The playoffs are nearly right here, and whereas we’re nonetheless ready on a few matchups, we all know the 16 teams. If you root for one among them, you’re not studying this as a result of you’re curled up in a little bit ball, twitching and sweating and attempting not to puke. Playoffs, child!

That leaves the remainder of you, the followers of the 16 teams that spent the season being huge losers strategically retooling for a brighter future. You’ve acquired to determine who to root for over the coming weeks and months. You could skip that half solely, after all, and simply get pleasure from the playoffs as a impartial observer. You could hate-watch your staff’s rivals. Or you could choose and select, dropping out and in of whichever sequence appears to be like good and cheering on whoever appears like the proper alternative in the second.

These are all legitimate choices. However there’s one other, and it’s a considerably controversial one: You could choose a bandwagon staff to journey with all spring. It’s good observe for the actual factor, after all, giving you a style of the ups and downs of following one staff for so long as it will probably final. And when your staff will get knocked out, you can really feel dangerous for 10 minutes earlier than shrugging and transferring on to another person.

If you’re contemplating a bandwagon staff, I’ve acquired you lined. Right here’s my annual take a look at all 16 playoff teams, ranked from the worst bandwagon choices to the perfect.

Why you ought to get on board: You’re a contrarian.

Why you shouldn’t: I’ve been doing these lists lengthy sufficient that “Don’t root for the defending champs” has nearly develop into a trope. It’s basic front-running, after all, and the rarity of repeat champions in the cap period means that it’s additionally normally futile. So yeah, usually, don’t root for the defending champ.

However these specific champs? Come on. Everybody hates the Golden Knights, the too-much-too-soon growth staff that received’t cease buying and selling for All-Stars and skipped to the entrance of the line, partly by dishonest the wage cap.

Backside line: The Knights have been at all times a enjoyable choose for a selected kind of bandwagon fan again once they have been the new guys nonetheless attempting to defy custom and buck the odds. However now that they’ve received, this can be the best rating in the historical past of this column.

Why you ought to get on board: It’s at all times enjoyable to choose a wild card that goes on a run, and the Lightning seem like an inexpensive wager to do exactly that. And the narrative of the former champs attempting to get again to the high of the mountain yet another time earlier than it all crumbles is one you could get behind.

Why you shouldn’t: Actually, what’s the best-case situation right here? The Lightning pull off an upset or two, perhaps even go all the method to the last, and … congratulations, you’re bandwagoning a staff that’s already been there 3 times in 4 years. It’s all the threat of choosing a wild-card staff, with none of the enjoyable underdog vibes.

Backside line: There’s additionally the Nikita Kucherov issue, which is able to assist or damage relying on how a lot you like the thought of an MVP-level wizard who may come throughout as form of a jerk generally.

Why you ought to get on board: They’re a possible underdog, one that everybody appears to be forgetting about however that’s been constructing to this for years now. It’s not unparalleled for teams like the Kings to emerge as contenders, and once they do everybody else is normally only a bit too late to determine what they’re watching. You could be the one who already had their seat on the bandwagon.

Why you shouldn’t: The Kings peaked early, acquired some consideration after which pale in the second half earlier than ending robust, so that they match the profile of a staff that in all probability deserves extra respect than they’re getting. However that doesn’t imply they’re not underdogs, and driving with them in a first-round matchup in opposition to a high-flying staff in Dallas or Edmonton will not be your thought of enjoyable.

Backside line: Talking of not all that enjoyable, there’s additionally this entire factor. The Kings are going to rank excessive on this listing some yr quickly, however that yr just isn’t this one.

Why you ought to get on board: One in all the longest-suffering fan bases in the league is again in the playoffs but once more, this time with a loopy new coach to go along with their crusty outdated GM. No one is choosing them to win something and their followers understand it, so if you like a great “us against the world” story then you could have discovered your non permanent house.

Why you shouldn’t: We received’t get away the dreaded “b” word, however we are going to level out that no playoff staff apart from Washington scores lower than the Islanders, and their ticket to a future in all probability includes driving their goaltending to a bunch of low-scoring wins. Selecting this staff to bandwagon would really feel just a bit like having a cheat day in your eating regimen and selecting to spend it at the salad bar.

Backside line: In the event that they beat the Hurricanes and go on to play the Rangers in Spherical 2, you have to get a Denis Potvin jersey. Simply hold that in thoughts.

Why you ought to get on board: They’re an excellent staff with loads of star gamers, together with the seemingly MVP. And after final yr’s first-round catastrophe in opposition to the Kraken, they need to be motivated.

Why you shouldn’t: Shaky goaltending has led to a tricky last stretch, which means they’ll begin the playoffs on the street in opposition to an excellent Jets staff in a sequence that’s mainly a coin flip. And since they received it all in 2022, you don’t even get any underdog factors for choosing them.

Backside line: For sheer enjoyable issue, this roster is fairly stacked. However it’s a little bit of a front-runner choose mixed with a tricky first matchup.

Why you ought to get on board: They have been the high choose for the 2022 listing, and an terrible lot of what we mentioned again then nonetheless holds. They’re a enjoyable staff, they’ve by no means received a Cup, and their followers have had to cope with limitless negativity over the previous few many years. Heck, they’d in all probability even welcome some bandwagon love. Oh, and so they’re actually good, having adopted up a 2022 Presidents’ Trophy with a run to final yr’s last.

Why you shouldn’t: Just a few weeks in the past I attempted to promote you on the Panthers as the NHL’s new staff you love to hate, with blended success. However yeah, between Matthew Tkachuk, Nick Cousins, Sam Bennett and others, you’re going to see them do one thing nasty over the subsequent few weeks that you’ll have to fake to defend.

Backside line: They’re additionally enjoying the Lightning, the huge brother that’s been kicking sand of their face for years. These guys can’t even villain accurately.

10. New York Rangers

Why you ought to get on board: They’re the greatest staff in the league, at the least in accordance to their common season document, and a roster stacked with expertise seems to agree. However with just one Stanley Cup to present for the final 84 years, you’re hardly chasing after latest success right here. If you’re trying for a bandwagon, you could do so much worse than a giant market with an excellent goalie and plenty of star energy that can get a ton of protection.

Why you shouldn’t: The Rangers have been an interesting staff to watch this yr, with at the least some statistical proof exhibiting that they will not be nearly as good as their document suggests they’re, particularly at the even power that makes up most of how essential playoff video games are performed. Then once more, we’ve been having that argument for years, and so they simply hold successful.

Backside line: Hey, do you really feel like the first-place staff in the league’s greatest U.S. market nonetheless in some way doesn’t get sufficient consideration? Guess what: You do now, so don’t assume too arduous about it.

Why you ought to get on board: We are saying it yearly, but it surely stays true — if you can get previous the incontrovertible fact that it’s the Leafs, you’ve acquired a great staff with numerous thrilling offensive gamers, attempting to snap a historic drought for one among the sports activities world’s most loyal fan bases. Keep in mind how a lot enjoyable it was when the Chicago Cubs lastly received the World Collection? It will be form of like that.

Why you shouldn’t: You may’t get previous the incontrovertible fact that it’s the Leafs. (Or you can, however you don’t see a path out of the Atlantic for a staff with shaky goaltending and a historical past of postseason failure, which works too.)

Backside line: There are three kinds of hockey followers: Unbearable Leafs followers, unbearable followers of different teams whose brains have been damaged by the Leafs and followers who can’t perceive what the huge deal is. Solely that third group is eligible right here, but when that’s you, there are worse selections. But additionally higher ones.

Why you ought to get on board: They’re arguably the league’s greatest second-half story, in some way turning a canceled staff outing to a live performance right into a playoff push that simply by no means stopped. They’ll be underdogs in each sequence, however have one among the league’s greatest goalies so that they’ll at all times have a puncher’s probability. They employed a GM with no front-office expertise and let him make a bunch of bizarre strikes, and I believe we are able to all agree this copycat league could be extra enjoyable if different teams had to observe that technique.

And bear in mind, they made their solely last look in 2017 as a wild-card staff, so there’s a recent-ish precedent right here.

Why you shouldn’t: The U2 factor is cool now, however test again in the convention last if the Predators are nonetheless round and you’re listening to about it for the four-hundredth time.

Backside line: For the document, if you select the Predators and so they make the last, you just about have to take a roadie to Nashville.

Why you ought to get on board: They’re a superb staff that’s a yr faraway from a record-breaking season and didn’t take a lot of a step again this yr regardless of dropping their beloved franchise participant to retirement. Since final yr ended with a stunning first-round loss, they nonetheless have a lot to show and don’t really feel like an apparent front-runner choose. And whereas they’re an Unique Six staff with all the over-the-top pomp and circumstance that includes, they’ve received one Cup since 1972.

Additionally, David Pastrnak wears bizarre garments to the recreation generally, if that’s your factor.

Why you shouldn’t: Brad Marchand. The Jack Edwards farewell tour, which his followers will love however your mileage could range. Pat Maroon hogging all the Stanley Cups and by no means letting anybody else have a flip.

Backside line: Look, I’m a bitter outdated man with a coronary heart of stone, and even I like the goalie hugs. With Linus Ullmark in all probability getting traded in the summer season, wouldn’t you love to see one final hug as the Cup is being handed round?

(Examine again after the first few video games of the Leafs sequence for my column on why goalie hugs ought to be banned.)

6. Washington Capitals

Why you ought to get on board: You want underdogs? You don’t get a much bigger underdog than this, at the least in the parity period. The Capitals have been supposed to be rebuilding, with nearly no person choosing them as a playoff staff heading into the season, and even heading into April. You solely bothered to be taught their goalie’s identify two weeks in the past. They earned the final wild-card spot on their season’s last night time, regardless of dropping extra video games than they received and posting the worst targets differential on any postseason staff since 1991. Their reward for all that shall be a matchup with the Rangers, in a sequence no person will assume they will win. MoneyPuck has them with 0 percent Cup odds, which I’m undecided I’ve ever seen earlier than. If you imagine in no guts no glory, that is your staff. Do it. Do it!

Why you shouldn’t: They’re not good.

Backside line: Oh quiet down, Capitals followers, you understand it’s true. And it doesn’t matter as a result of all the common season is for is getting in. They’re in. Now something can occur, and that’s the great thing about it. DO IT!

(You may choose a brand new staff once they’re out by subsequent weekend, it’s high quality.)

Why you ought to get on board: They have been my high choose final yr, and never a lot has modified since. If something, the Zach Hyman story would possibly make them much more likable. Apart from that, return and skim final yr’s piece, all the arguments just about nonetheless apply.

Why you shouldn’t: They added Corey Perry to a staff that already consists of Evander Kane, so that they’re clearly in “anything goes as long as we win” mode. That’s not essentially a nasty place to be if you’re a die-hard fan, but it surely would possibly give bandwagoners some pause.

Backside line: You deserve a little bit little bit of cheering for Connor McDavid as an alternative of being scared of him, as a deal with.

Why you ought to get on board: They’ve spent all yr as one among the greatest teams in the league, however no person exterior of Vancouver appears to truly assume they’re good, which means you get the uncommon alternative to bandwagon a high contender whereas additionally enjoying the “nobody believes in us” card. Past that, the Canucks are only a flat-out enjoyable staff, with all types of firepower and a few fascinating characters. And at 54 years and counting and not using a Cup, it’s truthful to say they’re due.

Why you shouldn’t: Canucks followers have been ready eternally for a Cup, and so they’ve been by way of some authentic heartbreak alongside the method, so in the event that they ever do get there, they might not take kindly to any bandwagon followers attempting to crowd in on their glory. That’s cheap, and a part of being a great bandwagon fan is figuring out your house, however hold it in thoughts.

Backside line: Wait, 54 years and not using a Cup? Didn’t another staff have a well-known drought like that, one which ended in opposition to … the Canucks? That staff could even be the favourite to be ready for the Canucks in the last. This appears like destiny lining up, proper? Oh man, I believe I simply spoiled this yr’s playoffs, sorry everybody …

3. Carolina Hurricanes

Why you ought to get on board: As a result of the high of those rankings is absolutely Western Convention heavy, and let’s be sincere, no person actually desires to keep up that late.

Oh, and in addition the Hurricanes are an excellent staff, fairly presumably the greatest in the convention. They’ve enjoyable gamers, are well-coached and have a forward-thinking entrance workplace. In addition they have one among the greatest Outdated Man With out A Cup tales of the yr in Brent Burns, and an inspiring comeback from Frederik Andersen.

Why you shouldn’t: Sooner or later, Rod Brind’Amour goes to say one thing that’s going to make you really feel dangerous about your exercise habits.

Backside line: Additionally, a Hurricanes championship would make Montreal followers mad, which is a plus.

2. Winnipeg Jets

Why you ought to get on board: One yr in the past, we all figured they have been completed for, an inevitable rebuild beginning years too late. Right now, they’re ending off a implausible season, they’ve the presumptive Vezina winner in internet, they have been aggressive at the deadline and their coach is the final OGWAC. They usually’re doing it all in entrance of one among the greatest fan bases in the league, one which has a super-cool playoff tradition however has by no means seen their Jets get previous the third spherical, and oh yeah, had no staff at all for 16 lengthy years.

Additionally, and Jets followers won’t like me mentioning this but it surely has to be mentioned: All of your favourite gamers have the Jets on their no-trade listing. That implies that the Jets are constructing a contender with one hand tied behind their again. A deep run could be further spectacular below these circumstances, and it may additionally change just a few minds.

Why you shouldn’t: They in all probability have to undergo Colorado and Dallas to get out of the Central, which is kind of presumably the ugliest playoff path that any staff in the league is dealing with. There’s an excellent probability this ends each badly and shortly.

Backside line: Oh, and the franchise itself is in peril. However don’t let that guilt you into something, go forward and cheer for them to lose their staff once more, it’s not prefer it makes you a nasty particular person.

1. Dallas Stars

Why you ought to get on board: They’re an extremely expert and entertaining staff, they’ve an excellent shot at successful the Stanley Cup, they haven’t received this century so it’s not fairly a front-runner choose, and Joe Pavelski could also be the single greatest OGWAC story in the league. Combine in alternate-OGWAC Ryan Suter, plus Matt Duchene’s comeback season, plus Mason Marchment attempting to win the Cup that eluded his late father, plus not one however two enjoyable rookie tales, and the Stars are nearly the good bandwagon choose.

Why you shouldn’t: They’ve been recognized to cheat to win the Stanley Cup, or so it has been defined to me. Additionally, they have been my choose to win each in October and earlier this week, so in the event that they do then I’ll be much more unbearable than standard.

Backside line: The Stars have a lot going for them that it’s nearly annoying, which I suppose could even be a motive to activate them. However there’s no motive to overthink this one — in a league with a handful of very strong choices, the Stars are the better of the bunch.

(Picture of Mark Stone and Connor McDavid: Ethan Miller / Getty Photographs)