Ok, readers. It's up to you once again. I'm an unabashed Pittsburgh Penguins fan. I have been since 1984, and there's no swaying me to another team under any circumstance. I was, and still am, a huge Mario Lemieux fan, and nearly suffered a stroke when the Penguins pulled off the greatest robbery in history in getting Ron Francis and Ulf Samuelsson from the Hartford Whalers. However, I live nowhere near Pittsburgh, and I routinely find myself looking for a team to cheer for once the Eastern Conference games are over for the night. Because I have no strong affinity to any Western Conference team, I need help in picking a team to follow this season. That's where you come in.
I have several jerseys from Western Conference teams due to players I like on those teams. However, that doesn't quite seal the deal for me when it comes to following a team all season long. I'll run down a few teams who I will never cheer for, but I want serious reasons to cheer for the team you select.
Here are the teams that are already ruled out:
- Detroit Red Wings: I love their talent, but they are the most dangerous team in the West. I refuse to cheer for Detroit simply due to having four friends in high school who used to think that the Red Wings could do no wrong ever. That experience alone has me off the Red Wings for any considerable period of time.
- Calgary Flames: I have never liked the Flames. Ever. I think Jarome Iginla is an amazing talent, but I hated their black jerseys, I hated Gary Suter, I hated the flaming horse, and I still don't like Olli Jokinen.
- Vancouver Canucks: This is a team with no identity aside from Luongo. I refuse to cheer for the Sedins mainly because they play soft. This is also a team that is still interested in Mats Sundin, and any team that likes to waste money is off the list.
- Los Angeles Kings: Love the youthful talent. Love the rebuilding from the ground up that Lombardi is doing. Love the draft picks made by Lombardi. The one negative might be the lack of playoffs again this spring. With all that youth, it may be tough to crack the Top-8 in the Western Conference.
- Columbus Blue Jackets: Again, another great team that is young and exciting. Sure, they make mistakes and play in one of the toughest divisions in hockey, but the Jackets have speed, scoring, and goaltending to make the playoffs again this season.
- Dallas Stars: Mike Modano is still one of the all-time greats in the NHL. I absolutely loved watching James Neal and Marc Fistric with the Manitoba Moose last year, and both players will fit in nicely with the Stars this season. While Marty Turco killed my fantasy pool last season with his abysmal play, he's still world-class if he's on. But it's a big IF.
- Nashville Predators: I am a huge Shea Weber fan, and loved his work at the World Championships last season. Steve Sullivan has been a favorite player of mine since his time in Toronto. While there is some dislike for the way that Jordan Tootoo plays the game, the rest of the team, in its youthful approach to the game, make the Predators appealing.
- Anaheim Ducks: As soon as they got rid of Pronger, they became a much easier team to like. Getzlaf is a thoroughbred, Perry is a lights-out scoring machine, and Bobby Ryan looks like he's the real deal. While I'll miss Beauchemin on the back-end for the Ducks, this team should be alright for the coming season.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!