The Toronto Maple Leafs’ season is over and it ended in disappointing fashion, but keep in mind that it’s only been two years since the club drafted Auston Matthews, and the Leafs are still on their way up. The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup four years after drafting Sidney Crosby, the Chicago Blackhawks four years after drafting Jonathan Toews, the Los Angeles Kings four years after drafting Drew Doughty and the Anaheim Ducks four years after picking Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
But alas, there’s still close to a month left of hockey to be played to determine the Stanley Cup winner. Who should you cheer for? The short answer is “whoever is playing the Boston Bruins,” but the long answer goes like this:
No. 5: San Jose Sharks
Why Should You Cheer for the Sharks?
If you like beards, this is the team for you. San Jose has some lovable characters on their team, namely Brent Burns and Joe Thornton, and they have two of the biggest, most ridiculous beards in the NHL.
It would be nice to see Thornton, in particular, win a Stanley Cup, as he’s never won one despite an amazing 21-year career.
Why Shouldn’t You Cheer for the Sharks?
There’s another player that’s had an amazing 20-year career named Patrick Marleau, and it will be extremely annoying to have to listen to all the questions Marleau will be asked about whether he regrets his decision to leave San Jose for Toronto if the Sharks win the Stanley Cup.
No. 4: Tampa Bay Lightning
Why Should You Cheer for the Lightning?
You aren’t really cheering for the Tampa Bay Lightning as much as you’re cheering against the Boston Bruins.
Why Shouldn’t You Cheer for the Lightning?
Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Andrej Vasilevskiy, Brayden Point, Mikhail Sergachev, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and J.T. Miller are either signed long-term or are upcoming restricted free agents under team control, so the Lightning will be a very good team for a very long time. There may come a time when the Lightning become the Leafs’ biggest rivals in the Atlantic Division.
No. 3: Winnipeg Jets
Why Should You Cheer for the Jets?
There’s a lot to like about the Winnipeg Jets. They have Dustin Byfuglien’s big hits, Patrik Laine’s big shots, hard-working leaders in Blake Wheeler and Mark Schiefele, an underrated rookie in Kyle Connor, a young goalie having a breakout season in Connor Hellebuyck and a very quotable coach in Paul Maurice.
Why Shouldn’t You Cheer for the Jets?
Lots of people are going to say that, with the Leafs eliminated from the playoffs, you should cheer for Winnipeg because they are the last remaining Canadian team. Those people are wrong. Mixing patriotism and professional sports is a dangerous thing to do and can make you look extremely foolish. For example, in 2007, the Anaheim Ducks played the Ottawa Senators in the Stanley Cup Final and their fans ignorantly booed the Canadian National Anthem, despite the fact that 16 out of their 20 players were Canadian.
In 2016, Texas Rangers fans chanted “U-S-A, U-S-A” after a brawl between the Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays, which is odd since the brawl was started when a Venezuelan (Rougned Odor) punched a Dominican (Jose Bautista).
Lastly, in 2017 the Milwaukee Bucks fans gave the same “U-S-A, U-S-A” chant in during their playoff series against the Toronto Raptors, despite the fact that the Raptors best players, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, are American (US Olympic gold medallists), and the Bucks best player (Giannis Antetokounmpo) is Greek.
If you want to know which current NHL playoff team has the most Canadians on it, that would be the Vegas Golden Knights, but the point of this rant is that if you want to cheer for a Canadian team, cheer for Team Canada at the World Championship.
No. 2: Nashville Predators
Why Should You Cheer for the Predators?
A Predators win would give Leafs fans plenty of ammo when chirping division and conference rivals given the fact that:
- The Montreal Canadiens traded P.K. Subban to Nashville in a pretty questionable trade.
- The Ottawa Senators traded Kyle Turris to Nashville in a pretty questionable trade.
- The Washington Capitals traded Filip Forsberg to Nashville in a REALLY QUESTIONABLE TRADE.
Why Shouldn’t You Cheer for the Predators?
The Predators have the best defence group in the NHL, and if they prove that defence wins championships, that’s a bad sign for the defensively challenged Maple Leafs.
No. 1: Vegas Golden Knights
Why Should You Cheer for the Golden Knights?
If the Predators, Lightning, Jets or Sharks win the Stanley Cup, you’ll remember it for a few years and then it will become a trivia answer. If the Vegas Golden Knights win the Stanley Cup, you will remember it forever.
50 years from now, when the NHL is expanding to Alaska or the Moon or something like that and your grandkids are saying “The Moon will be terrible this year!” you can respond by telling them about the time the Vegas Golden Knights and their team of misfits and outcasts won in their inaugural year.
When you look at the Golden Knight’s roster, it’s unbelievable that they’ve done so well this year and are off to such a great start in the playoffs. At the beginning of the season, NBC did a poll asking whether Vegas would be the worst team in the NHL and 82% of respondents said ‘Yes’. They’ve continued to be doubted throughout the entire season and into the playoffs, as they’ve been picked by less than 50% of experts in both of their first two playoff rounds. They’ll continue to be the underdog as long as they last, and it’s always nice to cheer for the underdog.
They also happen to have the best Twitter account of all the teams in the NHL (this was from when they had moved onto the second round of the playoffs and no other teams had yet):
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) April 19, 2018
Why Shouldn’t You Cheer for the Golden Knights?
Maple Leafs fans have suffered for so long so would be a bit annoying if a team’s fanbase knew nothing but joy since the team’s inception, but somebody has to win it!
I’m a Toronto Maple Leafs contributor for THW and a fantasy sports guru (hockey and football). I have a BBA and MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University and my day job is as a finance manager for a fortune 500 company. Feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com