1. The Washington Capitals. Or as they are known in Washington, "Something to keep us from thinking about the Redskins, Nationals, and Wizards". Why should the best team in the NHL not win? Because, for starters, that would be too predictable! Who wants another Detroit-like Victory Machine killing the underdog appeal for years to come? Not me. Also, Ovechkin's ego doesn't need a big stroke like that right now, when he's already playing at the height of his grungy, two-game-suspension-every-month game. I think this team can afford to lurk, making it to the second or third round, for the next ten years or so, before plummetting into obscurity once more. They can be the Sharks of the East!
I know that the playoff picture isn't completely sorted out yet, but I recently came to terms with another year of Leafless springtime, and I figured that there must be something, anything, that I can enjoy about the next few weeks of hockey. Then it hit me. Sixteen teams that aren't the Leafs will have hopes and dreams...and fifteen of those teams will have those hopes and dreams smashed and trampled and stuck full of holes on the merciless highway to Stanleyville. So here, I present to you ( in non-sermon format - I'm branching out a bit) The teams that could win it all, why they shouldn't, and where possible, exceptions to the rules which would somehow allow me to enjoy their victory.
Condition for Victory: If the Caps win it all, Ovechkin will use his endorsement money for plastic surgery, either to repair his mangled mug, or take what nature gave him a step further. Get the full-on green flesh, massive underbite and jutting tusks, and change his full name to "Ovechkin, Orc Lord of Mordor".
2. The New Jersey Devils. Another classic example of a boring, machine-like ever-contending doom squad, The Devils just don't go away. Many place the blame for this unceasing reign of terror on Lou Lamoriello, who admittedly casts a terrifying shadow of competent administration. The real culprit, though, is almost certainly Martin Brodeur. Whenever I saw the Devils on TV this year, it seemed like it was in the midst of some brutal rout with Brodeur being chased away or left to die in the net. Maybe I remember wrong. In any case, the Devils are still high in the standings. So why shouldn't they win, aside from the boredom aspect of their perennial contention? Well...that's it mostly. They're REALLY boring. Not quite Bruins boring, but yeah. Oh, also, that Kovalchuk guy. I don't know if I'm supposed to like him or what.
Condition for Victory: If the Devils take home the Cup, then Brodeur should at last be exposed for what he is - a hockey-playing robot sent back in time by Skynet to remove Phil Kessel's remaining testicle and prevent his son from ever being born. I have it on good authority from a guy in a DeLorean that Phil Kessel Jr. plays for the Leafs for 22 seasons, scores no less than 30 goals in each, reaching 40 eight times and 50 five times, and also marries the offspring of one of our own here at Pension Plan Puppets. He wouldn't say who, though. Something about paradoxes. Anyway, in review: Martin Brodeur = Terminator.
3. The Buffalo Sabres: Should Rick Jeanneret's terrifying cackle of the word "scoooooores!" run on for hours due to victorious histeria, I would not be completely mortified. That is to say that I hate the Sabres less than the other three teams in the Northeast Division, ny a longshot. Ryan Miller is a heckuva goalie and an alright dude, from what I've seen. Still, I'm about done with the Tyler Myers insanity. I'm also aware of the unbridled torrent of unrealistic silliness which pours from the mouths of Sabres fans. Most of all, Lindy is a girl's name.
Condition for Victory: There are actually three conditions. The first is that all Sabres fans be issued mild depressants to stifle the ceaseless unrealism that spurts out of their gobs. The second is that Tyler Myers be given a teeny, tiny hockey stick with which to play out the rest of his career. Finally, Lindy Ruff will change his name to something better, but also more homoerotic, like "Lance Ruff".
4. The Pittsburgh Penguins: Sid, I know you're my Maritime homeboy, but I don't know if I want you to win again so soon. Going Cup-Gold-Cup might be too much, too soon. I just don't want you to go all rock star on us. Save it for the new arena! Also, I don't know how I feel about Ponikarovsky winning the Cup right now. This happened before with Gill when we sent him your way, but that was Hal Gill. This is Poni. Pokaharsky. The Insanian Ukrainian (that last one never really caught on). Does his family still live in Toronto? I don't think they want a parade if it's not ours.
Condition for Victory: We continue our happy history of providing you with missing pieces to your ever-changing puzzle and trade you Kaberle for a 1st round pick, which we then trade up to the 20th or so spot, so Burke can draft another of my Saint John Sea Dogs, namely Stanislav Galiev.
5. The Ottawa Senators: Long-faded into the mists of time are those glory years of the early 00's, when the Leafs handily and repeatedly flushed the Senaturds right out of the playoff bowl. We survived the scare of 07, where the Ducks put to rest the prospect of an Ontario team that wasn't THE Ontario team winning the cup. We watched with delight as they proceeded to get swept out of round one and not even qualify in the years to come. Okay, now I'm just reminescing. In short, The hated, reviled, and frankly undeserving SNES must not win the Cup. Not now, not ever.
Condition for Victory: There are none. Somewhere in the multiverse there may be a version of Earth in which they do win the Stanley Cup. It will be my mission to recruit a Wendel Clark from every other universe to gang up on that unfortunate Senatorverse and punch all of its blood and galaxies out.
6. The Boston Bruins: This wasn't how it was supposed to happen, was it? We lag at the bottom (admittedly, satisfied with the production of Kessel) and watch a top-3 draft pick float away? No, but what's passed is past. We look now to the future, and the playoffs, and the Bruins must not be permitted to bookend the draft picks in the first round! Why? Because I said so, of course! There's disappointing, and then there's NOT BLOODY FAIR. There would just be no words. None.
Condition for Victory: Perhaps some secret clause in the Kessel trade will be unveiled by Burke, which specifies that if they win the Cup and get our pick, we get Rask back, and also get to surgically transplant Zdeno Chara's legs onto the torso of Mikhail Grabovski, turning him into one freaky-ass indestructible pineapple kicking machine.
7. The Montreal Canadiens: Even their own fans are showing rare sense and calling out this team of floaters after that hilarious loss to the Hurlicanes. "Goalie of the Future!" Carey Price is likely to be known as "Discount" Price in the offseason Now that Halak appears to be their franchise goalie for the next eight months. The Habs should have to get this mess fixed before they get anywhere near the finals, let alone win. I'm really not even that concerned about their chances of victory in June. I also wouldn't be upset if we ended the season against the habs the way we started it: By obliterating one of their players' major arteries.
Condition for Victory: If they somehow win the Cup this year, I demand the immediate sale of Quebec to China in exchange for shares of the USA's debt. The Habs will be disbanded and their arena repurposed for the People's Centre for Excellence in Olympic Sports that No One Cares About.
8. The Philadelphia Flyers: Hooo, boy. Where to start? Well, first off, they shouldn't be allowed near the cup because they don't let you pur your names on it with crayons. Also, the only time I want to hear about Dan Carcillo and a Cup in the same breath would have to involve a serious accident resulting in the lack of an athletic support. This is, of course, another one of those ridiculously improbable scenarios, like the Habs winning it all. Who's tending goal for the Flyers now? Have they begged Hextall to suit up again yet? Maybe Danny Devito? It's always Funny in Philadelphia.
Condition for Victory: The Flyers can win as long as they can all spell their own names without looking at the backs of their jerseys in the mirror. Also, a vigorous "guns for books" campaign will be spearheaded by Mr. Carcillo, who will personally yell "give it to me!" to every knuckledragger exchanging his firearm for a copy of Go Dog Go.
9: The New York Rangers: Yeah, so, apparently the playoff picture is slightly hazy here in the East, with a marvellous chance of the Canadiens being ousted still hanging on by a thread. The Rangers, however, shouldn't expect to get very far this post-season in any case. In fact they should be eliminated as soon as possible, so that New Yorkers who will be sad at their elimination will have plenty of time to recover and get sad all over again when the Mets become mathematically eliminated in June and the Yankees spend eighty billion kajillion dollars on some guy who hits a home run every three weeks.
Condition for Victory: First off, Mark Messier is to be nowhere near the festivities. Send him to Hawaii to film a Lays commercial or something. Never has such an unmarketable person been so overly marketed. "Mark Messier could be bringing the Cup to a party with you! Not some recently-memorable player! Hey look he brought some Lays! Not a recently palatable potato chip!" If it were my choice of old players and chips, Wendel Clark would show up with a truckfull of spicy thai kettle chips. Secondly, Sean Avery would enjoy a fate similar to Carcillo's, but instead of guns for books, it would be Yankees junk for punches to the neck.
Okay, I have to go to bed and go right back to work another twelve hour shift tomorrow, so that's it for tonight. Tomorrow, provided that I am still conscious when I get home, I'll throw up the Western conference candidates in part two. Until then, save your anger for the second round, and laugh as you think, "eight teams will have their hopes dashed within the next few weeks!"