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Monday, April 11, 2011

2011 Torontonian Guide to the Playoffs

toews kane stanley cup
I was hoping I wouldn’t have to write this post. Instead of writing a (hopefully not) Annual Torontonian Guide to the Playoffs I would rather write a quick tweet: Cheer for Toronto. But the Leafs would actually have to make the playoffs for that to work. So, once again, Leafs Nation will have to temporarily lend their support to another team. Or you can disregard the playoffs entirely and throw your full support into baseball – but that’s not ideal.

If you’re a little confused about who to cheer for, read ahead. You’ll at least know who you shouldn’t cheer for.

Draft picks

The Leafs have vested interest in seeing both the Bruins and Flyers go out in the first round. Both teams gave Toronto their first round picks in this June’s draft and they stand to improve if both teams fail to advance. If Boston and Philadelphia meet in the Conference Final for the second season in a row, Toronto can count on their picks being closer to 30. However, if neither team makes it out of the first round the picks would be closer to 20.

The Tomas Kaberle Corollary

It’s acceptable to temporarily lend your fandom to the Boston Bruins for the sole purpose of cheering for Tomas Kaberle. I suppose it’s morally excusable to waive your hatred for a division rival like the Bruins (who rank fourth in the division on the hate-o-scale) in order to cheer for a former long-time Leaf. Plus, if the Bruins win the Stanley Cup the Leafs receive a second-round pick, so that’s a bonus.

Personally, I rather cheer for a Bruins first round knockout (for the better draft pick), but one where Kaberle scores 10 points and endears himself enough in Boston to warrant a contract extension, thus handing the Leafs a second-round pick.

Divisional Rivals

If you find yourself cheering for either Buffalo or Montreal (especially Montreal!!!!) you need to hand in your Leafs Nation identification badge and jump ship completely.

The Canadiens are the Leafs’ biggest rival and entirely loathsome. Of course, they are playing the Bruins in the opening round, so you have a few less than ideal options: a) hope Montreal upsets Boston, but gets blown out horribly in round two, b) stick to cheering for Tomas Kaberle, c) hope the Bruins beat the Habs (because Habs Hate trumps a couple of spots in the draft), but hope for a Bruins’ second round collapse, or d) cheer for a super-flu to knockout both teams and cancel their opening round match-up.

Buffalo hates Toronto. Ryan Miller hates Toronto. Ergo, I hate Buffalo and Ryan Miller. It’s simple mathematics. But because nothing in this world is that simple the Sabres are playing the Flyers in the opening round. If you’re a Leafs fan you should probably hate the Flyers as well, so you shouldn’t have a problem cheering for Ryan Miller to stand on his head for the opening round, only to collapse from exhaustion in a second round Sabres playoff exit.

No Canada

No Canadian team has won a Stanley Cup since Montreal did in 1993. There have been close calls: Vancouver in ’94, Calgary in ’04, Edmonton in ’06, and Ottawa in ’07. None of these teams could get it done and that made me happy (okay, I was maybe cheering for Edmonton). Every other city in Canada hates Toronto for some misguided reason, and they especially hate the Leafs. Now we’re supposed to root for these teams because we share a country? No thanks.

The only good thing to come from a Vancouver Stanley Cup win would be the recognition both Brian Burke and Dave Nonis would receive for building the core of the team (Sedins, Kesler, Luongo, Edler, Bieksa, Burrows). Or maybe Canuck fans would ignore their contributions because they prefer key cogs like Keith ‘healthy scratch’ Ballard.

Sorry, can’t get behind the Canucks.

Phoenix Jets

I don’t recognize the Phoenix Coyotes’ right to exist. I want them to crash and burn and move to Winnipeg as quickly as possible.

San Jose Futility

I like when San Jose chokes. I have bashed both Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau for so long (brief Olympic reprieve) that if there were to actually shed their label as playoff bums I would have to change my opinion on them, making hours of trash-talk for naught. You don’t like changing your opinion and neither do I. Plus, do you really want to cheer for Dany Heatley?

Money, it’s what I want

If you’re in a hockey pool all bets are off. If you’re in a pool everything falls into a moral grey-zone. Is it okay to pick Montreal players and hope they load up on points? Of course you’re cheering for them NOT to win it all, but is it okay to accept them making the Final? Money makes people do stupid things – like cheer for Montreal. But if you’re banking on Montreal to help you win your playoff pool you might have other problems.

Who is left?

There are a lot of options this year: Capitals, Penguins, Lightning, Rangers, Red Wings, Ducks, Predators, Kings, and Hawks.

It’s acceptable to cheer for any of these teams, unless you still hold grudges against the Hawks and Wings from the old Norris Division days. If so, knock them off your list. Otherwise I’ll try to provide some reasons why you should or shouldn’t cheer for some of these teams.

Capitals: Is Alex Ovechkin transforming into a Steve Yzerman type team-guy, or has he coasted all season (umm, and scored over 80 points) and think he can turn on a switch for the playoffs? I’ll choose to believe he really wants to win now and doesn’t care about padding his stats. It’s amazing that the Capitals can transform themselves into the fourth best defensive team in the league and people still think they are susceptible to an upset. It could be fun to see the Caps turn into San Jose East, but it could also be pretty fun to see Ovechkin win the Cup and go wild this summer. He would put Patrick Kane to shame.

Penguins: If Crosby was playing I would support the Pens because I have a Crosboner. However, his return is unlikely as doctors have not cleared him for contact in practice. I’d rather the Pens go out in the first round so they aren’t tempted to rush Crosby back. They also employ Matt Cooke and I think all hockey fans (even Pens fans) can agree he’s hateable. At this point the Pens are mostly grinders and role players, so they won’t be very exciting to watch. The Pens could be a fun team to cheer for if Jordan Staal steps out of the lengthy Crosby/Malkin shadow and carries the team to a Cup victory.

Lightning: Now that the Capitals abandoned the run-and-gun offense the Lightning have taken their place. They have fun players like St. Louis and Stamkos and you have to respect Dwayne Roloson for providing stability in the Tampa net after age 40. The Lightning will be a fun team to watch, but do they have the playoff chops yet? Maybe next season.

Rangers: I can’t cheer for any team that employs Glen Sather. If there is a list of worst UFA signings ever Glen Sather would have at least 3-5 of those spots. Somehow he’s still employed.

Red Wings: The Wings are great. They’re an original six franchise and they have one of the classiest jerseys in the league. They treat their players well and they are all two-way, complete players. They are a model organization. Zetterberg and Datsyuk are incredible. What’s not to respect about the Wings? Besides Todd Bertuzzi.

Ducks: Burkie’s ol’ gang. That might be reason enough to cheer for the Ducks. Plus, they graciously took Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala from the Leafs, so it seems like we should thank them with some support.

Predators: What the Preds do is really impressive. Every single year they make the playoffs, despite losing key members to free agency. Barry Trotz is some sort of coaching guru. Their team is also offensively pathetic. No one topped 50 points. Martin Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn led the team in scoring. If you don’t have someone who scores over 50 points I can’t cheer for you. Out of respect for Mikhail Grabovski I can’t cheer for a Kostitsyn either.

Kings: The Kings didn’t really take the big step forward that everyone expected them to take this season. There were stretches of the season that it looked like they might not even make the playoffs. The Kings are a young team on the rise and that’s always fun. They have Drew Doughty and he’s Luke Schenn’s BFF, so I feel like I should cheer for them.

Hawks: Something happened to the Hawks this season: they became sort of douchey. After being the coolest team in the league last year there’s something about them that is really unlikeable. I think I felt that way all year, but when they chirped Shawn Thornton after he suffered a frightening cut to the face I turned on them. But they still have Olympic Hero Johnathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook and they still have the league’s best goal song. It would also be really nice to see the Canucks lose for the third straight year to the Hawks. They are the Canucks’ daddy.

If you want to become a hockey widow until the Fall I’m fine with that too.

3 comments:

Bo Bon said...

If Buffalo beats Philly, no one else in the East can stop them. For them to beat Philly, their rookies will have to play like experienced play-off performers and Vanek will have to earn his paycheque. The invisible Tyler Myers will also have to step up and take over the powerplay.

Nobody wants to see Versteeg win another Cup with his mouthguard hanging out of his mouth.

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