Power Ranking 2020 Stanley Cup Winners Hockey Fans Would Hate Most
I’ve voiced my disdain for the NHL’s 24 team playoff format to anyone that would listen so it’s time I put the words to blog form. In my opinion the new format cheapens the product that the NHL and its fans love to boast about every spring; the chase Stanley Cup as the toughest playoffs in sports. Between the neutral sites, teams playing in front of empty stands and seemingly most teams with a pulse granted entry, it’s safe to say that this won’t be a playoff we’re used to seeing.
The biggest allure for the NHL to get a playoffs in is the chance to potentially be the only sport running for a few months–what with the MLB’s embarrassing labour battle and the NBA continuing to be more reactive than proactive–which would be a huge boon for a sport begging for more attention in the coveted American sports market. The risk is if this thing hits any logistic, PR or public health speed bumps, all eyes will be on the NHL. Evidently the NHL deems this a gamble worth making.
Cameron’s blog from the other day goes more into the logistics of the playoffs than this two paragraph rant did so be sure to check it out.
OK now that I got all of that off my chest, it’s time to get down to brass tax. With a lot of people already deeming this “the COVID Cup” and preemptively placing an asterisk, I thought I’d take a look at which teams’ winning would infuriate hockey fans the most. Not all asterisks are created equal and there are definitely potential 2020 champs that fans will discount more than others. I was going to sit down and power rank all 24 teams, but 10 teams into my list I decided to scrap that and just give my top five.
Before I get the engine revved up on the hate train, I’m just going to say that the only Cup winners that would get a universal passing grade from most hockey fans are favourites who already have a recent Cup under their belt. Nobody bats an eye that Chicago won the Cup in the lockout shortened 2013 season because they were a wagon that had already proven that they could win under normal circumstances like they did in 2010 and then again in 2015. So by my own logic, that would leave Pittsburgh, Washington and St. Louis as the only reasonable Cup Champions this year.
Ok now full speed ahead, here’s your official asterisk power rankings
5. Any Franchise Without a Stanley Cup
Can you imagine your first and potentially only Stanley Cup being won under these conditions? For the Coyotes, Panthers, Blue Jackets, Wild, Golden Knights, Jets and Canucks I can’t imagine you would want to give the haters any reason to poke holes in your Stanley Cup legitimacy. Only to compound the hate, only the Golden Knights and Canucks actually made it into the playoffs without being gifted a playoff spot, so I imagine an Arizona vs. Florida Stanley Cup would be one of the most written-off champions of all-time.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa has arguably been the best regular season team of the past five years, but don’t have squat to prove it. After getting swept out of the first round last year as the one seed, I can’t imagine people will forget their past shortcomings just because they win the COVID Cup. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think it would be objectively funny if this was the only year in the Stamkos era that the Lightning actually seal the deal. Years of playoff failures and getting dunked on on social media, only to have THIS be the Cup you actually win?
They’re great at riding jet skis though.
3. Carolina “Bunch ‘A Jerks”
I can’t think of a team with less fans that get talked about this much. Perennially bottom five in attendance, the Canes are having a strong year on the ice with a strong 38-25-5 record and at the gates where they have climbed to *checks notes* 22nd in the league in attendance.
But boy do they get a lot of play on hockey Twitter. Statheads and Gif curators are obsessed with the team whereas Don Cherry fanboys and noted haters of fun despise them. I for one am more surprised that this relatively good team based out of noted hockey hotbed Raleigh Carolina get people this worked up one way or another. Either way, if they storm surge and dab their way to a Stanley Cup, there will certainly be opinions, that much I can tell you.
2. Montreal Canadiens
The worst team allowed into the playoff proceedings under the 24 team format. Pair the team’s mediocrity with one of the brazenly most over-confident and obnoxious fanbase in hockey, Montreal winning the Cup would be absolute chaos.
And the thing is, I don’t think Montreal winning is that outlandish. Plenty of teams can ride hot goaltending to the Cup, and if Carey Price comes alive he will steal games. Between Domi, Gallagher and Tatar they can scratch together enough goals for Price and Weber (who will probably have to play approximately 40 minutes a night) to secure the win.
With Montreal winning, it would be the perfect combination of a bad team and rabid fanbase that would light Hockey Twitter on fire over a Stanley Cup. By comparison if a team like Arizona wins I can’t guarantee anyone but Paul Bissonette will be buzzing too much. To quote former Yankee outfielder, Reggie Jackson, “they don’t boo nobodies.” Which actually aligns with my comparison as the Habs and their fans as the Yankees without a shred of modern day success. Both franchises love to live in the past.
1. Toronto Maple Leafs
Speaking of living in the past
The Maple Leafs winning would be perfect storm. A Leafs team talented enough to win a Cup in their own right under normal circumstances will undoubtedly go from a disappointing regular season, only to break one of the longest active championship-less in sports in the COVID Cup season.
Everyone already hates the Leafs and their fans. Look no further than Twitter the day the team lost to a zamboni driving goalie this year. Everybody and their grandparents were dancing on Toronto’s grave.
The hate stems from a rare combination of a very large confusing fanbase, the 24 hour media coverage in the face of a team with a penchant for team-induced misery.
Half of the fanbase are arrogant, loud and, quite frankly, kind of dumb. They’re the types to plan a parade whenever Phil Kessel would get off to a hot start. The other half is very negative, self-loathing and, quite frankly, kind of dumb. They always expect the worse. I would count myself in the ladder.
What would serve as a good litmus as to where you fall in Leaf fandom, ask yourself, “what would you like out of the 2020 playoffs?” For myself, forever the pessimist, I would rather lose first round and get a crack at the Lafreniere lottery, ensuring another decade of pointless optimism. I know plenty of other fans that agree with this sentiment. The flip side to this is, why not win the Cup? Who cares what the haters say? Who cares if we can’t “officially parade”? Who cares about asterisks? Toronto is the best and this Cup would only prove it.
But both sides of the fanbase are brought together in a convoluted melting pot by a heart-breaking franchise and the premonition that everything in the hockey universe revolves around them. Everyone hates us and our team.
So why wouldn’t this be the year to get the 53 year monkey off our back? It would be the most Maple Leafs thing ever to win a Cup that will almost-assuredly be lost in time.
** It pained me to not put the Bruins on this list but it occurred to me that in classic Toronto “center of the universe“ mentality that I might have a bias and they aren’t universally hated as I believe. If I’m wrong and please reply with all of the Boston hate. I’m here for it**