The NHL is entering the second half of its 2021-2022 campaign, and as in any other year, the debate regarding which teams are championship contenders rages on.
With that said, let’s talk about potential Stanley Cup champions, but in a very different way. Instead of discussing teams that could win, let’s look at the teams that it would be fun to see win, either this season or in the near future.
Which NHL teams would be the most fun to see win the Cup?
First, let’s make it very clear that this season’s standings have no bearing on these picks. I am well aware that some of these teams have no chance at all to win the Stanley Cup in 2022.
This list is purely comprised of teams that I believe it would be enjoyable to see on top of the NHL world for one reason or another. With that said, here are five teams that it would be fun to see win.
5. Minnesota Wild
What better place to start than the State of Hockey? The Minnesota Wild have seemingly been in contention for the last decade, having qualified for the NHL playoffs in eight of the last nine seasons.
Unfortunately for the Wild, the team has won only two playoff series in that span, both of which were first-round wins. With no real postseason success to show for many strong regular seasons, it feels like it’s about time that Minnesota breaks through.
The Wild have long felt like the little brother in the Western Conference, so seeing this team fulfill its playoff hopes would be refreshing.
4. Montreal Canadiens
No team has won more Stanley Cup titles than the Montreal Canadiens, which is a good reason to keep the Habs off of this list. However, the last time this franchise won a championship was 1993, and while it just reached the Cup Final a year ago, and it has been relevant for several seasons thanks to Carey Price, it doesn’t feel as if I’ve ever seen an elite Montreal team.
The Canadiens are one of those organizations that has a storied history and has a reputation as one of the best all-time franchises. However, that 1993 championship came several years before I was born, so I haven’t had the chance to see the Habs at their best.
I’m not asking for a modern Canadiens dynasty, but it would be fun to see this Original Six, championship-leading team return to top form and resemble its storied past.
3. Buffalo Sabres
Year after year, the Buffalo Sabres disappoint and miss the postseason, and the club is currently mired in the longest playoff drought in franchise history. Buffalo had missed the postseason only 11 times prior to the current draught, which alone is on the verge of reaching 11 consecutive missed trips to the NHL’s tournament.
It’s hard to imagine it, but the Sabres do have some quality seasons in their history, including two Stanley Cup Final appearances and back-to-back Conference Final appearances in 2006 and 2007. That 2007 run is the most recent time this franchise won a playoff series.
Having the Sabres atop the NHL would give hockey fans a fresh title contender to watch, while getting Buffalo out of the league’s basement would be a refreshing departure from the rut they’ve settled into.
2. Colorado Avalanche
I enjoy watching strong teams make quality adjustments and get rewarded for it, and the Colorado Avalanche are exactly that type of team.
A few seasons ago, this group was extremely top-heavy, but over the course of a couple of years, the Avs have become one of the deepest teams in the NHL. They were rewarded in the regular season last year, and they’re dominating again this year, but now it’s time to break through in the playoffs.
Colorado, as currently constructed, has not yet emerged from the second round, so all eyes will be on the Avalanche this spring. I’d hate to see this team have to make a major change as a result of underachievement, so I think it would be great to see Colorado and all its stars show out in an impressive and entertaining playoff run.
1. Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes last won the Stanley Cup in 2006, and after going through a long stretch without postseason success (and really no appearances either), the Canes have enjoyed a recent resurgence.
Now, my hope is that they can capitalize and win it all. Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour has been great for this franchise, and the team as a whole, from its Storm Surges to its “Bunch of Jerks” branding, is hard not to root for.
On a personal level, Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal was a favorite of mine while in Pittsburgh, so seeing him win as a captain in Carolina would be an added bonus.
The Stanley Cup Final is always one of the best moments of the NHL season, and maybe before too long, we’ll see one of these teams on the ice when the Stanley Cup is awarded.