The 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin today and, as you may or may not have heard, the Sharks won't be taking part in them for the first time in over a decade. That's going to lead to a strange adjustment period, especially over the first few nights of the tournament when you're left without a rooting interest. In most years, that isn't an issue for Sharks fans until at least early May. Thankfully, we've prepared a comprehensive and 100% serious guide to why you should and shouldn't consider jumping on the bandwagon of each of the 16 teams competing in this year's postseason.
Why you should root for them: Because they've existed for more than twice as long as the Sharks yet have the same number of Stanley Cups, despite a 25-year streak of consecutive playoff appearances and recent teams that have looked strong on paper and performed well in the regular season. At some point, even a Sharks fan has to feel sorry for their lack of playoff success.
Why you shouldn't root for them: That point can come when they purge Montgomery Burns-esque dog coat wearer David Backes, sniveling Alan Tudyk lookalike Steve Ott, dumpster dweller Ryan Reaves, 76-year-old cheapshot artist Barret Jackman and overrated one-trick pony T.J. Oshie from their constantly overestimated roster. You might say I'm still needlessly bitter over playoff matchups that happened over a decade ago and the Sharks usually came out on the right end of, to which I'd reply: so? May the ghost of Chris Pronger haunt this team forever. Perhaps they can hang a "2011-??? The Hockey News Preseason Cup Favorite" banner next year to commemorate another first round loss.
Why you should root for them: Like the Sharks, they're an expansion team that's done things "the right way"; they've drafted and developed well and made smart, under-the-radar moves to turn a red paperclip into a consistently competitive hockey team. Under Peter Laviolette this season, they've also been fun to watch for the first time since the short-lived Paul Kariya era.
Why you shouldn't root for them: This abomination of an article alone seems like reason enough to hope for an early Preds exit. Additionally, Shea Weber is overrated and will probably try to murder at least two opposing players over the course of this series. It would be also be nice to get a reprieve from the dozens of Mike Ribeiro redemption articles being published while a sexual assault lawsuit is pending against him.
Why you should root for them: Because the NHL is fundamentally a copycat league and a third Hawks championship in five years would push general managers further away from the grind-it-out, meatwagon hockey of the Kings and Bruins and closer towards favoring an up-tempo, possession-oriented, exciting style of play.
Why you shouldn't root for them: They're the Los Angeles Kings of the Midwest, except with a slightly less embarrassing history. Sure, the Hawks winning their third Cup of the Toews era might lead to more exciting hockey in the long run but it'll also definitely lead to more smugly obnoxious Blackhawks fans in the short term. Also Patrick Kane assaults cab drivers and chokes college girls.
Why you should root for them: Left for dead by three different NHL franchises last season, Devan Dubnyk has been a fantastic story this year and it would be great to see his remarkable season capped off with a lengthy playoff run. Charlie Coyle is a former Sharks prospect who's had the courtesy not to turn into a top-line player and haunt San Jose forever, so I guess he deserves some support for that.
Why you shouldn't root for them: Remember that time Wild owner Craig Leipold plopped down $196 million for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter then not two months later helped lead the charge on behalf of the owners for the 2012 NHL lockout, complaining that player salaries were escalating out of control? Fuck Craig Leipold and fuck the Minnesota Wild. I hope they enjoy next year's Stadium Series event that comes after two separate California teams have already hosted their own outdoor games.
Why you should root for them: Um...pass?
Why you shouldn't root for them: These are the biggest, most diaper-shitting and most tantrum-prone babies in hockey. A thoroughly despicable team led by adult children Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and supplemented perfectly by Team USA Olympic Diving silver medalist (no, he couldn't win that either) Ryan Kesler. Every season since Häagen-Dazs enthusiast and Teemu Selanne nemesis Bruce Boudreau took over, the Ducks' seven conspiracy theorist fans (four of whom work for the club's fraudulent social media team) have been hoping this is finally the year their team puts it together (and/or the refs don't specifically target Anaheim for elimination) in the postseason to win another Cup and match their Southern California rivals, gaining relevance in the market. The truth is the Ducks could win ten Cups and no one would ever notice that they exist. How does that make you feel, Corey?
Why you should root for them: They're a Pacific Division team located on the west coast that's never won a Stanley Cup and is led by a pair of aging superstars who were top-three picks in the same draft year over a decade and a half ago but are still looking for their first taste of championship glory, in part to silence lazy narratives about how they can't get it done when the pressure is on. If you close your eyes, it's like the Sharks are in the playoffs.
Why you shouldn't root for them: When you open your eyes again, you'll see that they're the Vancouver Canucks. Sure, Ryan Kesler and Maxim Lapierre may have skipped town to join even more despicable teams but Alexandre Burrows and Kevin Bieksa are still (technically) on this roster as are several other players who were part of the club that ended one of the Sharks' deepest playoff runs ever in 2011. Also their fanbase is insufferable and does not deserve nice things.
Why you should root for them: Because they did the Sharks a solid by eliminating the Kings last week. The only thing that would have made this season worse for San Jose is if their final-day loss in Los Angeles had catapulted the Kings into a playoff berth. Beyond that, the Flames play an exciting, transition-heavy brand of hockey led by young phenom Johnny Gaudreau and are easily the closest thing to an underdog in this year's tournament. All of that should make the Flames a fun team to cheer for, even if they'll almost never have the puck.
Why you shouldn't root for them: They're a big reason there won't be playoff hockey in San Jose this spring. Calgary's unexpected (and largely PDO-driven) resurgence that included a 4-1 record against the Sharks was as significant a factor in San Jose getting squeezed out of a playoff spot this year as anything else.
Why you should root for them: How hilariously awesome would it be if Canada's 22-year Stanley Cup drought gets ended by the Atlanta Thrashers? Aside from the prospect of that novelty, MTS Centre should be rocking throughout the Jets' playoff run and Winnipeg begins its postseason against Anaheim which should make rallying behind them particularly easy at the start.
Why you shouldn't root for them: Seriously though, as much as the Jets franchise from top to bottom does its best to pretend otherwise, this team still is and forever will be the Atlanta Thrashers. Embrace your Blueland heritage and stop stealing time-honored playoff traditions like the white-out from a Coyotes team that no longer plays in Manitoba. The city of Winnipeg also literally won an award for racism which I'm sure didn't come as a surprise to Evander Kane.
Why you should root for them: Because P.K. Subban is the greatest human alive. Here he is disguising himself as a security guard to make a bunch of kids' Christmases unforgettable. Here he is kissing Pierre McGuire on live television after eliminating the Boston Bruins in Game 7 last spring. And here he is publicly admitting he farts in opposing creases to get goalies off their game. Oh, and he's also a ridiculously talented hockey player. It's inexplicable the NHL doesn't market Subban more heavily as one of the faces of the league because he's reason enough to cheer for an otherwise unlikable Habs team. Former Shark Manny Malhotra is another good reason.
Why you shouldn't root for them: For fans of a team that hasn't even been to a Stanley Cup Final since the original Jurassic Park was in theaters, the Habs' fanbase sure is an overeager and entitled lot. They set downtown Montreal on fire for second-round playoff victories, they're convinced their total impostor of a team carried entirely by Carey Price's otherworldly goaltending is championship material and they roundly supported their GM and owner playing hardball in contract negotiations with one of the team's three good players last summer. They deserve to be taken down several pegs and nothing would accomplish that better than yet another first-round loss to Ottawa.
Why you should root for them: Because it's nice to see shrewd management and a team that plays an exciting brand of hockey get rewarded. Despite their leading scorer in Martin St. Louis demanding a trade last season, Steve Yzerman's Bolts are better than ever with a high-skill line of Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat providing a second wave of attack behind Steven Stamkos and proving you don't need size to be effective in today's NHL. Tampa is well-built, fun to watch and a legitimate contender.
Why you shouldn't root for them: With the possible exception of Stamkos, who was on the team for the heartbreaking Eastern Conference Final Game 7 loss in Boston a few years back, most of the current core hasn't endured nearly enough suffering and devastation in the playoffs to have earned the right to hoist the Cup. Maybe next year.
Why you should root for them: It's what Sir Dave Coulier would want you to do.
Why you shouldn't root for them: Their ungrateful, "how many Cups have you won?" fanbase of geriatric, Yzerman-era bandwagoners doesn't deserve another championship and neither does their homophobic golden boy Pavel Datsyuk. They might be in a different conference far away from the Sharks at this point but some cuts never heal; the Wings and their fans remain the worst. Also the sooner Detroit exits, the more likely it is Mike Babcock will be available as an option to take over behind the Sharks bench.
Why you should root for them: It doesn't really apply to this year's version of either team but, historically, the Sens have always been Sharks East. Both teams were perennial regular season powerhouses that frequently suffered premature playoff exits at the hands of bitter rivals, both teams have seen their franchise's top two scorers each relinquish the captaincy and both teams briefly employed Dany Heatley.
Why you shouldn't root for them: David Legwand is a weird-looking dude? I really have no idea what to write here. This is a team filled with fun, young players that qualified for the playoffs on the season's final day after a miracle run led by a goalie who was the worst in the AHL before being called up and promptly going 20-1-2 down the stretch with a .941 save percentage as locals showered the ice with literal hamburgers. If this is the Ghost Of Sharks Future, I'm looking forward to it.
Why you should root for them: Dan Boyle is still, and always will be, a beloved figure in Sharks history. He gave it his all to win a Cup in San Jose and while he never could push the team over the hump it would be well-deserved to see him bookend his Sharks career with championships in Tampa Bay and New York. James Sheppard rules too.
Why you shouldn't root for them: Alain Vigneault failing to win the Cup with a third President's Trophy winner would be pretty funny and would probably erase that perpetual shit-eating smirk he's always got going on. The Rangers pretty much mortgaged their entire future to build this team and it's always fun to watch those clubs crash and burn.
Why you should root for them: Alex Ovechkin deserves a Cup to shut the critics up and deliver a taste of championship glory to one of the most underrated, long-suffering and knowledgeable fanbases in the league. Barry Trotz winning it all his first year outside of Nashville after spending like fifty years there would be pretty funny too.
Why you shouldn't root for them: If the Capitals win the Cup, there's one fewer Cup-less team to comfort yourself about the Sharks' inability to win it all with. Also it's pretty embarrassing that the most notable NHL player "from" the Bay Area is Brooks Orpik so the fewer opportunities Pierre McGuire has to scream about that during a national broadcast, the better.
Why you should root for them: It would be an unbelievable spectacle to see the Isles close out Nassau Coliseum with one last championship before moving to Gentrification Arena in Hipsterville, Brooklyn. This is also another fun, new-NHL type team loaded with offensive talent both up front and on the blueline. They've been the laughingstock of the league for so long, it would only be fitting that Garth Snow and the Islanders end up with the last laugh.
Why you shouldn't root for them: Tyler Kennedy is apparently a healthy scratch to start their series with the Capitals so screw these guys for not triggering the clause that would retroactively upgrade the Sharks' trade return to a 3rd round pick.
Why you should root for them: Somehow a team with two of the three or four best players in the world is widely considered an underdog in their first-round series, so there's that bizarre angle to come at this from. Sidney Crosby is still the best player in the league by a mile and it'd be nice to see him provide a decisive reminder of that in the playoffs so hacks can't pen their boring columns declaring Jonathan Toews or Drew Doughty or whoever else scored five points this week as better than Sid.
Why you shouldn't root for them: Wild card team or not, the Pens are still the annoying golden child of Gary Bettman and the NHL's marketing team. They get shoved down every hockey fan's collective throat nearly every time there's a featured NBC broadcast and they've spawned hordes of irritating bandwagon fans. It would be delightful to see them, for the sixth consecutive year, fly too close to the sun on wings made of rigged draft lotteries before plunging to their demise.