Cherry Factors and Raccoon Ratings: The Eastern Conference Playoff Bandwagon Guide
Like a political party in primary season, it is the official editorial policy of III Communication not to endorse or support any Conference III team engaged in a series with another Conference III team. By all means, Chicagoans and Minnesoters, root for the Blackhawks and Wild with impunity, just don’t expect explicit support from us.
We are Serious Journalists, after all, entrusted by the public to be neutral arbiters in the tumult that is Conference III.
Had Winnipeg completed their Jerichoic Aethalstanian Duty and won the Southeast, this post would have no need to exist. We’d all happily be backing the Frigid-Airs as they tore a plane-shaped hole in the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Alas, ’twas not to be and we find ourselves with hockey on TV and no one to cheer for in these weird games that start when the sun is still up and long before Jeopardy! is over.
Using our proprietary formula, we have calculated each team’s Cherry Factor and their Raccoon Rating. The former measures annoying reasons people will give for liking a team; the latter quantifies that special mixture of misfittery and fearsomeness we so cherish.
From eight to one, off we go.
8. New York Islanders
Cherry Factor: People who fell in love with hockey in the 1980s are really enjoying the New York Islanders strange return to the playoffs. And it’s the two worst kinds of 80s nostalgia — it’s people who like Yacht Rock ironically and people who wish everything still sounded like Yacht Rock. It’s not the best kind of 80s nostalgia — the people who like Yacht Rock because “Rich Girl” kicked ass. People who like Underdogs with Good Stories are also backing the Islanders. Also Flyers fans. All of this is only mildly annoying rather than vomit-inducing. Because this kind of stuff is only mildly-quirky, we give it a Cherry Factor of Purple Velvet With An Unnecessarily Striped Shirt.
Raccoon Rating: If you want misfittery, look to Long Island. That 80s nostalgia extends to the Isles uniforms, a Metstric system of orange-and-blue, which was briefly interrupted by the Fishsticks Of Blessed Memory. With an impending move to Brooklyn, there’s some chatter that the Isles switch into some more “Brooklyn” themed unis, which reject that nostalgia in the most nihilistic way imaginable, thus pulling off the rare feat of replacing misfittery with misfittery that people hate even more. Being a team that shares a “city” if only in the broadest sense with an Original Six team, while playing in a faraway suburb with games broadcast on a college radio station, is some next-level stuff by the Isles and we almost wish they were moving to KC instead of BK so we could claim them. Charles Wang is either an ass or an idiot or both depending on who you talk to, but this team made the playoffs in spite of that. Win the whole effin’ thing, indeed. We give the Islanders a Raccoon Rating of Holy Crap That’s A Lot of Raccoons.
7. Ottawa Senators
Cherry Factor: This is a Canadian team sporting the nearly-universally beloved Daniel Alfredsson and the great, but somehow still overrated Erik Karlsson. The Ottawa beat reporters are some of the most homerific bloviators in the history of hockey media and that’s setting a high bar. We suspect that much of the Hockey Establishment eyes Ottawa with suspicion given that the team wasn’t founded in the time of Henry Hudson (we’d ask the Hockey Establishment, but they don’t talk to us). In any case, all things being equal, they will get love precisely because they play in Canada’s capital (or at least within 50 miles of it). The linking of this vintage of the Sens to the Silver Seven dynasties is weird — like the de-linking of the Jets from the Thrashers history, but in reverse — but Ottawa seems like a place that needs to cling to something. Again, just mildly annoying because it’s a simplistic decision. They earn a Cherry Factor of Understated National Holiday Suit.
Raccoon Rating: It’s hard to be much of a misfit north of the St. Lawrence, but Ottawa still manages. Perpetually the RC Cola of Eastern Canadian NHL teams, they are seen as, at worst, mild annoying by their countrymen in Montreal and Toronto. Honest fact, when pressed to name all 30 NHL teams, Ottawa is the one I’m most likely to forget. Their fans get really angry about this, by the way. And then they start talking about the Silver Seven. Or why Erik Karlsson really did deserve that Norris Trophy. On the other hand, Ottawa became Canada’s capital because the people weren’t likely to burn things. That’s not very Conference III-ish. Their Raccoon Rating is Four Raccoons.
Cherry Factor: Original Six team playing in a legendary venue in the largest city in the league with Those Kind of Players like Rick Nash and Certified Nice Guys like Henrik Lundqvist and a Great Captain in Ryan Callahan with a coach who can Get The Best Out Of His Team When It Counts like (former Nashville SouthStar) John Torterella. God, I’m annoyed already. Their Cherry Factor is Are Those Carnations?
Raccoon Rating: Torts rubs folks the wrong way, but that hardly overcomes the pretense and arrogance that comes from the Original Six/MSG/Giant Coastal City factor. PS — even after the renovation, MSG is a dump so gross even nature’s trashmen stay away — it only earns a Raccoon Rating of One Baby Raccoon.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs.
Cherry Factor: Sky flipping high. The Cherriest Team of All. The entitlement of the Original Six coupled with the arrogance of a big city plus the incessant navel-gazing. Jeez pete. Cherry Factor of Don Cherry In A Lavender Suit With Klingon-Weapon Cufflinks Smooching Kadri.
Raccoon Rating: There is a certain level of misfittery when a team makes the playoffs after a long time out of them and we also love a team that rides favorable percentages to success. We wish people would enjoy the favorable percentages instead of worrying about them, but fans of a team that’s gone as long as the Leafs without a Cup have earned the right to be terrified about everything. We also like the punkishness of much of the Leafs blogosphere — at least the ones we like — and how that offers a wonderful counterbalance to the Leafs media, which manages to have thoughts simultaneously overwrought and half-formed. So the Leafs, while managing a significant Cherry Factor, also get a solid Raccoon Rating of Three Raccoons On A Dog’s T-Shirt.
4. Boston Bruins.
Cherry Factor: Since the man himself actually coached for the Bruins, the Cherry Factor is going to be quite high here. Boston is also a big coastal city with an Original Six team and is owned by the lockout-fueling Jeremy Jacobs, the very picture of the Hockey Establishment. Their Cherry Factor Is Don Cherry Couldn’t Be Wearing A More Bruins Suit Unless It Was Made Out of An Actual Bear.
Raccoon Rating: Tyler Seguin actually lives like a raccoon, but that’s the only points they get. Raccoon Rating is One Raccoon In A Trash Bag.
3. Washington Capitals
You kept the Jets out of the playoffs and are thus not worthy of rating. You are so beyond awful that we will be forced to cheer for the Rangers. Here’s a song about them. I hope it haunts your spinning, scared-to-death-of-Conference-III dreams, Marty Erat.
2. Montreal Canadiens
Cherry Factor: My French isn’t very good, which is fantastic because I am excused from understanding what the translation is for this exhaustive and exhausting list of Gallic nicknames: Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge, La Sainte-Flanelle,Le Tricolore, Les Glorieux, Nos Glorieux, Le Grand Club. I just assume they mean “We are Better Than You,” “Why Do We Ever Have To Go South Of Connecticut To Play Hockey,” “We Just Get Automatic Berths In The Stanley Cup Final, Right?” “Our Logo Looks Like An Actual Toilet Seat And No One Calls Us Out On It,” “How Many Cups Have You Won? It’s Fewer Than We Have, You Know” and “Backstopping Corruption.” Canadian, Original Six and French? I know ol’ Don himself isn’t a big fan of the pure laine and the pur et dur; nonetheless: Cherry Factor of Don Cherry Still Owns A Habs Necktie.
Raccoon Rating: Bonus points for stubbornly sticking with French. Louisiana is in Conference III country and Missouri had its own brand of French too. But that’s where your misfittery ends. Raccoon Rating of Raccoon In A Beret On A Bastille Day Greeting Card.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
Cherry Factor: Everybody loves the Pens. Can’t get enough of ’em. They made a bunch of Smart Moves at the trade deadline and will give Canadian Hero Jarome Iginla a Great Chance to win a Cup to Secure His Legacy. If Sidney Crosby can come back and lead the Pens to glory, he will probably win the Hart, Conn Smythe, Masterton and the by-election in his home riding of Dartmouth-Cole Harbour. Cherry Factor of That Looks Like My Great Aunt Myrtle’s Sofa.
Raccoon Rating: There’s almost nothing misfitty about these Pens. They are about as misfitty as a steam engine. They are efficient and talented and all but destined to run through the East. Raccoon Rating of Rocket Raccoon.