Thursday, May 28, 2009

No Dog In The Hunt? Who To Root For In The Stanley Cup Final

I've been clear about this. I have hated the Pittsburgh Penguins for over 20 years and I'm not going to just blindly endorse them now. I mean, for God's sake, right after Crosby touched the Prince of Wales trophy, the officials actually gave the trophy a two minute holding penalty.

I'm not sure how they justified that.

But it's also tough to root for a dynasty, and if you look up "underdog" in the dictionary, it says "antonyms: 2008-2009 Detroit Red Wings." So what the hell do we do?

Let's be honest, I'm not going to NOT watch the Stanley Cup Final If the lockout taught us anything, it's that as fans, we should enjoy it while we have it. Also, last year's conference finals were also deadly dull, and the Cup final ended up being a very entertaining affair. That means some tough decisions have to be made.

Who do we root for?

There are a lot of reasons to root for the Wings:

- Original Six team. Snobby, I know, but that's where I stand. I think it's good for the game.

-Economywise, the city of Detroit, the state of Michigan, and the US automobile industry are, to put things as gently as I can, fucked. Their fans could use a lift.

-Excellence. There is a very good argument to be made that to root for the Detroit Red Wings is to root for hockey excellence, plain and simple. They are cobbling together the seeds of a dynasty, and this after greats like Yzerman, Hull, Shanahan, Hasek, and Federov have all moved on. From a hockey management perspective, that is amazing, and to see it in the salary cap era, makes it even more impressive.

-Detroit could be the first team to win both the Winter Classic and the Stanley Cup in the same year, something that the Penguins were unable to do last season. Achieving this feat could be a future yardstick to determine the all-time greatness of Stanley Cup winning teams. You can't get into the Winter Classic unless you were at the very least, a contender for the cup the year before, and to win both the classic and the cup is to shine on hockey's two biggest stages at both the beginning and end of a season. They say you have to be lucky and good. To win both the Winter Classic and the Stanley Cup is to be lucky and great. That's worth rooting for. Which brings me to my next point.

- Unlike the Penguins, the Detroit Red Wings were excellent all year, from the drop of the puck in October to the beginning of the Stanley Cup final, the Wings were a yardstick team, which means that every team brought their A-game all year long, and the Wings ended up on top again. As recent seasons in Boston, San Jose, Buffalo and Ottawa have proved, it's one thing to be good in the regular season, and another to maintain that level of excellence all year and through the playoffs.

-Darren Helm, who scored the series clinching overtime goal for the Detroit Red Wings last night, could potentially be the only forward to have two Stanley Cup rings and no regular season goals. In his career. Ever. I'm not sure that's ever been done, and it's kind of cool.

Reasons to root for the Pittsburgh Penguins:

-I've said this before, but from a hate perspective, it'd be fantastic to see Marion Hossa lose the Stanley Cup again this year, this time in the other sweater. I know hockey is a business, blah blah, blah, but to bolt the Stanley Cup loser to sign with the team that beat them is some lame, front-running shit. I'd love to see that guy lose. Seeing him lose the Stanley Cup to his former team while wearing the sweater of the team that beat him a season ago would be the hater's version of Ray Bourque finally winning a cup in Colorado. Hockey fans from around the world would rally together to cheer his loss.

-No matter what happens in this series, the interest generated by the Washington-Pittsburgh playoff series is going to insure that we're going to be bombarded with promos and commercials talking about how great Sidney Crosby is. If it annoyed you in the past, it's going to be even worse next year, whether he wins or loses the cup. Search your feelings, hockey fans, you know this to be true. If Crosby actually fucking wins something for once, at a bare minimum, the league won't look as stupid for endlessly promoting him. It's a thin broth, but it's something.

-If the Penguins win the Cup, everybody on that goddamn team is going to want a raise. With the cap heading down, this means that there'd be a good chance that I might be able to see Jordan Staal play for a team that I don't hate worse than poison. Again, I'm reaching a little.

Of course, at the end of the day, what I'm really hoping for is a long, hard, competitive series in which my allegiances shift from game to game, something that has happened in the past, (even with the Penguins.) While I'll probably end up supporting the successes of whichever team whose effort and heart forces me to recognize them, I'm gonna bite my lip, take a deep breath and just say it:


In game one, anyway.


Ms. Conduct said...

Nope, the schadenfreude of the Hossa thing is WAY too irresistible for me.

Go Pens. But not in all caps.

In fact: go pens.

Anonymous said...

jordan staal signed a 4 year extension in january.


Anonymous said...

The blackhawks didn't make the playoffs last season and played in the winter classic..

Ritch said...

re: anon

Good point.

The Blackhawks didn't make the playoffs, but they were far from a joke. They finished three points out of a playoff spot, with some of the most exciting young players in the league.

When the season started, it was a given that the Blackhawks were a different team, with young talent, and a force to be reckoned with.

And original six doesn't hurt.

Eric said...

Isn't it "no dog in the fight?" I think you're mixing this with "That Dog won't hunt." which is how I feel about the Penguins in general.

If Sidney Crosby becomes the NHL's version of Jim Kelly, then so be it.

Liked the joke about the Prince of Wales trophy getting a holding penalty.

Charles said...

Glad to see that you've come to your senses, as 'temporarily' is the best that I could hope for.

Jon said...

Really Ritch? You would want to see Staal play for another team? Just one more reason to root for the Wings in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

the winter classic is not 1 of 2 biggest stages for hockey
it is one game out of the year that counts just as much as any other regular season game
a stanley cup and olympic gold are what players play for

Ritch said...


I probably should have said "Two of the biggest stages for the NHL."

But even for hockey, I will argue that the Winter Classic puts the game in front of more American eyeballs than almost any other single game of the year, and for fans of the teams playing, it's a huge thrill.

I am THRILLED about watching the game at Fenway next New Year's Day.