July 14, 2011
Would it surprise you to learn that it's difficult committing your heart and soul to rooting on the Phoenix Coyotes?
Of course not, which is why the bottom of The Business Journals' Fan Difficulty Rankings for the NHL isn't all that intriguing: It's a combination of teams with fan apathy (Phoenix) or terrible fortunes (Islanders) or humbling Cup droughts (Leafs, Blues, Kings.)
More interesting, at least for us: Who has it easy, according to their methodology? Which fan bases have the least difficulty in following their teams like a cult until the inevitable bitter end each season (at least for 29 fan bases)?
Who do you believe are the easiest and more difficult teams to be a fan of in the NHL?
The methodology of this study, via The Business Journals, was based on a 50/50 formula:
Ten-season record: Half of each team's score was tied to its performance during the past 10 seasons. A team was awarded 10 points for each overall championship over that span, as well as six points for each losing appearance in the title game, three points for being eliminated in the semifinals of the playoffs, and one point for being eliminated in the quarterfinals.
Eight teams, as a result, divided a total of 26 points in each of a sport's 10 seasons. The total 10-year scores for all teams were then converted to a standard deviation scale.
Landmarks: The other 50 percent of each team's score was based on the number of seasons that have elapsed since the team last reached three key landmarks:
Its most recent overall championship
Its most recent appearance in the title game, whether winning or losing
Its most recent appearance in the quarterfinals of the playoffs, whether winning or losing
If a team has not reached a given landmark in its history, the figure inserted in the appropriate category was the number of years the franchise has existed.
Each team's 10-year totals in the three categories were converted to standard deviation scales.
There are also bonus points and additional context, but you get the gist. And now you get the Top 10:
So the essential first question about this study is: Are the Anaheim Ducks an easier team to follow than 27 other NHL franchises?
Of course not, which is why this methodology lets the study down on a few of these choices.
It's gotten progressively more difficult for Ducks fans to root for this team, as the championship glow faded and Scott Niedermayer(notes) retired. The desire to have Teemu Selanne(notes) play until he's 70 is partly based on genuine affection for his game but also a desperate grab at nostalgia.
There's a lot to love about the Ducks — the list's justification is here — but the notion that they're second to the Wings and Penguins as far as the scarcity of fan anxiety and frustration is nuts. Unless there's just utter complacency amongst Ducks fans, which we'll get to in a moment.
We'll also attack the methodology on the New Jersey Devils being ranked as the No. 5 easiest team to root for, because that also weighs the past equal to the present when the present completely undercuts the past. (Sorry to get all temporal paradox on you there.)
First, it's never been easy to be a Devils fan — and I'm speaking from experience, obviously — because they've had an allergy to offense for decades and their public relations engagement was about as warm as that of the Internal Revenue Service. Not to mention they're treated like an afterthought in their own market.
But in 2011, this team is damn hard to root for. Gone are Stevens and Niedermayer and Rafalski and Daneyko and nearly every other connection to the last Cup team outside of Patrik Elias(notes) and Marty Brodeur. Gone are appearances in the finals, and last season in the playoffs. Gone are parking lot tailgate celebrations.
In their place: a Russian signed for 15 years that polarized the fan base, and a patchwork of veteran players that Devils fans don't feel nearly as connected to as they did the players on their championship teams.
Those two odd choices aside, there's no question that the Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning (despite a few years in the weeds), Colorado Avalanche (ditto, although the tide's turning because of mismanagement) and Philadelphia Flyers are easy for the locals to cheer for.
The unexpected and inspired choice: The Carolina Hurricanes, no doubt bolstered by their Stanley Cup and Finals appearance. Having spent some time with Hurricanes fans, there's a deep affection for this team and its players that's been intensified by SkinnerMania.
Maybe it comes back to expectations. Are Hurricanes and Ducks fans, to defend this list for a moment, content with occasional flashes of championship hockey inter-cut with years outside of the playoffs?
Is that why Washington Capitals fans are the ninth most-frustrated in the NHL — because they've contended for several years in the postseason and never made anything of it? Despite the obvious fan passion for the team locally?
We have some problems with its methodology, but it's an interesting list. From most difficult to cheer for to the easiest:
1 Phoenix Coyotes
2 New York Islanders
3 St. Louis Blues
4 Toronto Maple Leafs
5 Los Angeles Kings
6 Florida Panthers
7 Winnipeg Jets
8 Columbus Blue Jackets
9 Washington Capitals
10 New York Rangers
11 Minnesota Wild
12 Buffalo Sabres
13 Nashville Predators
14 Calgary Flames
15 Edmonton Oilers
16 Montreal Canadiens
17 Dallas Stars
18 Vancouver Canucks
19 Ottawa Senators
20 San Jose Sharks
21 Philadelphia Flyers
22 Colorado Avalanche
23 Tampa Bay Lightning
24 Boston Bruins
25 Chicago Blackhawks
26 New Jersey Devils
27 Carolina Hurricanes
28 Anaheim Ducks
29 Pittsburgh Penguins
30 Detroit Red Wings
Which ones stand out for you?
s/t to Rockjetty for the link.