In case you’ve been living completely off the grid in the wilderness for the past several months, there’s a few things you should know.
First of all, yes, the COVID-19 pandemic is still happening. Go get vaccinated. Second, a bunch of Joshes had a battle royale in Lincoln, Nebraska to decide who was the ultimate Josh, with the winner being a four-year-old dubbed “Little Josh.”
Third, in case you’re a Canucks fan, you should know that they didn’t make the playoffs.
I know, it might be confusing, because the Canucks have games scheduled this week at the same time as everyone else is playing playoff games but it’s true: the Canucks have missed the playoffs and are likely to finish last place in the all-Canadian North Division.
That means it’s time for the annual ritual of the also-rans: picking a team to cheer for in the playoffs.
Yes, it’s time to jump on a bandwagon. For those who haven’t been in the wilderness and have had the sad fortune of watching the Canucks play all season, this will be an opportunity to watch some good hockey for once. You could try to stay neutral, of course, but hockey is always more fun when you have a rooting interest.
Some of you may already have a secondary fandom that you can turn to as the playoffs begin — a family member’s favourite team, a team with a player you love, or just a team whose logo you thought was neat when you were a kid.
For those of you who don’t have a backup team, I have this handy-dandy guide to help you pick your temporary favourite team. Let’s count them down from the teams a Canucks fan should cheer for the least to the ones that make the most sense.
16 | Boston Bruins
Reasons to cheer for them: David Pastrnak is delightful and they have a lot of talented players, not least of which is Taylor Hall, who has been on fire since getting traded to the Bruins from the Buffalo Sabres.
Reasons not to cheer for them: Are you kidding me?
Sure, it’s been ten years since the Canucks lost to the Bruins in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, but ask any Canucks fan if they still hold a grudge and their reply will be that of Severus Snape: “Always.”
Guess who’s still on the Bruins? Brad Marchand! Even Pastrnak is just a painful reminder that he was taken by the Bruins in the 2014 draft one pick after the Canucks selected Jared McCann. Throw the whole team away.
15 | Toronto Maple Leafs
Reasons to cheer for them: The Leafs are probably the best team in Canada, with an elite goalscorer in Auston Matthews and plenty of other talent like Mitch Marner, William Nylander, John Tavares and Morgan Rielly. They’ve even got some cool old guys like Joe Thornton and Jason Spezza.
If you want a Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup, the Leafs are probably your best bet.
Reasons not to cheer for them: You’d think that they were the Toronto Bay Leafs given how bitter most people in BC are about them.
Thank you, I’m here all week, try the fish.
Between the way national media outlets pander to the Leafs and the NHL forces early start times for Canucks games every time the Leafs are in town, there are plenty of reasons to hate the team from the centre of the universe. Let’s be honest, if you want a Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup, what you actually mean is you want any Canadian team except the Leafs.
14 | Edmonton Oilers
Reasons to cheer for them: Connor McDavid is the best player in the NHL and is coming off a historically-great regular season. Leon Draisaitl ain’t too shabby either.
Reasons not to cheer for them: The Oilers are one of the Canucks’ primary geographical rivals, along with the Calgary Flames. If you like the Canucks, you probably already hate the Oilers, so it’s a tough sell to start cheering for them now.
Besides, the Oilers’ defence is shakier than a bowl of Jello and they’re depending on a 39-year-old Mike Smith in net.
13 | Minnesota Wild
Reasons to cheer for them: Kirill Kaprizov is a treat to watch and he, along with Kevin Fiala and Mats Zuccarello, have managed to do the impossible: make the Minnesota Wild exciting.
Reasons not to cheer for them: Younger Canucks fans may not remember, but the Canucks and WIld were once bitter rivals. Division realignment took some of the zip out of that rivalry, but it’s likely still alive for some fans, who can’t forgive the Wild for knocking the Canucks out of the playoffs in 2003 at the height of the West Coast Express era.
Besides, the Wild are unlikely to get past the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round. And it’s the Wild. Come on.
12 | St. Louis Blues
Reasons to cheer for them: The Blues are a hard-working, gritty team with some top-tier talent like Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron. If you like blue-collar hockey, nobody’s collars are more blue than the Blues.
Reasons not to cheer for them: Jordan Binnington. Perron is kind of a schmuck. Residual bad feelings from their playoff series last year.
Also, let’s be real, the Blues are going to get steamrolled by the Colorado Avalanche.
11 | Nashville Predators
Reasons to cheer for them: If you like an underdog, the Predators are right up your ally. They don’t have a ton of scoring, but they’ve got a solid defence and a red-hot goaltender in Juuse Saros.
The Predators also have a smattering of former Canucks to cheer for, like Brad Richardson, Erik Gudbranson, and Luca Sbisa. Compelling, no?
Reasons not to cheer for them: There just isn’t a lot that’s exciting about the Predators. Maybe Saros can get hot and steal some wins but that’s not as fun as a barnstorming team that scores a lot of goals.
10 | Montreal Canadiens
Reasons to cheer for them: Do you want a storied Canadian franchise to bring the Stanley Cup north of the border but hate the Leafs? Try the Montreal Canadiens.
Perhaps you want to see a good BC boy like Carey Price or Shea Weber win the Cup. Maybe you like the chaos of Tyler Toffoli winning the Cup with the Canadiens the season after the Canucks failed to re-sign him. Maybe you want to laugh at the Oilers for trading Jeff Petry to the Canadiens only to see him blossom into a true number-one defenceman.
Reasons not to cheer for them: Canucks Twitter will be absolutely insufferable if Toffoli wins the Cup with the Canadiens. Price is a shadow of his former self. Canadiens fans hate bandwagoners.
Also, the Canadiens crashed and burned down the stretch, to the point that they gave false hope to Canucks fans that they might actually have a shot at the playoffs. That’s just cruel.
9 | New York Islanders
Reasons to cheer for them: Why not, I guess?
The Islanders have a long history, so jumping on their bandwagon can feel like you’re part of that history. Mathew Barzal is fun, Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock are aan underrated top defensive pairing, and Semyon Varlamov has been very good in net.
Reasons not to cheer for them: They’re just kind of bland. They’ve got good depth and they’re strong defensively, but where’s the excitement? The pizzazz? The je-ne-sais-quoi?
You’re welcome to cheer for them, but why would you?
8 | Washington Capitals
Reasons to cheer for them: The Capitals boast the greatest goalscorer in NHL history in Alex Ovechkin. They’ve got plenty of other exciting talent in Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and John Carlson.
Simply put, the Capitals are fun.
Also, former Capitals and current Canucks Braden Holtby, Jay Beagle, Nate Schmidt, and Travis Boyd would probably like seeing their friends win the Cup.
Reasons not to cheer for them: Tom Wilson is a butt. They have Zdeno Chara now, which gives them Bruins hate by proxy.
Besides, Ovechkin already has his Cup, so that takes some of the fun out of cheering for him.
7 | Vegas Golden Knights
Reasons to cheer for them: They’ve got skill, they’ve got speed, they’ve got personality, and this could be the year they win it all. What's not to love?
Reasons not to cheer for them: Do you really want the Golden Knights to win the Stanley Cup before the Canucks do? Really???
6 | Winnipeg Jets
Reasons to cheer for them: Of the Canadian teams, the Jets are the ones that Canucks fans hate the least. If you’re dead set on a Canadian team, the Jets are the least gross team to cheer for.
Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Blake Wheeler give the Jets plenty of skill at forward and Connor Hellebuyck may be the best goaltender in the NHL.
Reasons not to cheer for them: Oh boy, that defence. It’s...not great. It’s not a good sign when Jordie Benn represents a significant upgrade. They’re going to have a serious problem matching up against McDavid and the Oilers.
Besides, the whole “Canada’s Team” thing is pretty silly.
5 | Pittsburgh Penguins
Reasons to cheer for them: Sidney Crosby is still one of the best players on the planet.
Don’t forget Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and, uh, Jared McCann.
But really, this is about cheering for Crosby. Who knows how much longer he’ll still be the focal point of a Cup-contending team?
Reasons not to cheer for them: Haven’t the Penguins won enough Cups? It’s hard to throw yourself wholeheartedly behind a team that’s already experienced so much success over the last 10+ years.
4 | Tampa Bay Lightning
Reasons to cheer for them: They’re so good.
The Lightning are an exciting team chock full of top-end talent like Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, and Victor Hedman, not to mention incredible goaltending from Andei Vasilevskiy.
They’re also getting Nikita Kucherov back in time for the playoffs after missing the entire regular season with a hip surgery in a delightful piece of cap circumvention that harkens back to the days when Laurence Gilman was working his wizardry with the Canucks.
Reasons not to cheer for them: They just won the Cup last season. Come on, let someone else have a turn.
3 | Florida Panthers
Reasons to cheer for them: They’re the darkhorse underdogs facing the Lightning in the first round and have the potential to pull off the upset.
The Panthers have been surprisingly good this season. Aleksander Barkov is one of the best players in the NHL, even if he goes under the radar in Florida. Jonathan Huberdeau, Carter Verhaeghe, and Anthony Duclair are also excellent forwards, while MacKenzie Weegar is an analytics darling on defence. Meanwhile, former Canucks prospect Gustav Forsling is playing a major role on defence too. Neat!
While Canucks fans might not like Sam Bennett thanks to “18-year-old Sam Bennett” causing them grief back in the 2015 playoffs, but it would be pretty neat to see him thrive with the Panthers instead of the Calgary Flames.
To top it off, seeing the Canucks’ frequent trading partners succeed would be awfully neat.
Reasons not to cheer for them: They’ve got Sergei Bobrovsky in net and he’s not very good anymore. In all honesty, they should probably turn to their backup, Chris Driedger, who has an absurd .927 save percentage this season, but Bobrovsky is the guy making $10 million per year, so you can guess who’ll be getting the start in the playoffs.
Here’s the big issue: without Aaron Ekblad, who is out long term with a brutal leg injury, the Panthers are longshots. While it’s fun to cheer for an underdog and the Panthers are one of the better underdogs to cheer for, you could still wind up disappointed in round one.
2 | Colorado Avalanche
Reasons to cheer for them: The Avalanche might be the best team in the NHL.
Nathan MacKinnon has a solid case as the best player in the NHL, while Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko RRantanen are no slouches either. They’ve got great depth at forward behind that top line as well, including one of the best defensive forwards in the league in Valeri Nichushkin.
On defence, Cale Makar is worth the price of admission alone, but they’ve also got Devon Toews and Samuel Girard, while Philipp Grubauer has been fantastic all year in net.
The biggest reason for a Canucks fan to cheer for the Avalanche is that they provide hope. It’s not that long ago that the Avalanche were in the exact same boat as the Canucks this year. Their success since then gives fans reason to believe the Canucks can potentially follow their path.
Reasons not to cheer for them: There’s something a little bit gross about jumping on the bandwagon of the favourites.
The Avalanche are the odds-on favourites to win the Stanley Cup this year. Maybe that appeals to you — it’s fun to cheer for a winner — but it also removes some of the fun of cheering for an underdog.
Also, the Avalanche and Canucks used to be rivals and there still might be some bad blood among some fans.
1 | Carolina Hurricanes
Reasons to cheer for them: The Hurricanes are fun and talented. Andrei Svechnikov scores lacrosse-style Zorro goals. Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Vincent Trocheck, and Nino Niederreiter are all great forwards. They’re fast and physical, but can also put the puck in the net.
Dougie Hamilton is one of the best defencemen in the league and, in cheering for him, you can rub his success in the face of Flames fans. Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce are likewise great defencemen.
Meanwhile, Petr Mrazek might be one of the most underrated goaltenders in the NHL. He only played 12 games this season due to an injury, but he had a .923 save percentage in those 12 games. Not sold on Mrazek? How about Alex Nedeljkovic, who had a .932 save percentage in 23 starts.
There’s no residual rivalry with the Hurricanes to get in the way for Canucks fans, just a fun, entertaining team that could go all the way.
As an added bonus, if the Hurricanes win the Cup, other teams around the league — perhaps including the Canucks — will be more likely to adopt their progressive, analytics-friendly approach to building a team.
Reasons not to cheer for them: Their only good jersey is their third jersey with the hurricane flag logo and they just don’t wear it often enough.
What’s that? They’ll be wearing their third jerseys for all of their home games in the playoffs?
Okay, I can’t think of any other reasons not to cheer for them.