Now that NHL training camps are underway and preseason action is just a couple of days off, it’s a good time to reevaluate which teams are true 2014 Stanley Cup contenders and, more significantly, where value can be found in futures betting. (All odds to win the Stanley Cup are from Bovada)
Chicago Blackhawks (6/1)
The last time the Blackhawks won the Cup, in 2010, they were forced to make a lot of roster changes after the win, and the next two seasons were far from impressive by the team’s standards. This year they were much more prepared for their success and faced only minor changes in the offseason. The core is intact, and much of it was around for the frustration after the last Cup win, so they will have learned from that. This is the deepest team in the league, and they obviously know how to win. I’d prefer a slightly better price, but they are the team to beat.
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Pittsburgh Penguins (7/1)
Last year this team was wildly-frustrating to me. They were my clear choice to win the Cup, but the deals they made at the trade deadline that were supposed to improve the chances instead seemed to destroy chemistry. They have undone much of what didn’t work, and Sidney Crosby has had the entire summer to get healthy. They still have issues — their bottom six forwards aren’t inspiring, and their goaltending failed them in the playoffs. They are the class of their division, though, and are rightly the second choice to win it all.
Boston Bruins (10/1)
I really don’t like this price. The team was solid last year, but I really didn’t like the offseason. Jarome Iginla is well past his prime and was a disruptive force with the Penguins last year. Tyler Seguin may have been an issue off the ice, but they lost a pile of upside when they traded him away. Rich Peverly and Andrew Ference are quiet character guys who will be sorely missed. This team is just not the elite contender that this price suggests. At double this price they could be interesting, but there is no value here.
L.A. Kings (12/1)
Two years ago they won the Cup. Last year they made it all the way to the conference finals. This year they return most of their core, and their two biggest losses — Jonathan Bernier and Rob Scuderi — are far from fatal. I don’t trust Darryl Sutter as a coach — his message typically gets old with teams after a while — but he has a whole lot to work with and a good division to play in. The gap between the Kings and the Blackhawks is significant, but this is the second-best team in the West, and I don’t have a problem with this price. It’s fair.
St. Louis Blues (12/1)
If the Blues can play like they did in 2011-12 or in the last 15 games of last season then they are certainly on the rise. If they start this year like they did last year, though, then it could be a frustrating season. I like the core here, and we have watched them mature and grow together. Injuries were an issue last year, so they have a legitimate excuse. The goaltending can be great if the two can be on the same page, but there were cracks in the platoon late in the season. Still, I like the team and think they are a good outside pick. They’d be even more attractive at 15/1.
Detroit Red Wings (16/1)
The Wings had a great offseason. They stole Daniel Alfredsson from Ottawa and Stephen Weiss from Florida and resisted overpaying for their free agents. They are a better team now than they were, even if their defense and goaltending still aren’t all they could be. Perhaps most significantly, the team moves to the Eastern Conference this year, so they benefit dramatically from improved travel. They are on the second tier of contenders behind the best teams, but they are more than capable of making noise.
Calgary Flames (100/1)
I live close enough to where the Flames are holding their training camp that I can see cars arrive and leave. That proximity breeds enough familiarity with this team that this price makes me laugh uncontrollably. If they were 5,000,000/1, I wouldn’t waste a dollar betting on them, because that would be a third of a good cup of coffee that I was wasting. This team is going to be impossibly bad — for a long time. They are the worst value on the board by a wide margin.
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