The 2016-17 campaign is mercifully over for our New Jersey Devils, but there are still a few sweet, sweet weeks of hockey left before we head into the offseason; ironically enough, the summer for the Devs might be more interesting than the on-ice product was towards the end. With the playoffs starting last night, I decided to bring back my primer last year for pros and cons of teams you might want to root for with New Jersey out, if you haven’t already decided for yourself that is.
St. Louis Blues
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: I spoke highly of Vladamir Tarasenko last year, and I still think he’s St. Louis’ pulse; he’s a dynamic young player who can pile up the points, and led the team by 20! Alex Pietrangelo is the real deal on the back end as well, and Jake Allen has turned up the intensity in net.
Why You Might Not: Same as last year: they find ways to get knocked out early even when they have the talent to make a deep run; this season, I don’t see that as the case. Kevin Shattenkirk is in Washington now, David Backes is in Boston, and the Blues will probably find themselves at home by the conclusion of Round 2.
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: The Blackhawks, winners of 3 of the last 7 Stanley Cups, are consistently one of the league’s best teams. While certain players may not be playing up to their contracts (Jonathan Toews) there are enough players that keep pushing the Hawks forward. Marian Hossa would probably like one more Cup before
Chicago LTIRs him calling it a career.
Why You Might Not: Just like I said last year, I honestly want someone new to win Lord Stanley’s Cup. In terms of on ice reasons, the Hawks’ depth (or lack thereof) on the back end is questionable and could wind up preventing them from going all the way.
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: They are the first team we look at with a notable player born in New Jersey in Johnny Gaudreau; while his goal scoring was down from last year, he’s still a very talented player. Calgary also has a very strong defense anchored by captain Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton and T.J. Brodie.
Why You Might Not: Brian Elliott put up a less than stellar season in his first with the Flames; despite having solid D, the goaltending could be an issue. Also if you like to wear stripes, beware of Dennis Wideman.
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: The Ducks seem to be perennial contenders nowadays, yet always seem to fall short in the postseason. Cam Fowler is playing the best hockey of his professional career, and his emergence as a key player could help put the Ducks over the hump. Rickard Rakell’s 33 goals paced the team offensively, and again, his improvement could be what the Ducks need to hoist the grand prize once more.
Why You Might Not: I’m just not sold on John Gibson in net quite yet, despite his .924 SV% this season. There’s also the fact that Corey Perry is a class A dirt bag, and again if you’re not a fan of players who do dumb things on purpose, perhaps look for a different contender.
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: Three words: Connor Freaking McDavid; the Oilers improved in a number of ways this season, but McDavid being healthy for the entire season and posting 100 points is a big reason why they’re here. Oh, and they have some guy by the name of Adam Larsson that endeared himself to many of the New Jersey faithful for some reason or other...
Why You Might Not: Justice for Taylor Hall! He wanted to be part of Edmonton’s solution and instead got traded to this train wreck. Don’t worry Hallsy; we’re all salivating for postseason hockey as badly as you are.
San Jose Sharks
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: They have one of the two players that I will say could possibly be the best complete defenseman in the NHL in Brent Burns. Joe Thorton and Patrick Marleau deserve a better fate than they’ve previously had before their careers are over and their windows are closing. They have a number of underappreciated talents as well.
Why You Might Not: If you were a fan of the Devils firing Peter DeBoer and still are not a fan of him, then obviously the Sharks aren’t for you. They made the Finals last year, but do they have the ability to make it that far again?
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: A couple of good soldiers (Vernon Fiddler and P.A. Parenteau) for us this year wound up both being traded to Nashville, so it never hurts to cheer them on. P.K. Subban also seems like a pretty good dude (despite playing with an edge on the ice) with all the charity work he does, and how cool would it be to see him stick it to Montreal for trading him in exchange for Shea Weber?
Why You Might Not: If the Preds roll with Pekka Rinne and his pedestrian goaltending stats, they’re probably sunk; Juuse Saros might be unproven, but he’s got the better stats. Either way, there’s probably going to be quite a few pucks going in the Nashville net, so I’m not sure they’re a team you want to be rooting for.
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon:
Why You Might Not: LW #11 does not deserve a Stanley Cup in the eyes of a lot of Devils fans after the way he exited. The Wild had a good portion of the season where the whole team seemingly went cold; if it happens in the playoffs, they’ll be gone early.
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: They're the best team in the league again this year and look to be an even deeper team than last year’s disappointing squad. You have to think that Alexander Ovechkin really wants a cup at this point in his career; I fully expect him to shift into another gear this postseason.
Why You Might Not: Again, the Caps much like the Blues (as I mentioned last year) have this terrible propensity to choke away series that they should be winning. Also, they employee Brooks Orpik who can be a bit of a cheap shot artist; if you’re not into those types of players, look elsewhere!
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: If you’re a WWE fan, this may be the team for you if they reunite the HBK (Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, Phil Kessel) line. They also still have 2 of the arguably top 10 players in the world in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. They keep finding ways to plug their lineup holes with young, talented players as well.
Why You Might Not: Being a distant Devils rival is enough for some; their questionable defensive depth is probably enough to scare away a lot of other fans. Bear in mind Kris Letang is slated to miss the entire postseason; that could be enough to stop the Pens from repeating.
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.
(Author’s Note: Hey, I didn’t even have to update this section from last year!)
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: At least root for them in Round 1 based on their opponent! Shea Weber was the other half of the above mentioned trade with Subban, and while his point totals were a touch lower than usual, he’s still playing some of the best hockey of his career.
Why You Might Not: Carey Price may be a great goaltender, but he’s kind of a jerk; after Montreal wins Round 1, you may want them out based on this.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: Auston Matthews put up 40 goals in the regular season and could create some chaos for his opponents. While still a fairly young team, the Leafs have playoff experience coming from Brian Boyle and coach Mike Babcock. They’ve got Jersey-born James van Riemsdyk in the lineup, oh, and Lou Lamoriello is their GM for anyone who wants to see him pick up another ring in management.
Why You Might Not: The lack of experience could hurt this team in the postseason. They also have to face a very well rounded Washington Capitals squad in the first round, so it could be a short spring for Toronto.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: They’re a mostly young team who is fairly hungry to go out and prove themselves. Zach Werenski has been a revelation on the blue line, and would seemingly be a surefire Calder Trophy winner if it weren’t for Matthews and Patrik Laine. Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno, Alexander Wennberg and Brandon Saad lead the team up front and should form a good core for years to come. Sergei Bobrovsky should give them a chance to win any game.
Why You Might Not: Anyone who has lingering John Tortorella flashbacks isn’t going to want to root for these guys; Scott Hartnell haters steer clear as well. Columbus is another team where a lack of experience could be their undoing.
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: They have the other player who is arguably the best complete defender in the league in Erik Karlsson. Kyle Turris has carved out a nice role for himself on this squad after a rocky start to his career many moons ago. They’ve also got notable Jersey guy #3 in Bobby Ryan lacing up the skates for them.
Why You Might Not: They limped into the playoffs and seem to be one of the more shallow teams overall in terms of talent, despite the fact that they finished second in their division. If anything happens to Karlsson, game over man.
Why You Might Want to Jump on Their Bandwagon: They made a strong push towards the end of the season to ensure they made it to the dance, so their momentum may help them to play well moving forward. David Pastrnak played like a legitimate star this season, and Patrice Bergeron is always effective in both ends of the ice. David Krejci (along with Bergeron) provides an effective 1-2 punch down the middle. Zdeno Chara might be close to calling it a career, but you can’t teach size and he’s still got that in spades.
Why You Might Not: Is Brad Marchand being a dirty rat on the ice enough of a reason to want these guys out? It is for me, despite the number of players (Krejci, Bergeron, Pastrnak) that I have a healthy respect for; here’s hoping he doesn’t get another ring!
And so concludes my seemingly becoming annual somewhat serious, somewhat lighthearted take on the playoff bandwagon choices you have available for this year so far. Who are you going to be rooting for as the NHL looks to crown a champion? Who do you want to see ousted (aside from OHR) in the first rounds? Any specific players that you will be keeping an eye on during the playoffs? Leave any and all comments below and thank you for reading!