Sometimes, you can’t root for any conference rival. I get that. So, you gotta go with a Western team that doesn’t have the same sort of rivalries. Which teams can you root for and which teams do you not want to see advance far in the playoffs?
Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas took the NHL by storm in their first season and went all the way to the Cup finals before falling to Pittsburgh. Since then, they have been a dominate team in the Western Conference.
I know it is cheesy, but I love the pageantry of the Knights. I love the pregame shows, the drummers, etc. It makes it a lot of fun. It’s hard not to get sucked into it all.
The whole atmosphere surrounding this team is a lot of fun. There is a grittiness to them that doesn’t give up. They are tough and solid. That makes them worth watching and rooting for.
When the NHL expanded in the late 90s, early 00s, it took a while for Minnesota to get rolling. They have some decent years with some decent players, but they never could put it all together. That has changed.
They will not go very far, but when you look at some of the other teams in the West, there are other teams that would be harder to cheer on. They will probably not make it past the first round…and if they do, won’t make it past round two. Still, you can always root for the underdog.
They also have Marc-Andre Fleury. So, you can root against him because he is a former Penguin or root for him to take the Wild deep as he once did for Vegas.
Much like Boston, you know the NHL would LOVE to have the Oilers in the Stanley Cup finals. They last won it in 1991 when Mark Messier delivered Edmonton one final championship after Wayne Gretzky was traded.
Edmonton has the greatest hockey player on the planet in Connor McDavid. He puts up numbers that haven’t been since the early 90s. He seems like the second coming of Gretzky with Leon Draisaitl his Messier. It would be great for hockey to have Edmonton go to the finals.
And yet the Oilers are the Western Conference’s version of Toronto. They can’t seem to get out of their own way and stumble around in the playoffs. For many years, if they made the playoffs, they pretty much bottomed out in the first round. Last year, they cruised through the playoffs until they got swept by eventual the Stanley Cup winners, the Colorado Avalanche. Maybe this is their year. We’ll see.
They got cool uniforms. They have an ability to bounce back after losing several star players over the last few years. They outlasted Calgary to get that last playoff spot.
They are a good defensive minded team. But they lack the offensive punch needed to sustain a deep playoff run. There is little chance they will get past Vegas. But again, if you are looking for an underdog, they don’t get much more underdoggy than this.
They have some of the best non-Flyers jerseys in the NHL. They reached the playoffs in their second season. Their head coach is former Flyers coach Dave Hakstol who has put together a winning team with a bunch of castoffs, including former Flyers goaltender Martin Jones.
This team is just average in most stat categories. However, they are third overall in goals scored. They have six players with more than 20 goals. So, it isn’t one player who is great, like McDavid carrying this team. It’s the whole team effort. Kind of makes you wonder what would’ve happend had Hakstol been allowed to coach the Flyers like this.
The only thing about them….I can’t stomach the fact that a second year team is in the playoffs and the Flyers are not.
Los Angeles Kings
LA said goodbye to longtime hero Jonathan Quick, who was then traded to Vegas by CBJ. They still have longtime vet Anze Kopitar. The Kings also have former Flyer Zack MacEwen, who was acquired at the trade deadline.
The Kings biggest strength is their power play as they ranked third in the league. After that, they are pretty much an average team straight on through. They have enough players to make it exciting, but they are probably not going to go very deep.
Last year’s Stanley Cup winners went on a surprise run late last year and topped Tampa Bay to bring the Cup back to Denver. It was also really funny to see former Flyer Nicolas Aube-Kubel drop the Cup last year.
Maybe that’s why they released him.
The Avs struggled early on, but put it back together for a strong season. This is not the same team as as won it all last year. Nathan McKinnon is still one of the most dangerous players in the league. As long as he is on the ice, Colorado has a chance for a deep run.
Not all teams from Dallas are evil….just the football ones. But if I’m looking at a Western Conference team to root for, it’s not going to be this one.
The Stars are one of the most complete teams in the NHL, being good on offense and defense. I know the Dallas fans would love to see Jamie Benn finally hoist the Cup. He’s been long touted as one of the future top players in the league. It just hasn’t quite worked out that way. But with him and grizzled veteran Joe Pavelski, they do have a solid team. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Stars in the Conference Finals.