Which team should you root for in the NHL playoffs? The 2023 Bandwagon-Hopper’s guide

Which team should you root for in the NHL playoffs? The 2023 Bandwagon-Hopper’s guide Техника

There are 32 teams in the nfl, but you generally only root for one. In this quiz, you will have the opportunity to find out which team you should root for!

Can’t decide which team you want to root for? Well thanks to this great quiz, in just a few minutes you will find out! Is it the Patriots, Packers, Seahawks, Steelers or another team?

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Quiz topic: What Football Team should I Root For Quiz

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Which team should you root for? Which team should you root for? Which team should you root for? Which team should you root for? Which team should you root for?

Which team should you root for? Which team should you root for? Which team should you root for? Which team should you root for? Which team should you root for? .

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Quiz topic: Which NCAA Team should I really be rooting for?

Haven’t decided a team to root for in the SEC yet? Well, here is where you can find out. Your choices are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Tennessee, Auburn, and a 7th unknown team.

Do you want to enjoy watching football, and live in the southeast, but haven’t decided a team to root for? Maybe this quiz can help you decide your new favorite team.

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Quiz topic: Which SEC Team should I root for

The playoffs are here, and if your team made it then you know what to do. (Hyperventilate, vomit sporadically, hate your life.)

But what if your team didn’t make it? You have several options. You could sit back and watch as a neutral observer. You could pick a few rivals to spite-watch. You could check out completely until the draft lottery.

If so, you want to choose wisely. You want a team that’s good enough to win, but not so good that you look like a frontrunner. You want fun characters, good stories, an OGWAC or two, and ideally not too many players you’ll feel dirty for rooting for. I’m here to help. It’s time for my annual bandwagon-hopper’s guide to the 16 playoff teams.

Starting Saturday, only 16 of World Cup’s qualifying 32 teams will continue to play in the tournament. After just two matches, Spain — the defending champion — was the first country to be eliminated during the group stage. Notable squads like Italy, the 2006 champion, and England are also heading home.

Because the World Cup is the most anticipated sporting event on the planet, many fans are unlikely to tune it out after their country is booted. But which team will they root for now?

Answering this question isn’t easy. Once patriotism is out of the equation, a preference for another country’s side could be based on all sorts of factors: Do you love one team’s style of play? Are you influenced by politics, religion or race? Did you have fond memories of travel to a particular place? Perhaps the most confounding factor is whether you’re motivated by love or hate. That is, will you root for your next favorite country or against a loathsome rival?

The ideal data to help answer this question would be recent, statistically-sound, cross-country polling of all 32 nations participating in the World Cup. Unfortunately, as is often the case in data analysis, our wishes have not been granted.


Greeks, for example, have an extremely unfavorable opinion of Germany. That’s no surprise given the intra-Eurozone disputes over bailouts, austerity measures and dire economic circumstances. (So, if Greece were to be eliminated in the knockout round and Germany played on, it’s a safe bet that Greek fans wouldn’t be cheering for Die Mannschaft.) But outside of Greece, Germany appears to be rather highly regarded. On the flip side, Russia is viewed unfavorably throughout Europe, except by Greece. (Russia exited the tournament after drawing with Algeria on Thursday, but the Greeks will have at least one more opportunity to cheer on their national side in the Round of 16.)

Still, no matter whom the eliminated countries’ fans go on to root for — if they root for any country at all — that new team won’t match the fans’ true wish: for their original favorite to have won the Cup.

CORRECTION (June 27, 10:45 a.m.): An earlier version of this post misstated the result of Thursday’s Algeria-Russia match. It ended in a draw, not a loss for Russia.


For that last group, it has been a great week. It’s the biggest news in live sports for the time being: ESPN is carrying the KBO (Korea Baseball Organization) games — six a week, with replays throughout the day. With no fans in the stands to cheer, it is an opportunity to simply watch the game for the love of what it is.

Still, for many fans, their affection falls under the perplexing circus tent of team fandom — loving the sport, sure, but more ardently, loving one club above all others. It is a confusing loyalty to a corporation that does not love us back, but we let that slide because of what we receive in return.

It’s a question I’ve asked of myself and others a lot in the last 20 years, and the answers are nearly as varied as the mouths from which they haltingly fumble. I’ve almost stopped asking it completely, for two reasons. First, absolutely nobody enjoys hanging out with the guy who is asking that question. And second, the answers are almost always dissonant and unsatisfying. The reasons are all wrong to my ears, de-tuned and compressed by the limitations of language.

They don’t love you like I love you, the song goes.

“I don’t know how to tell you to feel about this” is a strange way to start an article in which I will attempt to tell you all sorts of ways to feel about this, so let’s take a palate-cleanser. If you just want to know more about the KBO — the ins and outs, the whys and wherefores, the histories and peculiarities of the Korea Baseball Organization — you should start here: C. Trent Rosecrans crafted a lovely introduction to the league that you should read if you plan on keeping up with the KBO.

If you’re simply a fan of the sport, that’s all you need to know. But if you, like many, miss your team more than you miss the sport at large, I will do my best to help. Let’s go!

(But seriously — read the primer, either way.)

AL East

TORONTO BLUE JAYS: You probably don’t have a real shot at a championship in 2020, but it would be an absolute blast to watch if everything somehow panned out. Your team is chock-full of fun youngsters, including one of the most exciting young home run hitters in the league in Vlad Guerrero, Jr. Please allow me to direct you to Baek-ho Kang and the gang:

You should root for the KT Wiz.

Alternate: SK Wyverns (Slugger Jamie Romak is from London, Ontario, and former Blue Jay Nick Kingham is on the squad) 

BALTIMORE ORIOLES: When it comes to underdogs, you’re a discerning man or woman, unsatisfied with mere improbability. You want to look at the odds and see a whole phone number’s worth of digits before the colon. Rocky? Boring. Rudy? (eyeroll) Okay, let’s cut the crap. You’ve been chasing the high of that iguana running from the cobras for four years now. You need a real underdog — one with almost no chance, who hasn’t won a championship in forever — one who also happens to wear orange jerseys and be named after a bird:

You should root for the Hanwha Eagles.

Alternates: LG Twins (employ former Orioles Hyun-Soo Kim and Tyler Wilson)

TAMPA BAY RAYS: Your team has had to be extremely smart with their finances, so they make their living by beating everyone else at player development and scouting. Your team hasn’t ever won the championship (though they’ve at least been to the final series), so you can’t be called the favorite in 2020, but you’re not a classic underdog either, given your recent success. You play in a dome. You’ve had a slight name change in recent years, and you already know how to root for Taylor Motter.

There’s no better fit for you than the Kiwoom Heroes.

Alternates: Lotte Giants (cool powder-blue alt uniforms)

Apologies for the blue uniforms, but your best match appears to be the Samsung Lions. 

Alternates: Kiwoom Heroes (literally have a partnership with the Red Sox, which should probably supersede the similarities, but I’m not changing it now)

NEW YORK YANKEES: You’ve won more championships than anyone else, but the constant flow of rings has slowed considerably over the last decade.

You’re the Kia Tigers.

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Alternates: LG Twins (longest-tenured team in a multi-team city, wears pinstripes, after stealing so many titles from Twins fans, you could actually steal the title of “Twins fans”)

AL Central

You’re the LG Twins.

Alternates: Kia Tigers (managed by Matt Williams) 

Look, you asked for a team, I gave you a team: the SK Wyverns.

Alternates: Samsung Lions (blue uniforms, Ben Lively)

DETROIT TIGERS: The Hanwha Eagles are perhaps a more well-thought-out choice — not only do they employ Chad Bell and Warwick Saupold, but you could stick with Orioles and Giants and form a bad-team-wearing-orange-uniforms trinity! But on second thought, why would you do that when you have an easy out?

Let’s not over-complicate this: There’s a team called the Kia Tigers. This is a free and easy pass out of the cellar.

Alternates: The Samsung Lions have a name  blue-and-silver team colors that should seem verrrrry familiar to people in your region. 

MINNESOTA TWINS: We can make this easy for you, too. Bonus: Your team’s namesake looks like it could be a contender this year, and they sometimes wear pinstripes.

You can keep the team name and just root for the LG Twins.

Alternates: Kiwoom Heroes (for Twins fans who in love with Byung-Ho Park in his one season in Minnesota) 

CHICAGO WHITE SOX: You’ve got some veterans in the lineup who could help anchor a group of youngsters who could be a lot of fun to watch this year, even if they don’t really seem quite ready to contend for a championship. You also know how to rock a black uniform with a very fashionable logo on the front, you’re on the south side and you’re already accustomed to rooting for Odisramer Despaigne.

This one’s easy: KT Wiz

Alternates: Lotte Giants (historic team, has been good in the past, mired in a tough stretch that isn’t likely to get fully turned around this year)

AL West

LOS ANGELES ANGELS: The Angels have Mike Trout, who will ultimately have a legitimate claim for the best player of all time. They have Shohei Ohtani, a stereotype-shattering two-way player who might also be a generational talent. They’ve shown a willingness to throw money at the quest time and time again, but to no recent avail. They’ve been owned by a singing cowboy movie star, the Walt Disney corporation and a Walt Disney lookalike. There is no good comparison, not in the KBO or anywhere else.

HOUSTON ASTROS: Well, we have options: There’s the team that has changed the game with their budgeting and player development acumen. Or the team that came up just short in the championship series last year, but seems to be an early favorite to return this season. I googled “KBO controversy” and found a team that was embroiled in a huge cheating scandal a couple of years ago. If only there were some way that all of those were the same team, this would be a perfect f— (turns notepad upside-down).

Oh. Ha! Silly me. Those were all the same team: the Kiwoom Heroes.

Alternates: Kia Tigers (since you already know what it’s like to root for Preston Tucker)

OAKLAND ATHLETICS: There seems to be a thing that the A’s do where they enter a season with almost no one predicting that they’ll contend, then after a full year of playing in one of the league’s oldest stadiums in front of a bunch of ride-or-die fans who make the atmosphere fun regardless of the day’s outcome, they find themselves in contention at the end of the year.

Alternatives: Kiwoom Heroes (the Athletics invented Moneyball — perhaps you heard, they made a whole movie about it)

SEATTLE MARINERS: Never won a championship series, never even made it to the final dance. If that’s not the Mariners, I don’t know what is.

Alternates: Taylor Motter plays for the Kiwoom Heroes, but your alt is the Lotte Giants. Why? Dae-Ho Lee! Dae-Ho Lee! Dae-Ho Lee!! (Also Adrian Sampson

TEXAS RANGERS: Haven’t won the big prize yet, but did come close? Playing in a new stadium? Employing the Korean equivalent of Adrián Beltré?

That sounds an awful lot like the Texas Rangers to me. Allow me to introduce the NC Dinos.

Alternates: Lotte Giants (They play in Shin-Soo Choo’s hometown Busan, and his uncle Jeong-Tae Park was a star second baseman for the team in the 1990s. They also employ Adrian Sampson and Julio Franco. Or if team partnerships are your thing, the Rangers and LG Twins have been working together since early 2018)

NL East

ATLANTA BRAVES: I hate to bang the same drum for multiple teams, but when there’s a 3-to-1 ratio of MLB to KBO teams, some of these entries are going to look similar.

With the exciting young-and-fun crop of starting pitchers in Atlanta, they also get shuffled into the KT Wiz bin. Bonus: former Brave Mel Rojas, Jr. is on the squad, and as part of a fan appreciation opening day bit, his jersey read “LOVE” and the Korean word for “fans.” He loves fans! Don’t you want Mel Rojas Jr. to love you?

MIAMI MARLINS: Imagine being an expansion team and winning a championship before a decade even passed (and then winning another one).

Fans of the Marlins and SK Wyverns don’t have to use their imagination, they’ve seen it happen. Plus, Marlins are frightening deathfish with swords for noses and Wyverns are two-legged snake-dragons. You guys deserve to hang out with each other in some weird sci-fi novel.

Alternate: NC Dinos (Drew Rucinski)

NEW YORK METS: You root for a team that rocks pinstripes in the biggest city in the country, but still gets overshadowed by the other guys?

Sounds like you know what it’s like to cheer for the LG Twins. The difference, of course, is that the Twins were in Seoul before the Doosan Bears (or anyone else), and the Mets were not the first in New York City. But hey, nobody ever said the older brother couldn’t still be the “little” brother.

Alternate: Doosan Bears, if you want to know how the other half lives, plus former Met Chris Flexen is pitching for them

WASHINGTON NATIONALS: Your team won the whole thing last year, but holding the thing together long enough to win a few more seems out of the question. You already lost one superstar, but there miiiiight be one last bit of magic to be wrung from destiny’s washrag before everything starts to get wiped out.

Alternates: KT Wiz (there have been a lot of teams in the nation’s capital, but yours is the newest one), SK Wyverns (around the turn of the century, there used to be a different team, with a different name, in a different city. And then a year later, all their players were playing for this team, under this name, in this city.)

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES: It took me a minute to put the pieces together on this. I’m not proud of the fact that I ended up with this in my Google search history, but there’s no sense hiding it.

Which team should you root for in the NHL playoffs? The 2023 Bandwagon-Hopper’s guide

But then I got it. The Phillies have been in one city with one name with no breaks for longer than any other franchise in sports.

In KBO, the closest thing you’ve got are the Lotte Giants and the Samsung Lions, who get the nod here because they played in the first-ever KBO game. Plus they’ve got David Buchanan and Ben Lively on the squad this year, and Darin Ruf played there the last three seasons.

Alternate: NC Dinos (Aaron Altherr)

NL Central

MILWAUKEE BREWERS: This is super easy. In 1952, the Doosan Group began brewing beer under the name Oriental Brewery. When the KBO started in 1982, the brewery sponsored the team known as the “OB Bears.”

Doosan has since sold the brewery (thus the name change to the Doosan Bears), but the sudsy history remains. Bonus for the Brew Crew: The Bears won the series last year. Maybe they’ll repeat, and you can celebrate vicariously.

Alternate: NC Dinos — where Eric Thames starred for a few years before returning stateside to set Milwaukee alight — are a strong alt here. The Dinos also haven’t ever won a championship, and their blue-and-gold color scheme is at least vaguely similar to earlier iterations of the Brewers uniforms. 

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS: Like the Yankees in the AL, the Cardinals have won more rings than any other National League team.

That’s an automatic comparison to the Kia Tigers. The Tigers and Cardinals each have exactly 11 titles and wear red uniforms, and while the Yankees play in New York, the Cardinals play in St. Louis, which is probably more comparable to the Tigers’ home of Gwangju (pop. 1.5 million).

Alternate: Lotte Giants. I don’t know, maybe you just want to root for a bird team who occasionally wear powder-blues (the Giants are also often called the 부산 갈매기, or “Busan Seagulls”). Yeah, that sounds like a common thing. I’m sure that’s a lot of people.

CHICAGO CUBS: Similar to the Red Sox’ relationship with the Yankees, the Cubs have historically found themselves scowling up at the Cardinals.

As a result, their fans might feel comfortable joining the Red Sox in rooting for the Samsung Lions. The Lions are steeped in history and won championships in four consecutive years, from 2011-14. That was a while ago, however, and the Lions have since settled into a fairly significant playoff drought. Perhaps Cubs fans from before the good years could lend an empathetic shoulder.

Alternate: SK Wyverns (closer Ha Jae-hoon was once a Cubs outfield prospect)

PITTSBURGH PIRATES / CINCINNATI REDS: As a parent, one of the best tactics for ending a fight is to get the kids working together toward one goal. As such, I’m putting fans of these two bitter rivals to the task of remembering what they have in common. Both the Pirates and Reds have been around since the 1800s, and both have seen times when they had a real argument for the title of “most popular team in the sport.”

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But things haven’t been great for either of them lately, so perhaps if their fans put their energies together, they can turn around the Lotte Giants, one of the original KBO franchises whose glory days are behind them and are trying to scrap their way back into contention.

Alternates: If I give you alternates you’ll take them and you won’t solve anything. No. You stay in here together until you learn to get along.

NL West

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS: Sorry to take the easy way out, but there’s only one MLB team named after snakes, and one KBO team named after a Snake-Dragon.

So you guys get sorted into the SK Wyverns box. It’s not a bad place to be — the Wyverns tied the Bears for the best record in the league last season. To strengthen the tie: Merrill Kelly, who made his big-league debut as a Diamondback in 2019 actually made his professional debut in 2015 for the Wyverns. He was there through the 2018 season.

Alternate: Kia Tigers, who will be managed by Matt Williams this season

LOS ANGELES DODGERS: It depends which narrative you want to lean into. On one hand, you’re the biggest ticket in a major city with other options, and have been a consistent contender for years now. Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, Alex Wood and David Price are getting old, while Mookie Betts might leave in free agency before long.

In that sense, you might be interested in the “let’s take 2020 before the window closes” story of the Doosan Bears. Alternately, you’ve got Walker Buehler, Julio Urías and Gavin Lux coming up to supplement some in-their-prime stars (Betts, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager), and you got so close to the championship not long ago. So maybe the Kiwoom Heroes are more your speed.

Alternates: whichever one you didn’t pick above

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS: This isn’t hard. Point to the jerseys like a spiderman meme. Giants? Giants? Black cap, orange logo? Black cap, orange logo. A jewel franchise in a rough stretch? A jewel franchise in a rough stretch.

Seagulls? Seagulls. This is a slam-dunk.

SAN DIEGO PADRES: See: Blue Jays, White Sox, Braves.

I tried not to play favorites here, but the FUNderdogs KT Wiz are getting more primary recommendations (five) than anyone else in the field. You’re in good company, Pads fans. I’d watch the heck out of a four-team tournament with Toronto Chicago, Atlanta and San Diego*.

*Full disclosure: At this point, I would also watch a four-team tournament between a high school team, bag of worms, ALF and the Baltimore Orioles.

Also, my goodness, what is happening with this mascot that looks like Kirby dressed up as a witchpirate robber baron for Halloween.

Alternates: The Hanwha Eagles (because I haven’t given them enough recommendations in this article)

COLORADO ROCKIES: Like the Rangers, you’ve never won a World Series. Like the Rangers, you’ve been so close. Like the Rangers, you’re not that close this season.

Like the Rangers, I’m pointing you in the direction of the NC Dinos, for whom all of these things are also true. Bonus: Their mascot is a dinosaur just like yours, but it has exchanged disturbing-in-a-cutesy-way for disturbing-in-an-intimidating way. Like, this name cannot be true (but also, it maybe should be true?)

Alternates: Why would you want to abandon Swole Daddy? You’re on your own for alternates. 

(Top photo: Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images)

New York Islanders

Why you should get on board: It’s a former dynasty with a great fan base that’s fallen on hard times over the last few decades, with arena drama, ownership shenanigans, their franchise player abandoning them, and a long drought of playoff success. That last one got better in recent years under Barry Trotz, but last year’s playoff miss seemed to push them back into also-ran status, so this year’s rebound has been a nice story.

More importantly, they’re a wild card with a real chance at an upset run. Ilya Sorokin might be the best goalie in the league right now, and he’s certainly the best one in this series against Carolina. The Islanders have been a trendy upset pick, and if they win then there’s a decent chance you’ll get a showdown with the Rangers in Round 2 that will be crazy fun as long as you’re OK with occasionally punching Santa.

Why you shouldn’t: They’re not the most exciting group, with Sorokin arguably being the only superstar on a team that tends to play low-scoring games. They’re not exactly the boring, grind-it-out, 2-1 team they’ve been accused of being over the years, but they also haven’t finished higher than 20th in scoring in five seasons, so the reputation hasn’t come out of nowhere.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for a wild-card team with potential, the Islanders are your best option.

Dallas Stars

Why you should get on board: Where to begin. Jason Robertson might legitimately be the most likable young star in the league. Joe Pavelski is the single-best OGWAC in this year’s playoffs. Ryan Suter isn’t far behind him. Jamie Benn has been a great comeback story. Tyler Seguin is another strong story, and also a generally fun character. If Max Domi goes far enough, Tie might show up at some point and do something wacky. Oh, and they have a giant goalie who almost singlehandedly won them a round last year and has been even better this year.

Why you shouldn’t: Norm Green sucks.

Bottom line: The first-round matchup is a tough one, but this year’s Stars shape up as an absolutely fantastic pick.

Winnipeg Jets

Why you should get on board: Nobody believes in them! Including their fans, coach and all their players!

And rightly so, probably. They barely snuck into the playoffs after stumbling through the second half. Still, they’re one of the only teams in the Western Conference with strong goaltending, and in theory there’s enough firepower that they’re never out of a game. Also, Rick Bowness has been coaching in the league since 1917 and still doesn’t have a Cup.

An underrated bonus element: The Jets remain the only team that could end Canada’s three-decade Stanley Cup drought without every other fan base in the country being absolutely furious about it.

Why you shouldn’t: Could they beat Vegas? Sure. But when you look ahead at a four-round path, it gets awfully hard to find one here that doesn’t end badly, and probably sooner than later.

Bottom line: No guts, no glory. Probably no glory either way, to be honest.

New Jersey Devils

Why you should get on board: Of all the teams in this year’s mix, they’re the contender that wasn’t supposed to be here. They missed the playoffs by a whopping 37 points last year, so they still have plenty of underdog aura. But unlike the Kraken, they’re absolutely good enough to go on a long run, so you’re not hitching your wagon to a miracle. And since they seem like they’ll be contenders for a while, you might as well get a good seat on the bandwagon now.

Why you shouldn’t: The Rangers are a tough matchup, and the East is pretty brutal. A run is absolutely possible, but a Cup win would be a surprise.

Bottom line: As long as you know that there’s a decent chance it ends badly at some point, the Devils are a great pick.

Seattle Kraken

But! They’re a fun team, the vibe is still fresh, and their fans would probably welcome a little bit of backup. And with balanced scoring up and down the lineup, you don’t have to worry about one guy getting hurt and torpedoing your hopes.

Why you shouldn’t: There’s a reason why nobody’s picking them to go far. A few, actually, including very questionable goaltending, subpar special teams, and that lack of a big-time star who can take over when it matters most.

Bottom line: The Kraken are a high-risk, high-reward pick. It probably ends quickly, but if it doesn’t, the bandwagon will fill up and you’ll be glad you got your seat early.

Colorado Avalanche

Why you should get on board: Because you don’t care about being called a frontrunner. The Avs are one of the most exciting and entertaining teams in the league, and we all deserve nice things. Screw what people say, you’re taking the defending champs.

Why you shouldn’t: You should care about being called a frontrunner, because they’re the worst.

Bottom line: Picking the reigning champs as the worst possible bandwagon team is a bit of a cliché and I don’t do it every year, but this year you can get all the skill and potential from a team whose fan base isn’t still hungover from the parade.

◽️ Who’s picking against the Bruins?
◽️ Edmonton to emerge from the West?
◽️ Who wins the Battle of the Hudson?

The Athletic’s NHL staff makes their playoff picks:https://t.co/fXMYdTDLDw

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Which team should you root for in the NHL playoffs? The 2023 Bandwagon-Hopper’s guide

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Florida Panthers

Why you should get on board: They don’t have Joe Thornton or Claude Giroux anymore, but otherwise just about all the things still apply from last year when we anointed them the easy pick as the best bandwagon team in the league. The fan base has been through a ton, the team is talented and fun to watch, and they’re the classic little brother that keeps getting picked on by the more successful sibling. And unlike last year, you can’t even be accused of frontrunning, because the 2022 Presidents’ Trophy winners had to scrape into the playoffs with a hot second half.

It’s just about perfect. What could go wrong?

Why you shouldn’t: They’re going to absolutely get their doors blown off by the Bruins. Like, it’s going to be ugly. This series might be over in three games.

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Bottom line: I can’t in good conscience recommend the Panthers this year given their matchup, even as I can still see the appeal. I wouldn’t have the guts, but if you do, I respect it.

Edmonton Oilers

Why you should get on board: If you just sat through an entire six-month NHL season where your team didn’t even make the playoffs, you deserve a reward. And nothing is more rewarding than having Connor McDavid on your team, even temporarily.

On its own, that’s enough to get the Oilers into the top five. But this year’s team is far more than McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, which is why they’re near the top of everyone’s list of favorites. They led the league in scoring, and it would be cool to see a team do that and then win it all. They also went big at the deadline, and we should want to encourage that.

And best of all, the fan base deserves this. Sure, the old-timers had a dynasty to cheer for decades ago, but think of the children. Any Oilers fan under 30 has never known a world where their team wasn’t a punchline. Now they’ve finally got it all set up for a Cup run.

Why you shouldn’t: You’re a Flames fan? Other than still being mad about a string of lottery luck from over a decade ago, that’s all I can come up with.

Bottom line: Do it.

(Photo: Claus Andersen / Getty Images)

Boston Bruins

Why you should get on board: They’re coming off what was arguably the greatest regular season in NHL history. David Pastrnak is amazing. Patrice Bergeron might be the most universally respected player in the sport right now. Taylor Hall is nearing OGWAC territory. Jim Montgomery is a great story. Their goaltender occasionally gets bored and scores goals. Honestly, I’m not completely sure what else you would want.

Why you shouldn’t: That record-setting 135-point regular season means they’re the runaway favorites for the Cup, so you can’t pick them.

That said, you’d be rooting for Brad Marchand. Proceed with caution.

Bottom line: Look, I know we love upsets, but having the best team actually win the Cup and making the regular season seem like it matters wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

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Which team should you root for in the NHL playoffs? The 2023 Bandwagon-Hopper’s guide

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Carolina Hurricanes

Why you should get on board: They’re a fun team that embraces its role as the non-traditional maverick, doing unthinkable things like signing players to offer sheets and being happy when they win. Rod Brind’Amour is the most entertaining coach in the league. They’re also one of the smartest teams out there, and we could all stand to see that approach rewarded these days. Oh, and they’re really good, finishing the regular season with the second-best record and all sorts of sexy underlying numbers.

Why you shouldn’t: With Andrei Svechnikov and Max Pacioretty both out and Ilya Sorokin looming in Round 1, maybe this isn’t the year to jump on board.

Bottom line: They were my top pick in 2020, so you might be a little late to the party here. Still, you could do far worse.

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New York Rangers

Why you should get on board: They have a ton of talent, one of the best goalies in the world, and Patrick Kane in what could be his last run at a Cup. They swung big at the trade deadline, and having that payoff would be nice for trade fans. And they won two rounds last year but still don’t feel like a Metropolitan Division favorite this year, even if maybe they should be.

Plus we know from experience that if they do win the Stanley Cup, the NHL will market it incessantly for decades to come, so you might as well get on board voluntarily now before you have no choice.

Why you shouldn’t: They’re playing the upstart Devils, who are exceedingly tough to root against, so you’re kind of cheering for the Death Star over the rebels here. Also, you’ll have to spend all your free time waiting for someone to suggest that Kaapo Kakko might be a bust and then yelling at them.

Bottom line: The NHL’s accounting department is already here.

Minnesota Wild

Why you should get on board: Because nobody ever bandwagons the Wild, meaning you’ll never be accused of just chasing the popular pick. Beyond that, you’d get to watch Kirill Kaprizov, feel afraid of Dean Evason, send OGWAC vibes to Mats Zuccarello, and cheer for Marc-Andre Fleury, unless he isn’t the starter which can be its own kind of fun. They’re the Central’s No. 3 seed, so you’re not picking a favorite, but their series with the Stars is close to a coin flip and there’s a path out of the Western Conference here if everything breaks just right.

Oh, and they’re avenging the theft of the noble North Stars.

Why you shouldn’t: I ranked them second last year and then they won two playoff games, failing to get out of the first round for the seventh year in a row.

Bottom line: When you tell people you’re bandwagonning this year’s Wild, they’ll go through a range of emotions that will end with them making the same faces as the Kombucha meme lady.

Los Angeles Kings

Why you should get on board: The Kings are a great mix of underdog (with almost everyone picking the Oilers to knock them out) and skill. They flew just under the radar for most of the year, but were better than just about anyone expected. Their biggest issue was goaltending, and they seem to have fixed that at the deadline. And as a bonus, if you’re a fan of a rebuilding team, the Kings are pretty close to your model of what it should look like, right? Seeing them go on a deep run would be a nice proof-of-concept of the patient approach that so many teams are trying to emulate right now.

Why you shouldn’t: You’ve made Connor McDavid angry and now he will eat your eyes.

Bottom line: The Kings are a great story and under different circumstances would probably make for a strong pick. I just can’t imagine volunteering to root against McDavid this year.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Why you should get on board: They’ve won the Eastern Conference three years in a row and they’ve got the Leafs again in round one, so you’re not exactly going out on a limb here. The team has a ton of star power, Jon Cooper is usually good for a funny sound bite or two, and the crowds are great. If you just want to sit back and enjoy a few rounds of skilled hockey, they’re not a bad choice. Plus there’s a real “aging champion rises wearily for one more shot at the belt” vibe here, and that’s always fun.

Why you shouldn’t: With all their recent success, especially their 2020 and 2021 Stanley Cups, this feels like a frontrunner pick. That’s mitigated a bit by a lackluster season. In theory, they’re underdogs against the Leafs, and maybe even significantly, even as it doesn’t necessarily feel that way.

They’ve also got a bunch of chippy players, most notably Corey Perry. Mix that in with their dominance over the years, and it’s possible that they make for a better villain to root against than a bandwagon team to cheer for. That’s a compliment, by the way.

Bottom line: Also, if you pick the Lightning then you’re at least temporarily aligning with the anti-Leaf freaks, so good luck getting a word in.

Vegas Golden Knights

Why you should get on board: They’ve been an attractive option ever since they came into the league. They’ve also been a divisive one. But after last year’s playoff miss and some bumps in the road this season, it feels like the “too much too soon” vibe has worn off enough that they’re no longer an especially controversial pick.

Instead, we can focus on the return of Mark Stone, the playoff debut of Jack Eichel, and a rotating cast of goalies that could eventually include one last run from Jonathan Quick. The atmosphere in Vegas will be great, as always. And they’ve got a very winnable first-round matchup, plus home ice until at least the Final.

Why you shouldn’t: It goes without saying that Sabres fans are exempt here. Beyond that, you’re picking the top seed in a conference that still isn’t viewed as the favorite, which isn’t a great combination. And while the “too soon” vibe might be fading, the “these guys cheat the salary cap” one is not.

Bottom line: If you convince a few friends to join you on the bandwagon, then you’re really honor-bound to make a trip to support the team in person, just saying.

The fact that a player as supremely talented as Jack Eichel has yet to grace the Stanley Cup playoffs stage isn’t right.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Why you should get on board: (thunder rumbles) They’re a great team that finally seems ready to break through. (ominous laughter drifts across the barren plain) They’ve got a tired Lightning team that’s absolutely ripe for the picking. (locusts fall from sky) All systems go, let’s do this, what could go wrong?

Why you shouldn’t: (ground opens up and swallows us all deep down into the pits of hockey hell) Nothing comes to mind.

Bottom line: Honestly, if you can get past all the narratives and history and tribalism, the Leafs are a legitimately great pick, especially in this all-or-nothing year. And their fan base deserves it more than any other. Fight me if you want, you know it’s true.

Their numbers have dropped in the playoffs. Their big-game performances have been (mostly) disappointing.

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