Villains are a given in the sports world. While coining a franchise with the phrase villain is a negative, it is also a positive to have because no matter who you are or who you cheer for you always love to watch the villain fall.
That is of course unless you’re a fan of said “villain” team.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are on the verge of becoming the NHL’s biggest villain since the “modern dynasty” Chicago Blackhawks and back to back champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Much like the Lightning, many NHL fans hated how the Hawks used the NHL’s loophole to circumvent the salary cap and remain a Cup contender year in and year out. Tampa now finds themselves exactly in those crosshairs after having Nikita Kucherov on the shelf all season long before activating him for the postseason where we’ve seen him register 30 points in back to back postseasons joining Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux as the only others to do so. Tampa would face a lot less backlash from fans if their current cap number wasn’t at $86.5M.
However, I will say that having Tampa on the verge winning their second Cup in a row, and third in the franchises history, is absolutely phenomenal for the NHL. Not because the league claims to have the most parity out of any sport but because it would set Tampa up to be one of the most hated franchises in the NHL. Sports are remarkably better and more fun when there’s one team that all fans could come together and cheer for one team to lose. Look no further than the NFL where NFL fans for years hated the New England Patriots and waited for the day where the Pats would no longer be the kings of the mountain. Same can be said for MLB where fans still root against the New York Yankees and rejoice whenever they fall flat on their face. Add the dislike many fans had in the past for the franchise in past cup run failures, the arena fiascos for opposing fans, the salary cap loophole and now a second cup in as many years, the Lightning are cruising to the top of the villain chain.
NHL fans for years used to love watching the Penguins and Blackhawks fail miserably because unless you’re a fan of those teams you can’t stand to see them successful. If and when the Lightning close out the Canadiens, the NHL could be looking at the beginning of an even deadlier dynasty than the recent Blackhawks teams. Tampa’s best and core players are still in the primes of their career and Tampa has shown how great they are at drafting as well as plugging and playing players into their lineup when they lose someone. Let’s just remember that Batman wouldn’t have been the same without the Joker and the NHL needs Tampa to become the Joker so fans can cheer for the Dark Knight to come along and knock them off their perch.Embed from Getty Images