When we bet on sports we can get in the habit of focusing on only the short term. We think about the next game - maybe the next week at best. Sometimes, though, an advantage can be gained from stepping back briefly from the day-to-day and considering some bigger issues and the impact they could have on the way that games turn out. Take the NHL, for example. We are about halfway through the season, so we have a pretty good sense of where teams are at and what they are. There are some bigger trends at play, though, that could have a distinct and significant impact on some teams. Bettors who can be aware of these trends could be positioned to profit. Here are three to consider:
Canadian teams: Finally, that economics degree of mine becomes useful. There are seven Canadian teams. If the playoffs started now, only one - Montreal - would be in the playoffs. Needless to say, that's not good - at least not for Canadian fans.
There is something more significant, though. The Canadian economy is very heavily dependent on oil. You can hardly give oil away right now. That's a big hit. It has crushed the Canadian dollar - the loonie is now worth only slightly more than a monopoly dollar. On all fronts there is no real sign of relief. Things are really rough in cities like Calgary and are only going to get worse. Canadian teams pay their players in American dollars. They sell tickets and local sponsorships in Canadian dollars. There are fewer people who can afford those tickets now than before. It's going to get tough for Canadian teams. Toronto and Montreal will be fine, but Calgary, Edmonton. Winnipeg, Ottawa, and even Vancouver could be in trouble. All of those teams that aren't in the playoffs could be forced to make personnel decisions that not only look to the long term but which save money now. Longer-term contracts to all but the best players could be a concern. Free agents could be tougher to attract.
When Canada's economy has struggled in the past, the smaller-market Canadian teams have been forced to change how they operate - and it has had an impact on the ice. Starting with the trade deadline this year, and looking well beyond that, this will be something to keep a close eye on. It won't have immediate short-term impacts, but long\-term value for bettors could be tied to the Canadian's economic woes.
Trade market: The Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets made a trade recently - the kind that just doesn't happen anymore. Teams value two positions above all others - top centers and shutdown defensemen. The Blue Jackets acquired a future defending superstar - Seth Jones - and gave up a top center - Ryan Johansen - in return. Two young, can't-miss players traded straight across. Amazing. Shocking. It could just be a one-off event - a blip in a typically conservative trade market. Or it could embolden other teams with a combination of a big need in one spot and a surplus in another to make a similarly earth shaking deal.
St. Louis, for example, has defensive depth but could always use offense. Edmonton has an embarrassment of talented young forwards and needs on defense. There are many others, too. If a couple of GMs get bold, the trade market could really be blown wide open and the lead up to the trade deadline could be particularly interesting. Adding to the intrigue, potential superstar Jonathan Drouin has a fractured relationship with the Lightning and is sitting in the AHL waiting for a trade. His presence could be just the fireworks the market needs to explode.
Big trades can help the teams involved in the short term. More usefully for bettors, though, they almost always carry unrealistic expectations in the eyes of the betting public, so more logical, rational bettors can enjoy some nice value.
Auston time: Auston Matthews has been long established as the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft, and all he has done this year is strengthen that as he plays pro in Europe. Two young Finnish forwards stand as excellent consolation prizes for the teams that pick second and third. This isn't last year with McDavid and Eichel, but it's still a well-above-average draft - at least at the very top. There is still half a season to play, but for some teams the writing is on the wall - the Sabres, Leafs and Blue Jackets aren't going anywhere this year. Others like Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa and so on are still in the hunt to some extent right now but are going to have to make a choice whether they want to try and come up short or maximize the number of balls they have in the draft lottery.
I don't suspect we'll see tanking like we saw from Buffalo last year - that was world-class - but we should start seeing a lot of teams accepting their fate and starting to make personnel and game-time decisions with an eye on the draft more than on winning the Cup.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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