Tuesday, March 18, 2008

It's that time of year when you have to pick a team to root fo'

Dangle that preposition, Ovie ... .

It's that woeful time (sometimes delayed until after the first round of the playoffs) when we Islanders fans must choose our weapon for the upcoming playoff season. Past years have found me rooting for the Sabres (geographic proximity), anyone playing the Rangers (the Sabres), and, begrudgingly, the Senators, largely because, as the son of our pediatrician once explained, they kept hockey in Binghamton. In the West, I've done the Memorial Dave Eadie Wish I Was Canadian thing and rooted for the Flames, Oilers, Canucks, Oilers, and Canucks, again, I think.

Let's have a look at this year's potential rootees.

Eastern Conference
Standings as of March 18

1. New Jersey Devils. With a rabid fanbase, an exciting, rush-first style, and sweeping winter vistas, the Devils are an NHL marketer's dream. Not to mention, the team recently opened a new arena in close proximity to Islanders fan Mr. Bad Example, who has attended more games than any other New Jersey resident in the Prude's first season. In all seriousness, the Devils are a drag, but I like Sutter, Brodeur, and Doc "Looks Like my Dad" Emrick enough that the Devils may trump some other Eastern Conference teams in the Rooting Ratings, depending on how the seeds fall, and grow.

The Verdict: If they play the Flyers, I'm a Devils fan. We'll make 'em a four seed.

2. Les Canadiens (Habitants). Usually, I am ambivalent aboat the Canadiens, largely because they've been ambivalent about playing hockey for the past decade or so. When they played the Bruins, I rooted for the Bruins, having once lived in Massachusetts. This year, I kind of (sort of) (maybe) like the Canadiens. I don’t live in French Canada, or pretend I live in Ontario (Dave Eadie), so I don’t have any cultural antipathy for these drunk, smelly, provincial jerkoffs.

The Verdict: They play real defense, Kovalev is Awaken, and they still have nice jerseys. So Ok, let’s have a little maple syrup in our whiskey, and place Les Habitants in the three slot.

3. Les Hurricanes. Go here. Any real dislike I have for the Hurricanes has nothing to do with their players, their coach, or their fans (who are probably mostly old New York and Connecticutans anyway). But I remember the Binghamton Whalers, Peter S., and some good brawls in the Old Veterans Memorial.

The Verdict: Go Whale. Let’s make these hillbillies a six seed.

4. The Pittsburgh Penguins. I'm close to getting juvenile and feeling a "shut the fuck up already about the brilliance of the Penguins" backlash. I like Malkin, think Crosby is overrated (Ovienevulov any day for me), and think Mike Therrien has entered Doc Rivers territory as it relates to a shitty coach riding a good team. Casey Stengel once said (or is said to have said), the manager's job is not to lose. Or something. Michele will lose the Penguins the playoffs. I know it.

The Verdict: Five seed. At least they play entertaining hockey. And, for Chrissakes, bring some yellow back into those jerseys. I'm having flashbacks to the “everybody is black and gold or silver” look of the mid-90s.

5. Ottawa Senators. Well, balls to John Paddock. I liked him in Binghamton, but he definitely lost the team (translation: the Ottawa media) this year. I don’t understand how Bryan Murray doesn’t get fired – I’m tired of GMs (paging Lou Lamoriello, Don Waddell … are there more?) firing coaches and then coaching. Fire yourself jerkoff, you hired the guy who couldn’t coach. Emery sounds like a pain in the ass, but if he were playing in Carolina the nonsense he pulls wouldn’t warrant a sports brief. Problem is, he sucks in net. But we knew that in Binghamton. Kudos, once again, to Bryan Murray.

The Verdict: Number two. I don’t think Spezza could lead a pack of rats into a cheese factory, Gerber will be wetting his bed by Game Two of the first round, and Martin Lapointe has lost a step, if this is 1998. Here in 2008, Marty Lapointe is bad. The Binghamton connection keeps this team near the top, but, depending on the series, I could be swayed at the last minute to bump up a lower seed. And, oh yeah, Brian McGrattan can kiss my ass.

6. New York Rangers. If the standings remain as they do today, these assholes would play the Hurricanes. I’m not saying the Hurricanes can’t beat them (they can), but this is as good a reason as any to switch to put the division winners in the playoffs, but in the seed corresponding to their point total (if they finish with the lowest number of total points, make them the 8th seed … sucks for the 9th seed, but this sucks worse). The Rangers are playing well, but they seem to need Sean Avery to do everything for them but slip their cups into that little pocket in their compression shorts. And, I don’t think a team can win in the playoffs if it is depending that much on Sean Avery. Pests are wonderful in the regular season. But don’t tell me Brad May won the Ducks the cup last year (I’m looking at you, Mr. Canadian Hockey Writer), because that’s bullshit. Good players win cups, and the Rangers don’t have (m)any.

The Verdict: Eight, but only because I’m sticking with a ranking system. There is no team in sports I wouldn’t root for if it were playing the Rangers. Yankees included (Wiffle Ball?).

7. Boston Bruins. Give ‘em a point because I lived in Massachusetts and saw how desperate the remaining 9 or 10 Bruins fans were getting, and that was 1999-2000. Give ‘em a point because I’ve seen them in person four times. Give ‘em a point for not fucking up the RBK sweater thing, and actually improving the look of the “B.” And give ‘em a point because the Dropkick Murphys write songs about ‘em. I don’t love this team, but in an Eastern Conference that makes me feel a tit ambivalent, I like ‘em.

The Verdict: For Vladislav Falconerov, we rate the Bruins No. 1.

8. Flyers. An unlikable team followed by annoying, insufferable, whining twats gets more unlikable when they put a pinhead behind the bench who sends them out on goon patrol all year. Second only to the Rangers on the “Fuck Them” list. I hate the Flyers. Have fun with your goalies. Seems like that “anyone can be a No. 1 netminder” philosophy is starting to pay off. Fuckers.

The Verdict: Seven, but only because of immovable circumstance. If the Rangers play the Flyers, I’ll cry.

Can they make it? I don’t think the Sabres can make the playoffs, and I don’t think they should, considering this year’s run would likely be an Islandersesque affair of truly dull proportions. In light of last year’s inspired playoffs run, and the fanfare it entailed, it would make me sad to see the Buffalonians half-heartedly cheering on their soon-to-be-swept club in the playoffs. That might hit too close to home. The Capitals are a fun team, and I almost think they could surprise someone (the Devils?) in a first-round series, and a little playoff experience this year would make them flat scary coming into the fall of 2008. I’m going to root for them, but I don’t see it happening. Not yet, at least. I actually enjoy the Panthers, who I began rooting for in recent weeks in a Canadiensesque reversal of opinion, largely because I think Olli Jokinen is still an Islander. I’d like to see them sneak in, and I think it could happen. It’s all interdivisional from here on out (I believe … I’m too tired to look it up), and that may help. I think.

Tomorrow: The West.

No comments: