In the anxious moments that mark the time between the end of the regular season and the first game of the playoffs, nervous fans desperately search for new and compelling evidence that their team will prevail. Until the games are played, we are left speculating, and speculation is the most nervous of bedfellows.
So, like all good fans, I have been reading everything I can to try to add factual justification to my fanatic optimism. Sure, I have read about how the Ducks combination of youthful exuberance and veteran leadership will provide an edge in these Stanley Cup Playoffs, and most particularly in the matchup with the Predators. I won’t talk about hot goaltenders, defense versus offense, personnel matchups or even coaching. Instead, I would like to focus on the sentimental argument.
It seems to me, looking at the last several Stanley Cup Champions, that to win the Cup, you must have a story that tugs at the heartstrings. Certainly, this does not guarantee your team will be hoisting the Cup, but it seems nearly impossible to win without it. You may be thinking that this is just convenient coincidence or anecdotal hyperbole.
Yet, there is more to it. In the playoffs, will beats skill, and if there is a source that can give a team extra motivation, cause them to dig deeper, and squeeze a little more energy out of themselves, then it may provide the edge needed to get over the hump. This idea percolated several years ago, when Versus showed a commercial highlighting Doug Weight hoisting the Cup, despite a separated shoulder. I realized at that time how important it was to have a sentimental favorite, and that realization has only been reinforced since.
In 2007, it was Teemu. Sure, Scotty desperately wanted to hand the Cup to his brother, after almost singlehandedly denying him the thrill in 2003. But, that Ducks team wanted to ensure that Teemu would not retire with the moniker, "best player to have never won a Cup." In 2006, the Carolina Hurricanes won it for Doug Weight. Although he had won a Cup with the Devils, Bill Guerin provided that spark to the Penguins.
You might argue that Marian Hossa played that role for the Blackhawks last year, but he had tried with two other teams before, and nature abhors a mercenary. No, I think the city of Chicago and the Blackhawks franchise was the heartstring story for last year’s Cup winner. Last year was about Tony Amonte, Jeremy Roenick, and all those who had toiled trying to restore glory to a once proud and glorious franchise.
So, why do I think the Ducks have a greater chance to go far this year?
Saku Koivu, one of the most beloved leaders in hockey, will be the heart of this Ducks team. You can bet that Getzlaf, Perry, and most of all, Selanne, will be looking across that locker room and saying, "let’s get one for Saku."
I look at the Predators roster, and I just can’t imagine Cory Stillman or Sergei Samsonov (who has traveled around this league so much, he should change his name to Samsonite) will provide that same sentimental push. The Predators have the edge in defense and goaltending. Coaching is a wash (depending on who you talk to). The Ducks have the edge in offense and experience. The difference, however, is that the Ducks also have the sentimental edge.
How sweet would it be to see Teemu hand Koivu that trophy? What a commercial that would make!