The ILWT Guide to Choosing a Bandwagon in the 2014 Playoffs

Womp womp - USA TODAY Sports

Well folks, the Devils' season is over, and while for some that means hockey is done as well, others will tune in for the most exciting tournament in sports anyway. So, before they get going let's take a look at the options for who to root for.

For the second season in a row, the Devils will be golfing come playoff time. It's a tough pill to swallow after being only 2 wins from the Cup in 2012, but here we are. Just because the Devils are done, doesn't necessarily mean the hockey season is done as well, though. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are still among the most exciting events in sports, and there is plenty of enjoyment to be had vicariously through others, and it never hurts to pick some rooting interests to stay engaged.

So without further ado, here's a team-by-team guide to try to determine who you want to see go all the way. (Note: some/all opinions may be under-researched or completely unfounded.)

West

Chicago Blackhawks

Reasons to root for them:

  • The Blackhawks are among the most exciting teams in the NHL and they have a great mix of old and young talent and very few really hateable guys.
  • Captain Jonathan Toews is one of the most respected and all-around great players in the NHL and he'll be returning just in time for the playoffs.
  • Patrick Kane is among the most dynamic players in the league, and is almost always good for some fantastic plays.

Reasons not to root for them:

  • Seriously, enough of these guys. We get it, your team is awesome. Quit rubbing it in everyone else's faces.
  • You ate four bites of a Chicago deep dish pizza one time and now you have heart disease.
  • You drive a cab in Buffalo.
St Louis Blues

Reasons to root for them:

  • The Blues have been a strong/well-run franchise for decades now but they have little postseason success to show for it. They are owners of the longest Cup-less drought in the entire league (sharing that title with the Leafs) and have had some very good teams fall short.
  • They have American hero TJ Oshie who single-handedly vanquished the Russians in the shootout to lead the USA to the gold medal and undisputed world dominance. (What? Shut up, this is how I'm choosing to remember it.)
  • Ryan Miller, another American Olympic hero, escaped Buffalo, so you gotta feel good for him there.

Reasons not to root for them:

  • David Backes, while a great player, is really kind of the worst.
  • Speaking of inferior varieties of pizza, St Louis-style pizza is an abomination and the City of St Louis should pay for it.
  • St Louis fans are among the worst offenders when it comes to the perpetuation of faux-classiness in sports fandom. If someone from St Louis tells you to "stay classy" you are legally obligated to slap them.
Colorado Avalanche

Reasons to root for them:

  • The Avs are a free-wheeling young team that has been a lot of fun to watch this year. They have a great offense but their defense kind of stinks. That's always a recipe for some fun hockey.
  • They have loads of exciting young players, like forwards Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon.

Reasons not to root for them:

  • Patrick Roy is a lunatic and behavior like that should never be encouraged.
  • Are we really ready to forgive them for beating what was probably the best of any Devils team in history in 2001?
  • Stop hogging all the awesome young forwards. Seriously we're making due with freaking Reid Boucher over here.
Minnesota Wild

Reasons to root for them:

  • You enjoy watching paint dry. I know, glass houses and all of that, but seriously, the Wild are like the Devils if you remove all of the personality and past success.
  • You like players who organize bailing on their current teams together to go live in what is basically America's own personal Canada. The Wild are like an extremely mediocre version of the Miami Heat.
  • You enjoy a state filled with people who are "nice" to your face but will bust out the knives once your back is turned. Say what you will about Jersey rudeness, but at least you know where you stand with people.

Reasons not to root for them:

  • Hmm. Guess I already kind of covered that.
San Jose Sharks

Reasons to root for them:

Reasons not to root for them:

  • They employ Raffi Torres, a fact that cannot be overlooked. Nobody likes Raffi Torres, not even Sharks fans.
  • You enjoy narratives that include the word "choke" in them.
  • You think they should be punished for always wearing those black 3rd jerseys at home and not the far superior teals.
Los Angeles Kings

Reasons to root for them:

  • You appreciate a well constructed team that can straight up overwhelm an opponent with a suffocating possession game.
  • You want the Kings to go as far as possible to maximize the number of incomprehensible and ultimately fruitless bench interviews that NBC does with Darryl Sutter.
  • Any success by Richards/Carter twists the knife for Flyers fans.
  • You are Slovenian.

Reasons not to root for them:

  • They are a great team, but any final score beyond 2-1 is pretty much out of reach. Any series is likely to be a dry affair.
  • UGH IF ONLY KOVALCHUK DOESN'T HIT THE CROSSBAR IN GAME 2
  • Dustin Brown
Anaheim Ducks

Reasons to root for them:

  • Teemu Selanne, as close to unhateable as there is in today's NHL, has a chance to go out on top after an amazing career.
  • Anaheim deals with some of the same little brother treatment with LA as the Devils do with NYR, so it's easy to be sympathetic.
  • They have Disneyland, so that's cool.

Reasons not to root for them:

  • They stole Scott Neidermayer so he could play with his brother, Rob. And then later, Rob ended up here anyway. What the hell? Couldn't the inferior brother have just made the move in the first place?
  • Their uniforms are terrible. Black orange and gold? Were they drunk?
  • Corey Perry might be kind of a prick.
Dallas Stars

Reasons to root for them:

Reasons not to root for them:

  • Honestly, aren't we all sort of sick of the State of Texas in general at this point?
  • Dallas is just kind of a lame city.

East

Boston Bruins

Reasons to root for them:

  • They are the Presidents' Trophy winners and you believe in just outcomes.
  • Zdeno Chara is within earshot of you and you don't want him to grind your bones into a fine dust.

Reasons not to root for them:

  • Boston still likes to try to paint themselves as scrappy overachievers/underdogs of some sort when each of their franchises have won like 73 titles in the last 10 years and are super rich. At least when they were actually losing it was somewhat endearing.
  • Seriously, Boston fans are the worst.
  • Jeremy Jacobs has a can of paint thinner where his heart should be and has probably had a major hand in each of the last two NHL lockouts.
Detroit Red Wings

Reasons to root for them:

  • Um, I guess Pavel Datsyuk is coming back and he's fun to watch. Gustav Nyquist has been exciting too.
  • Looking at the rest of Detroit's sports teams, I guess it's hard to begrudge them one successful one.

Reasons not to root for them:

  • On the other hand, just die already, come on.
  • They gave themselves a nickname (Hockeytown), which is annoying. And it stuck, which is double annoying.
  • Honestly, 23 straight playoffs... enough is enough.
Pittsburgh Penguins

Reasons to root for them:

  • They have the hands down best player in the league, and it's not particularly close. Watching a legend in the making succeed always has its allure.
  • Marc-Andre Fleury is among the most maligned playoff performers of his generation, and it's nice to see guys like that shake the label.

Reasons not to root for them:

  • The Penguins are fairly renowned chirpers and whiners, led by their aforementioned best player in the world. Pretty annoying bunch overall.
  • They are an endlessly overhyped and overexposed team and it is enjoyable to watch them fail.
  • People from Pittsburgh call themselves Yinzers. Get out of here with that, c'mon.
Columbus Blue Jackets

Reasons to root for them:

  • They have won exactly zero playoff games in their history. It's probably time to throw those fans a bone.
  • The Flyers traded Sergei Bobrovski and he immediately won a Vezina. That's top notch trolling by Bob/the Jackets and you have to salute them for that.
  • #Lumbus

Reasons not to root for them:

  • Their fans are probably also Ohio State fans, which means there is a good chance that they are annoying people.
Tampa Bay Lightning

Reasons to root for them:

  • Steven Stamkos is a ridiculous hockey player and probably not a half-bad beer-league softball player either.
  • They handled the Martin St Louis situation pretty well, given how much of a colossal baby he was being.
  • Gotta respect any Florida sports franchise that does not appear to be operated by a gang of drunk infants. It's tough to do down there.

Reasons not to root for them:

  • If they go deep, be prepared to hear about gritty grit gritster Ryan Callahan changing the culture or some such. I'm not quite over my Rangers-related disdain for him and probably need another year.
  • They kind of bogarted their uniforms from the Leafs.
  • They invented John Tortorella, and we still have to hear about him like 3 times a week.
Montreal Canadiens

Reasons to root for them:

  • You are Canadian

Reasons not to root for them:

  • You are Canadian
  • You are American
Philadelphia Flyers

Reasons to root for them:

  • N/A

Reasons not to root for them:

  • [Lists literally anything that has to do with Philadelphia or its inhabitants]
  • Zac Rinaldo
  • Zac Rinaldo
New York Rangers

Reasons to root for them:

  • You enjoy franchises with delusions of grandeur, despite minimal on-ice success.

Reasons not to root for them:

  • James Dolan is awful.
  • They made Sean Avery a thing.
  • You have met Rangers fans, right?
  • Madison Square Garden is a terrible arena.

Enjoy the playoffs, everyone, and sign up for the ILWT bracket challenge if you're feeling competitive. Winner gets to put "2014 ILWT Stanley Cup Playoff Bracket Challenge Champion" on their resume the next time they are searching for a job, so there is a lot at stake here.

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