Jaromir Jagr (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Canadian hockey fans have a big decision to face: Who to cheer for when the real games begin?
It is looking more and more like there will be no Canadian-based teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs this season.
The Ottawa Senators still have a shot, but they haven’t exactly been making a charge toward a wild-card spot of late so if they don’t make it, Canadian hockey fans have a big decision to face: Who to cheer for when the real games begin?
Your decision may be based on any number of things: a team you are particularly fond of, your favorite player’s team, an underdog, or even a player who hasn’t won the Stanley Cup yet that you would love to see sip from the mug.
The choices are plenty:
OH CANADA: The Florida Panthers, St. Louis Blues and Arizona Coyotes all have 21 Canadian-born players. So if there is no Canadian-based team in the playoffs, pick the nest best thing -- an American-based team with lots of Canucks. Let’s Go Panthers! Let’s Go Blues!
OVIE AND THE CAPS: Alex Ovechkin has carved out a Hockey Hall of Fame career having won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, three Hart Trophies as the NHL’s most valuable player, four Rocket Richard Trophies as top goal-scorer and an Art Ross Trophy as top scorer. And yet Ovie has yet to play beyond the second round in the post-season. That is just not right; just like it isn’t right that Gilbert Dionne has a Stanley Cup ring and big brother Marcel does not. Just not right. Let’s go Ovie!
BLACKHAWK DYNASTY: Okay, let’s be honest, the definition of a dynasty in today’s NHL has changed. It’s not like the old days when the Montreal Canadiens won five in a row and when the Toronto Maple Leafs won four in a row. A six-team league with two rounds of playoffs may have seemed like a task at the time, but compared to today, it was a walk in the park. The Blackhawks have won three in the past six seasons and have a real good shot at four in seven. Let’s go Blackhawks!
HITCH YOUR WAGON TO THE BLUES: St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has one Cup on his resume, with the Dallas Stars in 1998-99. The Blues? Zip. Forty-eight years in the NHL and not one damn championship. This is Hitch’s fifth year coaching the Blues and in a show of faith in his ability, management signed him to a one-year contract. In other words, win this season or you’re gone. Let’s Go Blues!
DYNAMIC DUO: NHL coaches love their dynamic duos and the NHL’s best resides in Dallas: Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. In an era where defense often sucks the life out of the game, the Stars top guns have the ability to bring fans out of their seats. Let’s Go Stars! Of course, this scenario works best if both Seguin and Benn are healthy. Seguin is expected to miss up to three weeks with a cut to his Achilles tendon.
NO ORDINARY JOES: The San Jose Sharks, who are led by top 10 scorers Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, have been Stanley Cup contenders that have ultimately disappointed in the end for far too long. GM Doug Wilson has worked tirelessly to revamp his roster and maybe this is finally the year the Sharks go all the way. Let’s Go Sharks!
OLD MAN WINTER: Is there a more compelling individual story than that of 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr, not only still playing, but thriving in the NHL? Jagr broke into the NHL winning back-to-back Cups in 1991 and 1992 with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but hasn’t won since. There were times in his career when it seemed like he was only playing for the money, but Jagr has become a leader and inspiration for his young Panthers teammates. Jagr looks like he could play a few more seasons, but it would be compelling to watch him go deep into the playoffs and possibly win a third Cup. Let’s Go Panthers!
JUST DUCKY: The Anaheim Ducks got off to an absolute yucky start to the season, going 1-7-2 in their first 10 games and being shut out five times in the process. However, patience won out as GM Bob Murray did not press the panic button and now Anaheim is a legitimate Cup contender. The Ducks dynamic duo of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry may not be playing at the level they did a few years ago, but would you want to face them in a best-of-seven series? Let’s Go Ducks!
PENGUINS CAN FLY: Once again being led by Sidney Crosby, who has overcome a dreadful start to his season and is once again in the running for the unofficial title of best player in the world, the Penguins could take a serious run at the Cup. With Evgeni Malkin sidelined for six weeks, it will be tough, but it’s great seeing Crosby back on his game nevertheless. Let’s Go Penguins!