2019 NHL Stanley Cup Predictions
We are, in round numbers, a fifth of the way into the NHL season. It's too early to know too much, but we have seen enough to know which teams are legitimate and which are legitimately in trouble. It's a good time, then, to revisit the Stanley Cup futures at Bovada to look for value, prices to avoid, and numbers to keep an eye on:
Toronto (+500): When you live in Canada but outside of the largest city, you grow to resent hearing about Toronto. They think they are the center of the universe and have precisely no objectivity when it comes to their teams - most especially the Leafs. It's enough to make you sick. So, I am openly skeptical of this team by nature. But nothing I have seen so far has changed that. They are below .500 at home, which is just nonsensical. Their defense still isn't good enough, and their goaltending depth took a big hit, so they can't afford an injury. The William Nylander holdout is a problem and a distraction, and now that Auston Matthews has hurt both shoulders we have reason to be concerned. At their best they are a very good team. But there are far too many issues to accept this price. Easy fade for me.
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Tampa Bay (+650): It makes absolutely no sense to me that this is not the favorite. None. Balanced. Deep. Playing great. They are the best team in the East by what feels like a pretty wide margin. And they aren't particularly overachieving. They were my pick before the season, and they stay that way. And at this price there is value.
Nashville (+700): Nashville is as impressive in the West as Tampa Bay is in the East. In a year when so many of the teams in the West hat had massive expectations heading into the season have faltered, Nashville has done precisely what we expected of them. I don't see a lot of holes, and I like the price. I just like Tampa a touch better, and that's mostly because of the high-end offensive talent the Lightning have.
Boston (+1200): The Bruins have, by a comfortable margin, allowed the fewest goals in the East. And they are generally playing solid hockey. But they don't yet feel dangerous in the same way they did last year. Maybe it's just because last year was unexpected, but this feels less like a team to avoid. They are certainly in the mix, but I'm not leaping at this price.
San Jose (+1200): The upside here is that the team is in first place in the division despite getting relatively little so far from Erik Karlsson. He is the best defender on the planet, and if he finds his stride that is a huge boost. This price feels fair enough, but far from inspiring.
Winnipeg (+1200): This is the biggest disappointment for me among the big contenders so far. A team that captured so much magic last year is playing without any of that magic this year. They just look flat. Last year they were four lines of terror. Now they feel like a team you aren't too worried to play against. It can change, but right now they are so deep into their own heads that they can't see anything. I'd rather see a team struggling with injuries than mental hang-ups, so I am not nearly as optimistic as i was heading into the season.
Pittsburgh (+1500): They have lost five in a row and have some real areas of concern. But if we have learned anything by now it's that the regular season means little for Pittsburgh. They will probably be fine, and they are less afraid than almost any team to make the changes they have to if things aren't going to be right.
Edmonton (+2200): The team has 44 goals. Connor McDavid has 22. That is the Oilers in a nutshell. Top heavy. Defensively inept. Incapable of getting consistent goaltending. Doomed. I don't know what the solution is, but it involves a generous amount of dynamite. I am far from convinced that they are a playoff team.
Calgary (+2500): This is my hometown team, so I watch a lot of them. And it's a freaking rollercoaster ride. They lead the West in goals, roll four lines deep more than ever before, and have three strong defensive pairings. At their best they can beat anyone, and they are particularly tough late in games. But their goaltending is horrifying, and Mike Smith seems determined to single-handedly throw this season away. If they do something about the goaltending, they could be really dangerous - and they have some defensive depth and a bit of cap space to work with to make a move. But as it stands now, what is between the pipes will doom them. There is value in this price - but only if a good trade is made.
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