NHL Trade Deadline Predictions And Analysis
by Trevor Whenham - 2/21/2011
If you are an American hockey fan and have never watched or followed Canadian coverage of the NHL trade deadline then you really need to. It’s a spectacle. We take this day really seriously up here - thing NFL draft day in the States. There is wall-to-wall coverage all day, and six million people dissect every move. It’s all frankly ridiculous, but also kind of fun. Beyond being a spectacle, though, the NHL trade deadline - which is typically by far the busiest of any trade deadline in major sports - can be very helpful for bettors because of the insights it offers.
Here are five questions that can be helpful for bettors to pay attention to on deadline day:
Who are the buyers and sellers?
You can learn a lot about what teams think of themselves by what they do on the trade deadline. A strong team that adds players aggressively knows that they need an extra piece or two to go deep, and they are focused on doing so. If that strong team was inactive, though, then they probably feel confident with what they have and could be particularly dangerous because their talent is matched by their chemistry. In the rare case that a strong team is a seller you know that they don’t feel as strongly about the team on the inside as people do on the outside. The opposite is true if the team doesn’t seem particularly strong - if they are buyers then they clearly think they can contend and if they sell players for future assets then they have essentially moved their focus to future seasons. Whatever the case is, an insight into the thoughts of management can provide a solid clue to the direction of the team down the stretch.
How aggressive is a team going to be?
When a team is in position to make the playoffs and potentially contend when they get there then their aggressiveness can provide a valuable clue into mindset. If they do nothing then, as we said before, they are probably confident and focused. If they make tweaks - shuffling role players around, or adding depth - then they are probably confident with the core of their team and are just looking to improve and strengthen their overall position. That can make them dangerous. A contending team that makes a bold move - adding a first line scorer, a top pairing defenseman or a starting goalie - are harder to figure out. On one hand the move shows that they are determined to improve, and they are willing to pay a high price to do so because they think they are competitive. That’s obviously a good thing. The problem, though, is that these big moves fail to produce results as often as they are successful and they are almost never as successful as they have the potential to be.
Which players could be unsettled?
Players absolutely hate being on the trading block. A veteran who is talked about as a trade target leading into the deadline is rarely going to be happy about it. Especially if the team doesn’t offer any denials of the rumors. The only thing worse that being the subject of trade rumors for a long time is to be the subject of trade rumors and then not to be traded. That’s a recipe for a disgruntled player, and a disgruntled player can be a disaster on a fragile hockey team. Players heading towards free agency who play for a bad team and were probably hoping to be traded to a contender likely aren’t going to be playing at full throttle after the deadline if they stay in the same place.
What teams should be active but aren’t or won’t be?
It’s not hard to break the league down into teams that should be adding players, those that are likely to stand pat, and those that will be looking to trade current assets for future ones. What should stand out, then, is a team that needed to be active and wasn’t - leaving them likely short of the tools they need to be dangerous in the playoffs. If you can see that a team probably should have been active then you can be sure that the players can see the same thing, and that they aren’t likely to be happy about it. A team that should have made moves but didn’t will almost certainly provide several instances of strong value betting against them down the stretch.
What’s the public thinking?
Local papers in strong hockey markets will tell you a whole lot about how the moves teams did or didn’t make are being perceived. The Canadian coverage, as I talked about earlier, is a great place to get a sense of how all of the moves are being perceived. Paying close attention to how the public feels about what teams did is a great way to find value; the public expects moves to pay dividends immediately and they rarely do, so there is short-term value to be had in many cases.
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