The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin this week. So does that creeping feeling of despair for 15 of the 16 fanbases involved.
You know that feeling. It is coming. Phoyo by Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
When I worked at NHL.com, we had to write these “Why the [TEAM NAME] will win the Stanley Cup” pieces before every postseason that were just nightmares, especially when you didn’t believe what you were writing. In 2012, I had to pretend the Senators were going to win the Cup. We were guaranteed to get 15 of 16 of these stories wrong every spring yet we did them anyway.
Six years later, I’ve found the perfect antidote to that insufferable optimism—telling you why your team isn’t going to win the Cup. I’m guaranteed to get 15 of 16 correct! You can’t beat those odds! Your team is going to blow it!
So let’s look at why your stupid team that wasted your time, energy, and money is only going to let you down at some point in the next two months and make you feel like an idiot for ever paying $200 for that jersey in the first place.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS: Everyone knows only the deepest teams have a chance at the Stanley Cup, so let’s look over the Devils’ forward group: Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, Kyle Palmieri, a golden retriever wearing a hockey helmet, a garbage can dressed like a ghost, a fire hydrant on a skateboard, a mannequin that Andrew McCarthy swears comes to life when no one is looking, and a cadaver from a nearby medical university. Every day the Devils spend not cloning Hall before Game 1 is a front office failure.
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: Any time you can potentially give up a second-round pick for an .891 goaltender, you have to do it. Getting fleeced by Ken Holland at the trade deadline should be grounds for disqualification, no matter your record, but hey, if Petr Mrazek isn’t the guy, the Flyers can always turn to noted playoff dynamo Brian Elliott and his .909 save percentage. You’re not serious about winning a Cup anyway if Andrew MacDonald is your third-busiest defenseman playing 20 minutes a night. There’s a good chance the Flyers were trying to tank all season and it completely backfired.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: Matt Murray enters the playoffs rocking a .907 save percentage but fear not—if he struggles, the Penguins can turn to the veteran presence of Marc-Andre Fle— uh… Casey DeSmith? Is that a real guy? It was a miracle the Penguins repeated last year. They’ll be lucky to get out of the first round this year because we all know the Flyers can piss off the Penguins better than anyone. Good luck winning 16 postseason games with Evgeni Malkin awaiting trial in a Philadelphia jail because he attacked Sean Couturier with his skate following a light slash on the back of the legs during the final seconds of Game 1.
WASHINGTON CAPITALS: The Capitals are like a 43-year-old waiter in Los Angeles that hasn’t landed a single acting gig but still asks the other waiters at Red Lobster to cover his shift because he has an audition to be a corpse in an episode of NCIS: Topeka. If it were going to happen, it would have happened by now. Maybe just give up already and try something else, it hurts too much to see you do this. Have you considered becoming a banker? It’s killing your mother.
BOSTON BRUINS: The Bruins adding Rick Nash in an attempt to win a Stanley Cup is like your grandfather eating three burritos before racing Usain Bolt. You don’t know when and you don’t know how, but you know this will end with a massive pants-shitting. The NHL is as fast as it’s ever been and that’s why you love having a 73-year-old Zdeno Chara playing meaningful minutes over a two-month tournament. Chara is like your dad challenging you and your friends to a full-court basketball game. Ten minutes in and he’s bent over at center court after his team of office buddies go down 8-0 to you and your friends from science club.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: Here’s a team that decided the best way to win a championship was to assemble a bunch of Rangers that never won a championship. If Dan Girardi got top-four minutes as the Rangers whiffed on every chance while their window was open, the Lightning had to get him. Stevie Y is a genius. This would be like assembling a dream team of lawyers to prosecute a serial killer and hiring Marcia Clark and Chris Darden to lead the way.
“Just do you what you did in the past, but for us. We think that will work out.”
“But we really blew it in the past.”
“Hardball, huh? Well, fine. We will overpay for you and jettison current employees to make this happen.”
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: There’s a lot to like here: skilled forwards, a group of young defensemen showing signs of improvement, and a goaltender who can stop just enough shots to win you a 4-3 game. But you know Mike Babcock is going to get in the way somehow. Whether it’s playing Leo Komarov or Roman Polak too much, Babcock’s ego will be this team’s downfall. Then Babs will blame a series loss on young players “learning to win” and everyone in Toronto will agree and this will be the cycle until the front office trades William Nylander for Brent Seabrook.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS: The level of skill is very high no matter where you turn in the postseason, which requires a coach to think outside the box and find a strategy that gives him an edge. That’s why having John Tortorella, a coach that screams I BET YOU HAVE A TINY DICK to things like vending machines that don’t spit out his Snickers, will eventually get you eliminated. While one coach is deftly maneuvering to get the matchups he wants, Torts will be throwing literal jars of jam at his players between periods and leaving Jack Johnson on the ice to get murdered every other shift.
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS: Three words—Marc-Andre Fleury. He won back-to-back Cups the past two years as a part-time goaltender, which is the best way to use a goaltender that built his postseason reputation on scoring own-goals. But maybe that won’t be an issue with the Knights icing [looks over defense depth] [chuckles] Deryk Engelland, Colin Miller, and Brayden McNabb 20 minutes a night against elite competition. Lots of teams have won Cups with half their defensemen better-suited to be healthy scratches. If the Knights were casino patrons, they’d be up a million bucks after the luckiest streak in gambling history but refuse to go to sleep. “Put it all on a roulette number!” The house always wins in playoff hockey, and by “the house” I mean “Actual good teams.”
NASHVILLE PREDATORS: Everyone is picking this team to go deep again, and why wouldn’t you pick a team that allowed seven goals to the Buffalo Sabres five games ago to win it all? Nothing screams “championship” like getting rolled at home by the league’s worst team that was probably trying to lose and still put up seven goals. To address the team’s center depth, GM David Poile signed some old guy that’s married to a country singer and hadn’t worked in nearly a year, which is probably the job backstory for 90 percent of people in Nashville.
MINNESOTA WILD: It’s only fitting the team that perennially disappoints in the playoffs and the coach that perennially disappoints in the playoffs found each other. This is a love story about fate but instead of living happily every after, the Wild and Bruce Boudreau are destined to blow 3-2 series leads together for all eternity. If this were The Notebook, Boudreau would be Ryan Gosling and losing before the third round would be Rachel McAdams.
WINNIPEG JETS: For years, we all agreed that Paul Maurice was a bad coach, the Jets were a nightmare defensively, and Paul Stastny wasn’t anyone’s answer to playoff success. Now Winnipeg, despite being plagued with lingering injuries and being the Jets, is everyone’s Stanley Cup dark horse. This dumbass organization hasn’t won a playoff game in its existence and now they are going to win 16 of them after missing the playoffs for two straight years. This is the type of optimism only available in desperate Canadian markets.
COLORADO AVALANCHE: I’ll say this—if the NHL decides to gift the Avs a goal every game despite blatant video evidence that proves a play was offside, maybe they can win a series. If Enrico Palazzo is in the situation room in Toronto and feels the only way to save the queen’s life is by helping the Avs win, it’s at least a coin flip. Not having Erik Johnson playing 25 minutes a night helps, sure, but did you know that Blake Comeau plays the fourth-most even-strength minutes of any Avs forward? BUHH-LAKE CO-MO! Maybe Jared Bednar deserves two Jack Adams Awards this season.
ANAHEIM DUCKS: How in the world are we still doing this? The Ducks are those NCAA tournament teams that have to get a bid because they won the Mountain Range Farming & Rodeo Technical Schools Conference tournament. The NHL playoffs don’t start until the Ducks are eliminated, which admittedly took three rounds last year. But the Ducks beat the Flames and Oilers to reach the conference finals, which was basically like getting a double bye. Let’s just fast-forward to the point where John Gibson strains something and Ryan Miller allows five goals per game until the Ducks are bounced.
SAN JOSE SHARKS: How in the world are we still doing this? The Sharks are those NCAA tournament teams that... wait, I did that bit already. But in classic NHL fashion, the Ducks and Sharks face off in round one, which means the winner can talk themselves into believing they’re not far off from a Cup when they eventually get knocked out. Joe Thornton is no guarantee for the first round. Joe Pavelski is way older than anyone realizes. He’s that kid with a full beard who dominated your Little League and drove the team bus to and from games. You know your team is broken when you talk yourself into believing that Evander Kane and his zero career postseason games were the missing piece to put you over the top.
LOS ANGELES KINGS: If the Kings were a person, they’d be the most popular guy in your high school. He ruled the school. He got all the girls. You envied him. Now all these years later, you see him at your reunion and he's fat, bald, and won’t stop talking about championships that aren’t relevant anymore. You can sort of see that old person in that doughy, broken-down exterior but you know his best days are behind him. “Let’s go break into the football field and throw the ball around,” he says to you. But you can’t, because you and your wife need to get home because the babysitter is only there until 11. I don’t know how to end this metaphor but the Kings barely finished ahead of the Avs, a team that quit in November and accidentally made the playoffs, is the point.