the modern-day Wings are all a bunch of classy players, and it doesn't get much better than Nicklas Lidstrom. Maybe winning another Cup would convince Detroiters to actually attend playoff games. What the hell, Detroit? You call yourself Hockeytown and you turn in this sad display? What are you, Braves fans? Why don't you give up on the Tigers and Lions and go see a team that actually has a chance of winning? Yes, that's right, I've officially given up on my World Series pick less than two weeks into the season. Fickleness, thy name is Mark.
YEAH, SURE, I COULD GET BEHIND THAT
New York Rangers --- My old high school math teacher, Mr. Sheppard, was a huge Rangers fan, and since he was a good teacher, hey, why not, go Rangers. Normally I'm against teams from New York, but Madison Square Garden could use some semblance of joy this year after the pit that is the Knicks.
San Jose Sharks --- A warm-weather team, yes, but the city of San Jose has embraced hockey since the Sharks came to town all those years ago. In fact, you could say that the NHL's success in San Jose led to further expansion to warm-weather cities. So...hmm, uh, thanks for nothing, San Jose? Anyway, I've always kind of liked the Sharks, and they've got good ol' London boy (well, St. Thomas boy) Joe Thornton. If I had adopted the Sharks as my favourite team back in the day, maybe I would've achieved my lifelong dream of getting 'Mark the Shark' as my nickname. I tried everything to get that nickname --- shaved my hair into the shape of a fin, terrorized Roy Scheider's family, had myself legally adopted by the descendants of former heavyweight boxing champ Jack Sharkey, everything! If I can't get 'Shark' to catch on, how about Buzz? The world needs another person nicknamed Buzz. I'm even eating a large jar of honey as I type this post right now.
Minnesota Wild --- It was a tough call putting the Wild here and not in the "I'd Rather Not" category. Sure, Minnesota loves hockey and whatnot, but it would be pretty hypocritical of me to shit all over the Devils for playing the trap and then wholeheartedly endorse the Wild. What pushed the Wild into this section
Pittsburgh Penguins --- I look forward to 15 years of debating over who's better between Crosby and Malkin.
Toronto Maple Leafs --- Wait a minute....sigh....
Montreal Canadiens --- I know, I know, a Leafs fan rooting for the Habs is heresy. But as I mentioned a few days ago, the Habs winning would put them a step closer to topping the Yankees for overall North American sports championships. Plus, my buddy Trev is a big Habs fan, and it would make his year. Plus, my friends Dallas and Brian live in Montreal, and it would be fun to read their blog posts about the inevitable riot that would take place after a Cup win. It'd be the modern-day equivalent of those BBC radio announcers during the Blitz.
Washington Capitals --- Isn't everyone on the bandwagon by now? The Caps have never won a Cup before, and they're a longtime franchise that has more than paid their dues. Plus, Alex Ovechkin is pretty much undisputedly the most entertaining player to watch in the NHL. Just think, 40 years ago, the notion of a Russian taking over Washington would've been cause for national panic.
Calgary Flames --- Hey, the 'cheer for another Canadian team' rule is still in effect for non-Ottawa teams. It'd be great to see Jarome Iginla with the Cup, plus seeing Mike Keenan triumph again would piss off at least 70% of the NHL, so that'd be fun.