Five ways for Canucks fans to decide who to cheer for in the NHL playoffs

The NHL playoffs start tonight and, for the first time since 2008, the Canucks won’t be participating. Watching hockey without a rooting interest is all well and good, but it’s generally more fun to have a team to cheer for. So which team do you ally yourself with, if any?

For some fans, this is an easy decision, as they are already fans of another team in addition to the Canucks, for whatever reason. For some, it’s because they moved to the west coast after growing up elsewhere and still have a place in their heart for their childhood team. For these people, if their other favourite team is in the playoff picture, they’re sitting pretty.

For the rest of us, however, we have a decision to make: who do we root for in the playoffs? Here are five ways to decide.

1 | Root for the underdog

There is a natural inclination to cheer for the underdog. Whether it’s because most people can relate to the underdog and seeing them succeed makes us believe that we can accomplish our own goals, even with the odds stacked against us, or because the schadenfreude of watching a heavy favourite fail is just too irresistible, underdogs tend to get a lot of love in sports.

Maybe it’s just our love of narrative. There’s a reason sports movies tend to be about the underdog overcoming countless obstacles to emerge victorious: it’s a dramatic arc. The underdog starts from the bottom, faces conflict, and ends up in a different place from where they began. There’s no dramatic arc to a favourite that is expected to win fulfilling that expectation.

If you’re looking for an underdog to root for, you can’t go wrong with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Not only are they a wild card facing Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, they have never won a playoff game in franchise history, let alone a playoff series.

The Blue Jackets even lost all five games they played against the Penguins in the regular season. Truly, the Blue Jackets are the underest of dogs.

2 | Go full heel and root against rivals

Perhaps you’re too die-hard a Canucks fan to ever cheer for another team, but you will cheer against a different team that you hate. As long as the team that wins the Stanley Cup is one of the ones you hate least, you’ll be happy.

On the Western Conference side of things, you have plenty of options for teams to cheer against. For starters, there’s the Chicago Blackhawks, who became a major rival thanks to a series of hard-fought playoff matchups, most of which ended in heartbreaking losses until Alex Burrows slayed the dragon. That means you’ll be cheering for the St. Louis Blues in the first round, which seems acceptable.

Then there’s the Los Angeles Kings, who are bad, but they’re facing the San Jose Sharks, who swept the Canucks in the playoffs last season, who are also bad. You probably don’t want to cheer for either team, even if the Sharks are our spiritual brothers-in-arms. You’ll just have to hope they beat each other up over a long 7-game series so you can cheer against them in the second round and hope the Stars or Ducks can pull off the upset.

On the Eastern Conference side, you’re basically hoping for anyone but the Bruins or Rangers to win, even if it means rooting for the Flyers and Red Wings.

3 | Fill out a playoff bracket at NHL.com and cheer for your bracket.

One upside of the new playoff format is that it takes the format of a tournament bracket, letting you make your picks March Madness style. The NHL is, of course, taking advantage of this to hold a bracket pick ‘em challenge.

Just like with March Madness, filling out a bracket immediately gives you teams to root for as you hope your bracket survives as long as possible. Colleges you have never even heard of become your favourite team ever in the space of a few weeks during March Madness. It’s a bit mercenary, but it works.

My only recommendation would be to fill out a bracket with your friends rather than just doing the one on NHL.com so that you have a realistic chance of winning. The additional benefit is you get to rub it in your friends’ faces if you pick the best bracket.

4 | Go provincial to bring the Cup to British Columbia

If the Canucks can’t win the Stanley Cup this year, there’s only one way the Cup will be coming to BC and that’s if a player (or coach or staff member) from BC wins it and brings it home during his day with the Cup. It could even come to BC multiple times if multiple BC boys are on the winning team.

On the Western Conference side, the Stars are the most BC-friendly, with Victoria brothers Jamie and Jordie Benn joined by Trail’s Shawn Horcoff and New Westminster’s Brenden Dillon. They’re facing the Ducks, who are the only Western playoff team without a single player from BC, so screw them.

The Sharks, with Bracken Kearns, Scott Hannan, and Matt Irwin are a good backup if the Stars get knocked out.

On the Eastern Conference side, there are far fewer players from BC: the rosters of the Red Wings, Penguins, Rangers, and Flyers are all devoid of BC talent. The Montreal Canadiens have the most, with just two, but they’re two important players for the team: Josh Gorges and Carey Price.

5 | Cheer for a former Canuck to hoist the Cup

This option is all about sentimentality. By my count, there are 18 former Canucks on teams heading into the playoffs, though not all are playing due to injuries. None of them were able to win the Stanley Cup while with the Canucks, but they could win it this year with another team.

To start with, only five of the fourteen teams in the playoffs don’t have any former Canucks: the Avalanche, Blackhawks, Bruins, Blue Jackets, and Flyers. So, forget those teams. They’re awful and we hate them.

Some of the others barely qualify. The Rangers only have Raphael Diaz, who played all of 6 games with the Canucks, though they also have Alain Vigneault. The Blues may have Maxim Lapierre, but they also have Derek Roy, which isn’t really a point in their favour.

None of the teams have more than two former Canucks each, so it comes down to personal preference. Can you stand to cheer for the Minnesota Wild so that Matt Cooke and Keith Ballard win the Cup? Do you want to see former first round pick Bryan Allen with the Cup with the Ducks? What about Mr. Off-the-Glass-and-Out himself, Aaron Rome, with the Stars?

The Sharks have enforcer Mike Brown and the photogenic Raffi Torres. The Kings have Willie Mitchell, who already won a Cup with them. The Canadiens boast Dale Weise and Mike Weaver, while the Penguins have both Tanner Glass and Taylor Pyatt.

That leaves the two most interesting options: the Red Wings and Lightning. The Red Wings have the curmudgeonly and controversial Todd Bertuzzi, as well as Mikael Samuelsson, who is unfortunately injured. The Lightning have Sami Salo and the also-injured Matthias Ohlund.

Personally, I would love to see Salo win the Stanley Cup and, if it all works out, I’ll probably cry if they bring Matthias Ohlund on the ice to lift the Cup. Things would get emotional, is what I’m saying.

32 comments

  1. toulouse toucan
    April 16, 2014

    No problem here that I can see
    For I’m a fan of Saint Louis
    And can’t stand Torts but love AV

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  2. Lemming
    April 16, 2014

    Well, you’ve convinced me; Go Stars and Lightning!

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  3. Naturalmystic
    April 16, 2014

    Go Bruins!

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  4. John
    April 16, 2014

    I’m going for Tampa, purely because they’re an exciting young team with lots of talent up front. Salo and Ohlund don’t hurt them either.

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  5. Jason
    April 16, 2014

    What about the TB coach? He is from PG. Also my home town.

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  6. Dirk
    April 16, 2014

    Shouldn’t cheering for the lone Canadian team be a good option?

    Allez!

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    • Daniel Wagner
      April 16, 2014

      I intentionally left it out, actually. There tend to be plenty of columns and articles about “Canada’s team” around this time of year and I wanted to avoid that entirely.

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  7. J21
    April 16, 2014

    I basically cheer against all of the NHL’s darling franchises — basically all of the original 6 and high-profile markets (this includes Philadelphia and sites like Colorado and St. Louis when they’re doing well). I also hate all of the other Canadian teams, although that’s irrelevant this year.

    Basically this puts me squarely in the corner of the Columbus Blue Jackets, with Tampa as my backup. I could handle Dallas too.

    But seriously, screw the NHL these days. Go Whitecaps!

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    • Lemming
      April 17, 2014

      Amen to being against the darling teams.

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  8. TubaNat
    April 17, 2014

    Probably going to be on the Ducks bandwagon – one last cup for Teemu! But I’d also heartily support Sami getting one too!

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  9. Mel
    April 17, 2014

    If you feel the Canucks ownership is the cause of our playoff blues, then you can cheer for the team owned by their bitter rival: the Dallas Stars.

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  10. steveB
    April 17, 2014

    It was nice to see the Dutch Lemieux, Dale Weise with the GWG in OT last night, but seeing Sami Salo win the Cup would make me cry.

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  11. Beata
    April 17, 2014

    Well, this sucks for me, because I cheer for two teams but they happen to be the Canucks and Senators, who both failed to make the playoffs. I’m basically cheering for the underdogs: Jackets, Stars, anyone playing the Bruins.

    And Alfredsson. Always Alfredsson.

    Though realistically, Salo and the Lightning probably have the best chance.

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  12. Max
    April 17, 2014

    Did i miss something or did Dale “The Flying Dutchman” Weise not get a mention on Les Habitons?!?!?!?! I loved his game winner last night a la Brett Hall on one knee. Plus I just really like him and his Jaunty Chapeaus. So lets go Habs??

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    • Daniel Wagner
      April 17, 2014

      Check again, he’s mentioned, along with Mike Weaver.

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  13. Brent
    April 17, 2014

    Nice to see Dale Weise score the overtime winner. He still does have that Dutch touch!

    Actually thought he was a great 4th liner, I assume they got rid of him because he whined about not playing much?

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    • Daniel Wagner
      April 17, 2014

      That may have been part of it, but I doubt it. They just really needed a defencemen with all the injuries piling up. It was actually a really good trade, as I quite like Raphael Diaz and think he’s pretty underrated and Weise has a definite ceiling as fourth line guy who can occasionally step up into a third line role. I was pretty disappointed when Gillis traded Diaz for a pick, though I understand that he was a pending UFA and he wanted to get at least something for him.

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      • Brent
        April 17, 2014

        Ya I liked Diaz as well. I thought they sold him for bag of pucks because they wanted to make sure they had room if the Kessler trade went through. But whatever, they got little for him.

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      • akidd
        April 17, 2014

        weise had the audacity to publicly criticize coach torts(and for good reason) and he was gone. sure they needed defensive depth but the instant timing of the trade was pretty obvious.

        i liked weise too. he had character. not a franchise cornerstone perhaps but a decent spare part i thought.

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  14. Rory
    April 17, 2014

    I’m very against Torts, so I’m actually rooting for the Rangers! What better way to prove Torts was the wrong choice then to have Vancouver’s old coach win the cup with Tort’s previous team!

    My other choices are Dallas, due to the under-dog + BC connection and Columbus!

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  15. Cody
    April 17, 2014

    Seeing Dale Weise score that winner was pretty cool, but I don’t see him on the list

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    • Daniel Wagner
      April 17, 2014

      Fifth paragraph under point 5.

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  16. Chris the Curmudgeon
    April 17, 2014

    I cheer for teams that have never won not to win. Enough other teams have hoisted it already and have the banner in the rafters to point to, so I want to see repeat champions until the Canucks win one. So on that note, I will not be cheering for St Louis or the Wild.

    I hate the Kings but I hate the Sharks more, so I want LA to win in the first round. This is part sour taste from last year (which was sourer than the previous year for me), part of it is living in Shark country, having to watch the games amongst stupid Shark fans, and part of it is having to hear Drew Remenda’s voice. Maybe Drew Remenda is the worst part of it all, I doubt any of you who aren’t regularly subjected to that chump can appreciate how intolerable he is. Plus I hate Logan Couture, whose diving makes even a guy like Kesler look like a Lady Byng winner and yet who never seems to really get called out on it.

    I also want the Bruins to lose as quickly as possible, and have no real beef with the Wings anyways: mostly classy players, great coach, well-managed and anyways they’ve won a bunch of times so what’s one more?

    I would normally pull for the Penguins, except I was a little miffed at them for the way the trade deadline went down and would probably enjoy a little schadenfreude watching them lose. As a fan of a team that lost 2 first round series in the last two years when they were the upper seed in both, I am also generally pulling for lower seeds.

    Ultimately, this year I think I’m pulling for the Ducks. They thoroughly took us apart this year so I can’t help but respect the quality. Seeing Selanne getting handed the Cup one more time would also be cool, and Perry notwithstanding, I don’t really have a problem with any individual player on their team, and really I thought we kind of gooned it up against them this year and any physical confrontations with the Canucks were more our fault than theirs. Plus it would make Kings fans really mad.

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    • Pavo
      April 17, 2014

      Chris,

      Logan Couture doesn’t get called out because he not on the Canucks team.

      Which is why, though a number of our fans are still upset that the Canucks didn’t draft Milan Lucic, my cynical take is that Milan would have been nowhere as effective a player as a Canuck, as he is as a Bruin.

      And he would most likely have spent a chunk of every season on suspension.

      But to your point, yeah, I too would rather see the Kings or the Hawks win the cup than the Sharks.

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  17. Iceman
    April 17, 2014

    Very good advice Daniel. I chose #2 and I’m keeping it simple:

    West – cheer for ANY team against LA
    East – cheer for ANY team against Boston

    If either one or both teams sent packing in the 1st round (which will make me really happy), no worries — I’m most likely to find another team to cheer against for whatever reason. Other than that I also have a soft spot for Salo, Ohlund and Pyatt so maybe Tampa/Pitts.

    Of course there’s also the worst case scenario which features Kings and Bruins ending up in the SCF… When it happens that will be the day I finally unplug myself from watching hockey until October.

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    • Pavo
      April 17, 2014

      For me, the worst case scenario would a Bruins / Sharks final.

      Either the Bruins win yet another cup, or the Sharks bust their drought before the Canucks.

      Yuk! Yuk! Ugggh!!!

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      • Chris the Curmudgeon
        April 17, 2014

        That is also my worst case scenario. Any other Eastern team winning, I could live with.

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  18. akidd
    April 17, 2014

    it’s a battle of styles and systems. i’m pulling for the ‘run and gun’ so we don’t have to endure another wave of teams trying to remake themselves as primarily gritty, shot-blocking and hard-to-play-against. because terrible things happen to teams that halfway reinvent themselves in an insincere copycat way. cough, cough.

    i also like me some habs. a very entertaining first game. subban is trying so hard. he’s either gonna score the gwg or be responsible for the turnover that scores it the other way. nothing in-between. very entertaining.

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  19. Angry Canadian
    April 17, 2014

    Nope, sorry, couldn’t give the proverbial rats behind about who takes it out. My team didn’t make the playoffs, therefore, the season is done, finished, finito.

    Admittedly, it helps to have this attitude when I live in a country (Australia) where ice hockey is still making in-roads in popularity – what is the big deal about cricket anyway? – and when my Aussie Rules team is currently on a 90% winning percentage since the start of 2012.

    See you all in October. Which, ironically enough, is when the next season of The Walking Dead comes out…

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  20. PB
    April 18, 2014

    Tampa Bay for sure — just went there for a conference and caught two games, including the one where they eliminated Toronto from the playoff hunt. That alone would get my vote, but beyond that they are a pretty exciting team (not just Stamkos but Johnson and Palat plus Hedman and Gudkas and of course Salo was his usual awesome self — I actually forgot how decent a defender he is beyond the cannon shot). Generally I don’t care about hockey once the Canucks are gone but I think I’ll make an exception this year.

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  21. Colby7
    April 19, 2014

    What about AV? I picked the Rangers to go all the way because, hey, if Torts could have any ammount of success with that team, AV should be able to easily win a Stanley Cup.

    Plus AV has Torts old sluggers in St Luois and Richards, it’s almost like AV is is super trolling Torts.

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  22. iain
    April 25, 2014

    it’s an organic thing. some things are given:

    1. never root for the Bruins.
    2. never root for the Flyers.

    others shift and move with time: a couple years ago, i was delighted to see Chicago lose in the first round, but this year i want to see them put out St Louis. I’d rather see Kane dipsy-doodling and scoring than watching the Hitchcockian paintdrying that is Blues hockey. plus i think the Blues are overrated (a ‘darling’ team)

    Also, AV joining the Rangers, combined with them playing the Flyers, has me firmly in the Rangers camp for this series.

    montreal before Tampa was an easy one.

    and the way Columbus played in game 4 won me over – they’re a lunchbucket team (Johansen aside) but they exposed every one of the Pens considerable weaknesses and i’m in.

    other underdogs: Stars – yep. Wild – yep. but i could see the Avs win and not be upset. anaheim i think is overrated, like the Blues.

    oh, and sharks – kings, well the best outcome would be if they both beat the bejeezus out of each other and the series was declared void, but the sharks at least try to play speed skill and finesse, so i gotta go with them over the kings, who are seriously bad for the future of exciting hockey. 2012 was a dark year for the NHL when they actually won it all playing the way they do.

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