Finally, the second installment of our ongoing, two-part series. Behind schedule, I know, but at least it's before the second round starts and half of this article becomes useless.
1. The San Jose Sharks. We can see that the boys in teal are up to their old tricks, blowing the West out of the water in the regular season and then blowing up like an Icelandic volcano in the playoffs. I wonder if Joe and Dany are getting a little too much sun down there, or if there's some sort of contagious culture of failure which they enriched by bringing their historical post-season inadequacies to the dressing room. Not to mention the great Nabokov looking positively Toskala-esque last night with a little help from Dan "traitor hands" Boyle. I almost feel sorry for this team, but they really shouldn't win, because as a fan of an Eastern conference team, I love watching the powerhouses of the West crumble under the weight of their own expectations.
Condition for Victory: The Sharks are allowed to win the Stanley Cup if it means that we never, ever, ever have to hear another person predict that they're going to win the Cup again.
2. The Chicago Blackhawks. It is...hard to hate these guys. I mean, They're original sixers which usually means a free pass for loathing. They're Norris Division alumni as well, and anyone who survived being a Leafs fan in the Eighties knows what kind of bile we could spit up at them. They've got that young talent thing going on, though, and it's hard to hate on the new kids, at least until they display a regular level of competitive douchery. BUT. Oh, here we go. The Blackhawks, it seems, haven't won the Cup since BEFORE the Leafs last did. This is something we have to cling to. They cannot win because it takes away from the list of teams who have been useless sacks of sad since before the Leafs last won the Cup. Cling to it, fellow Leafers! Cling like it's all you have left!
Condition for Victory: I'm angry now, and bitter, and also nostalgic! They can't win! Ever.
3. The Los Angeles Kings. Once again, a team with a huge turnaround after being completely brutal. Good drafting (albeit from choice positions) and a rejuvenated fanbase have got the Kings back on the high road to triumph. Will it last? Who knows? One thing is positively clear though: This is not the team, the blasted Wayne Gretzky team, which with the help of the One Who Will Not Be Named, screwed our boys out of a finals date with the reviled Habs. Oh, something else has just become clear. That doesn't mean a damn to me, and I will curse the Kings until the Leafs have returned to the Cup finals. There is no room for forgiveness until that which was denied Doug Gilmour is restored to his descendents.
Condition for Victory: Still angry! No leniency! Raaargh!
4. The Vancouver Canucks: Oh, Vancouver. No strangers to hype and subsequent failure, here. Add to that the burden of having lived through some of the most bizarre uniform changes in the history of the league. They also have Roberto "I'm a great goalie but sometimes...WHOOPS!" Luongo. They also have...Kyle Wellwood. The jokes never end, folks! And that's why they cannot win. The Canucks aren't going to win, because they are, to put it bluntly, the Sidekick. Yes, they are the wacky, crazy-scheming, never-succeeding, adorable, pathetic playoff sidekick. We cheer for them sometimes, the way a parent cheers for a child who is learning to poop, but we never take them seriously. Silly, silly Canucks.
Condition for Victory: If the Canucks win the Cup, Kyle Wellwood is under no circumstances permitted to fill it with gravy.
5. The Phoenix Coyotes: The feel good story of the year! Down on their luck, out of money, hardly any fans or recognition, when in swoops Bettman on his Bett-grappling hook and a utility belt full of Bett-hope. Actually it wasn't nearly so heroic, nor was it especially hopefull. But hey, the team is winning, and snakes are being thrown, and they're a long way, for now at least, from the bottom of the barrel. But, as things like this go, the harsh reality of the situation will come rushing back, and the further the Coyotes go in the playoffs, the angrier the people paying for this team to not be defunct must be getting. There will, quite simply, be a reckoning, if they take the Cup to Glendale.
Condition for Victory: Shane Doan must never stop making that face. They will erect a statue of him, making that face, in the middle of the desert. Every year, the multitudes will gather and throw snakes at it.
INTERMISSION: I am watching Doctor Who with my sister. The Master has taken over Great Britain. This requires my undivided attention.
And we're back!
6. The Detroit Red Wings: Do I even have to write about the Swedish Death Engine? We've seen them win, led by the noble Yzerman. We've endured their legacy of boring but technically impeccable hockey. We've rolled our eyes as the city of Detroit is repeatedly referred to as Hockeytown, when in reality it is "We only care if they're winningtown". No, I believe that Detroit is due for another long drought. Obscurity. Oblivion. People not caring. Then they can toil in darkness and one day, return and win again. When they can appreciate it.
Condition for Victory: If Detroit wins again, they must receive an apology from the entire city of Detroit for having to be based in Detroit.
7. The Colorado Avalanche: Well, after last night it's hard to say anything bad about a team with Craig Anderson on it. I have a soft spot as well for the former Nordique, who were wonderful in that they gave the Habs someone closeby to hate while the Leafs snuck up from behind and clubbed them. Of course, the Nordique moved, and did really well, and Stankey Cup, etc, etc. Still fresh in the memory, right? I actually don't remember where I was going with this one. Is it October yet?
Condition for Victory: Okay, I have admitted before a soft spot for Darcy Tucker, former Leaf shit-disturber. If the Avs win the Cup I want it on a goal from his stick. Preferably another shutout for Anderson. Oh, and a return to Quebec City for the NHL.
8. The Nashville Predators: I have no idea how this team continues to exist. Not only are they a poorly-placed, fair-weather-fan organization, but they've had all sorts of management issues since the get-go. Somehow, though, they manage to shop up in the playoffs and squeeze just a little more green out of the great, sour lime that is the South. They don't even have the benefit of being surrounded by a division of terrible teams (*cough* Capitals!) to pad their stats. Somehow they survive. The Nashville Cockroaches.
Condition for Victory: Move them to the Eastern Conference because there's no way they can seriously be considered West. Mitigate the confusion by moving the Capitals to Alaska.
That's it! It feels like maybe I phoned it in at the end there, but to be honest, I'm primarily just thinking of the steak I'm having tonight. Delicious steak. Is it suppertime yet?