Choosing a "Playoff Team"

Now that the regular season is nearing its end, the field of teams that still have a shot at the Stanley Cup narrows a little more each day.  As sad as it may seem, there’s a chance that your favourite team isn’t going to make the playoffs this year.  In fact, depending on which team you cheer for, your team may already be mathematically eliminated.  But that doesn’t mean that you still can’t root for someone during the postseason.  It just means that things are a little more complicated.  Yes, if you want to still cheer for someone during the playoffs, you’ll have to adopt another team for a couple of months.  This is your “playoff team.”

This practice may seem disloyal at first but, much like Ray Bourque in 2000, sometimes you need to switch teams in order to have a shot at the Cup.  Sadly, fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, Atlanta Thrashers, New York Islanders and especially the Florida Panthers have become quite familiar with this process in recent years.

The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend

This year, make the playoffs the season of schadenfreude, spite and hatred.  Cheer for the enemy of your enemy, whoever that may be.  For example, if you’re a Leafs fan the Montreal Canadiens are your mortal enemy.  You’d rather slit your wrists than put a “CH” on your chest.  It only makes sense that you spend the playoffs cheering for whoever’s playing against Montreal.

If the playoffs ended today, you’d end up in a perfect situation as the Habs would play another huge rival in the Boston Bruins.  You could safely cheer for Boston over Montreal and, if the Bruins win the series, you could even decide to cheer for the Bruins for the rest of the postseason.  Why?  Nothing would upset a Habs fan more than the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup.

Be Selfish

Yes, it is possible to cheer for another team while still supporting your favourite franchise.  How?  This works if your team has recently traded a conditional draft pick.  The conditions on most picks are based upon playoff success, so your team’s draft choice improves as the team you traded with succeeds.  Sure, it may feel awful to cheer for Alex Kovalev and the Penguins if you’re a Senators fan, but that seventh-round pick Ottawa acquired can become a sixth-round pick if the Pens advance to the second round and Kovalev plays 50% of the games.

The Other Conference

One major problem with choosing a “playoff team” is that you feel like you’re turning your back on your favourite franchise.  It’s a little strange to suddenly cheer for a team that you’ve been against for the entire year.  Thankfully there’s a solution to this problem: pick a team from the other conference.  Thanks to NHL scheduling, Eastern Conference teams and Western Conference teams rarely play one another.  That likely means that you haven’t built up much hatred for the teams on the other side of the continent.  Picking a club that your team rarely plays is an excellent way to support another franchise without feeling like throwing up whenever you celebrate a goal.

Player Loyalty

Rather than cheering for a team, how about you cheer for a particular player?  This could mean simply cheering for your favourite player from another team, but you could extend it to cheering for someone who your team recently traded away.  Oddly enough, this scenario also involves Leafs fans cheering for the Bruins.  If your team hasn’t traded any major players in a while, maybe there’s a dazzling rookie or a grizzled veteran (like Teemu Selanne) who you’d like to support.  Choose a “playoff player” instead of a “playoff team” this year and adopt his team by default.

The Underdogs

Usually it’s no fun cheering for the favourites.  If a team is expected to win it all there are only two outcomes available: 1) The team loses and is considered a huge disappointment, or 2) The team wins and no one gets that excited because everyone figured they’d win anyway.  However, if you decide to cheer for an eighth seed, every small victory is considered a huge accomplishment.  The chances that you’ll have something to be proud of are much greater!  Note:  If you’re choosing an eighth seed to cheer for, you may also want to consider the “other conference” suggestion above.  Cheering for the team that beat you to a playoff spot may not be desired or even possible.

Postseason Traditions

Rather than picking a team for its players or its chances in the playoffs, consider making your choice based on the team’s postseason tradition.  If you love throwing sea creatures on the ice, pick Detroit.  If you want to see everyone dressed in white, you’ve got Phoenix.  Enjoy that “ole ole” song?  Montreal is your team!

Aesthetics

If you truly hate every team in the postseason but you still want someone to cheer for, pick a team based on its uniforms.  Whoever is dressed the best wins!  You can even choose a team based on your favourite colour.  The good news when doing this is that you’ll have plenty of choices if you like red, blue or black.  Your selection will be rather limited if you really love teal or burgundy.

Jump On A Bandwagon

When in doubt, root for the favourite.  Sure, the excitement may not be there, but you’ll likely win.

Enjoy picking a second team for the NHL’s second season!