While the season is about to come to a close for our New Jersey Devils, there's still a couple of months worth of hockey left to be played, at least for 16 of the NHL's teams. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are right around the corner, and with our favorite team eliminated, you might be thinking, "Well great. I want to keep watching hockey, but without my Devils, I don't know who I should root for." Thankfully for those of you thinking this way, I decided to take a look at the playoff bound teams, and formulate some reasons why you might want to root for a team and why you might not. I'll try to keep each summary brief, so that this article does not go on forever.
The West is the larger half of this guide, as all of their slots are locked up as of this writing.
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: They're a nice, balanced team filled with young players and veterans alike, which has shot them to a tie for the best record in the West right now. Jamie Benn has gone from former 5th Round draft choice to a legitimate star in the league; their roster also features former Devil Johnny Oduya, so any Oduya fans might want to jump on here.
Why You Might Not: As Devils fans, we don't have too much bad blood with the Stars, especially as we beat them for our second Stanley Cup way back in 2000. They are still missing Tyler Seguin due to injury, and without his potent offense, Dallas may fold sooner than expected in the postseason.
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: They have one of (in my opinion) the most exciting young stars of the league in Vladamir Tarasenko. Their defense is one of their biggest strengths, boasting Kevin Shattenkirk, Alex Pietrangelo and rookie Colton Parayko.
Why You Might Not: They have this nasty penchant for getting knocked out early in the playoffs even when they have the talent to make a deep run; players who produce in the regular season for them seem to disappear. You may still have a desire to cheer them on, and that's fine, but if you're filling out any brackets, I would bet against the Blues.
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: The Blackhawks have the ability to turn up the heat in the playoffs, which is part of why they have won 3 of the last 6 Stanley Cups. They also have one of the most dynamic lines in the NHL right now consisting of Artem Anisimov, Patrick Kane, and Artemi Panarin
Why You Might Not: Honestly I would rather just see another team win it. There may be some personal biases here from some of our fans pertaining to certain players on their team, but as for me, I just don't want to see Chicago win yet again; give someone else a chance!
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: The Ducks had an atrocious start to the season and everyone thought for certain they would miss the playoffs this year; they have fought back to be atop the Pacific Division with the Kings, showing that you never really can count a team out early in the NHL season.
Why You Might Not: While unlikely, the Ducks could revert to their early season ways and get bested by a more solid team. Corey Perry also has a reputation for being somewhat of a whiner, so if that's not in your wheelhouse, stay away from Anaheim.
Los Angeles Kings
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: The Kings are enjoying a successful season battling for the Pacific Division crown (no pun intended) after missing the playoff last year. Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick are still in the prime of their careers, making this squad dangerous.
Why You Might Not: 2012 still holds fresh in the minds of many Devils fans; again this is a team that has won multiple cups in the past 6 years and I would rather see a new team hoist the trophy. There's a lot of talent, but also a lot of dirty players (Brown, Lucic, Nolan, and to a lesser extent Carter, Versteeg and Scuderi) on this squad.
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: The team has exceeded expectations after missing the postseason last year. They have a talented mix of youngsters and veterans alike, and maybe this is the year the Sharks put together a nice playoff run. Going back to the Devils connection, the Sharks currently employ Paul Martin, Dainius Zubrus and coach Peter DeBoer.
Why You Might Not: Speaking of controversial former Devils in the eyes of our fans, the Sharks currently employ Paul Martin, Dainius Zubrus and coach Peter DeBoer.
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: Another team boasting a strong defense, this one with names such as Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Barret Jackman, and Ryan Ellis. They've had an excellent season so far, especially for a team playing in a stacked Central Division.
Why You Might Not: If you firmly believe that you need excellent goaltending in the playoffs, don't look here; Pekka Rinne hasn't been stellar this year and appears to be on the decline, meaning that Nashville might collapse due to bleeding goals.
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: Minnesota is one of the largest bases of hockey in the United States, so if you want to be as absolutely general as possible and just root for "hockey" this may be your team! They also employ Ryan Carter, who many Devils fans still have a fond affinity for.
Why You Might Not: They're the only team in the West whose name doesn't end with an "s" so if that doesn't sit well with you this team is not for you. Additionally, they have a former Devils player whose exit did not sit well with many fans, so you may be rooting for him to not win the Stanley Cup. The Wild are basically limping/sneaking into the playoffs, and I don't see them making much noise.
With 2 spots still open, this half of the guide will only be looking at the 6 teams who have qualified; though as Devils fans I think we're all hoping the last 2 slots go to the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings rather than the Philadelphia Flyers.
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: They're the best team in the league this year and look to be legitimate. Braden Holtby has looked spectacular this season, and Alexander Ovechkin has been able to seemingly score at all on his opposition.
Why You Might Not: If you're NOT an Ovechkin fan, this is definitely not the team for you. They also have a reputation for choking in the playoffs much like the Blues, so this could be another case of a President's Trophy winning team that flames out early.
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: I don't know many Devils fans who would just because of the rivalry between the teams. They do have some talented players though.
Why You Might Not: They're one of our rivals and anyone who dislikes Crosby should definitely be rooting against the Pens.
New York Rangers Our Hated Rivals
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: Don't...just don't.
Why You Might Not: They're our biggest rivals; let's keep the "94 and Nevermore" tradition alive.
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: They have the ageless Jaromir Jagr who was a huge addition to our team during some of their darkest hours for the past few seasons; who wouldn't want to see Jags lift Lord Stanley's Cup over his head one more time? The Panthers also boast a talented young roster that can be fun to watch play.
Why You Might Not: I don't know about you, but I'm just not digging the rat thing; I know the story behind it, but it seems like the team should be working towards new traditions rather than one from two decades ago that didn't end in a Stanley Cup.
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: They sent Our Hated Rivals packing last postseason; if that's not enough of a reason to jump on one team's bandwagon, I don't know what is! They also suffered from a slow start like Anaheim, yet were able to make up a lot of ground to get to the postseason; they could ride that momentum deep into the spring.
Why You Might Not: Steven Stamkos is out and it's going to be for at least the first round; they haven't looked like a dominant team this year, and missing their captain/one of their best players might be enough to see them bumped from the postseason early. Also they're the Eastern equivalent of the Wild in being the only team to qualify the playoffs with no "s" at the end of their name.
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: They're close by and we don't have nearly as much animosity towards them as we do towards the other New York team.
Why You Might Not: They're again one of our rivals; I may sound like a broken record, but I'm not a fan of rooting for rivals. Again, talented players on this team, but I just don't see them as a "complete" team that's ready to make a deep playoff run.
And so concludes my somewhat serious, somewhat lighthearted take on the playoff bandwagon choices you have available for this year so far. Is there a particular team you will be rooting for? Any particular team you hope gets eliminated quickly? Are you hoping that some sort of plague strikes the U.S. forcing civilians indoors and cancelling the Stanley Cup Finals so that there is no winner? Leave any and all comments below and thank you for reading!