The Stanley Cup futures board might appear to be based on the “don’t bet against Sidney Crosby” principle, but it also reflects the disparity between the NHL’s two conferences.
With the regular season beginning next week, Sid the Kid and the two-time reigning champion Penguins remain the +750 betting favorite to lift the silver chalice in 2017/18, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
But since the board opened in June, the price on the Edmonton Oilers and Connor McDavid have come down to +800. Of course, the Oilers would have to get through the tough Pacific Division in the playoffs, and likely a tough Central Division club in the conference final.
The Penguins have freed up salary-cap space by seeing off G Marc-Andre Fleury. Being in the Eastern Conference, which isn’t as deep as the West, also means a better chance of getting through three series to make the Stanley Cup final. The Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks (+1200) might not have the depth to skate through such a gauntlet.
No fewer than six teams – the Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Stars, 2017 runner-up Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals – are being offered at +1400. Losing two-way C Ryan Kesler to hip surgery makes it best to take a wait-and-see approach with Anaheim.
From among that group, Nashville, due to its defense and goaltending, and Tampa Bay, due to having stars such as D Victor Hedman and C Nikita Kucherov as well as a clean bill of health for C Steven Stamkos, are justifiable plays.
McDavid (+150) is the favorite to win the Hart Trophy as most valuable player, followed by Crosby and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 20-year-old phenom Auston Matthews (+850). Being in the league’s largest media market could goose Matthews’ chances, although the Leafs aren’t quite a contender yet.
The playoffs and regular season are practically two different sports in the NHL, so laying chalk in division props is not a must. Pittsburgh (+225) is favored on the odds to win the Metropolitan Division, but the lower-profile Columbus Blue Jackets (+450) with their all-American defense pairing of Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, could make it interesting. Washington (+300) is probably due to take a step back.
Tampa Bay (+275) is favored to win the Atlantic Division. The Montreal Canadiens (+350) might be too reliant on goalie Carey Price, while Toronto (+375) had almost everything go right last season on the goaltending and injury fronts while squeaking into the playoffs.
There could also be some big-star bias inherent in Dallas (+275) and Chicago (+300) topping the Central Division board. Nashville (+350) is deeper defensively and in goal than both of those teams.
Edmonton (+225) has the low price in the Pacific Division, and as a younger team are more likely than the Anaheim Ducks (+275) to go all out for first place. Their rivals, the Calgary Flames (+600), might actually be Edmonton’s biggest barrier to regular-season supremacy, with both the Los Angeles Kings (+500) and San Jose Sharks (+450) being aging teams.