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On Rooting for Your Team to Lose

There are always going to be good teams and bad teams in any professional sport due to individual skill levels, teamwork and smart management. When a team is lacking these and needs to rebuild, is it okay to root for them to lose?

Steve Bernier battles in front of Jhonas Enroth before the Sabres traded him in an attempt to tank even harder.
Steve Bernier battles in front of Jhonas Enroth before the Sabres traded him in an attempt to tank even harder.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

It's never any fun to watch your favorite team suffer through a losing season; while all but one team will be eliminated in the end, it's more enjoyable to at least make the playoffs then to miss them entirely.  Missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons seems to be the fate that awaits our New Jersey Devils as the 2014-2015 regular season draws closer and closer to an end.

While it certainly isn't a desirable outcome, I can understand missing the playoffs.  The Devils have been depleted at forward for a few seasons and they have not been able to replenish that stock yet; if you're not scoring goals, you're not going to make it to the dance.  The one thing I'm not okay with while the team is losing is the notion of "tanking" to obtain a higher draft pick.  Even with this draft being known for having two players (Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel) that could wind up being generational talents, I'm not okay with the idea that a team should throw in the towel for the sake of possibly obtaining one of these two youngsters.

Forget for one moment the fact that these players could be a game-changer for any team lucky enough to obtain them.  Maybe it's just me, but isn't any team's end goal to be a champion?  Sure, there's always going to be teams that are stronger than others, but to deliberately throw away games without even trying is a sickening thought; over the years in the NHL there have been teams who have absolutely tanked, but our Devils never truly tanked even when they were a terrible expansion team.  Why should they start now?  Why should fans want them to?

As a frequent visitor of many hockey forums, as well as the guy who runs the ILWT Facebook page (hint, hint go visit and like it if you haven't already) there seems to be more and more fans, both Devils and otherwise, outright rooting for their team to lose!  While I understand that there are strong teams and weak teams, this is the NHL; any team can beat any other team on any given night depending on a variety of factors.  Due to this unpredictable nature of the game, I find it a bit silly as well as contradicting the idea of sportsmanship.

To be perfectly fair as well, I really don't care about the fans of other teams rooting for their team to lose and obtain a high draft pick; look at how well that plan has been working for the Edmonton Oilers.  Unless you've been living under a rock/exclusively following our Devils, you can see that Edmonton has picked outside of the top 10 once in the last eight drafts, (excluding draft picks acquired from other teams) including three #1 overall picks.

High picks don't guarantee future success for either the team or the player; just look at how former #1 overall pick Nail Yakupov is still struggling.  It's enough to make you wonder why any team would throw away a season and discourage their fans.  There are already some NHL teams struggling in terms of attendance, and to phone in an entire season may chase some loyal fans away; Devils fans complain about this possibility with the team already having trouble selling all of the tickets for each game.

In the past I've written about our high expectations for the Devils due to how successful the team has been for the past two decades, which brings me back to my previous objection to any fellow fans who actively root for the team to lose.  I'm as disappointed in them as anyone this year, but instead of rooting for them to lose, why don't we root for positive things for our season?  Why not root for Cory Schneider to keep improving his game and for him to become one of the NHL's true elite?  Shouldn't we root for our young defensemen to continue to improve their respective shortcomings instead of wanting the team to tail off?  Maybe we could try to root for our players to score more goals instead of lamenting on their seeming inability to do so?  We can cheer that our team is keeping players that don't provide consistent effort up in the press box and icing players who leave it all on the ice every night.  We have things to look forward to (including our team's future) for the Devils, so I just don't see the need to (or want to) root for our team to lose.

I'd like to hear what you guys think about this subject; is it ever good to root for a team to lose?  Do you root for any of your favorite teams to lose?  Do you approve of teams tanking?  Do you think any team is tanking intentionally?  Leave any and all thoughts/comments below and as always thank you for reading!