The NHL season gets underway on Thursday night with four games. Most of you probably don’t care very much, and hockey is far from my favorite sport as well, but it’s still good to watch, and can be very good to bet as well, so it is worth a look. That’s just what we’ll do for the next two days. Today we’ll look for interesting value in the futures odds, and tomorrow we’ll make some bold predictions.
Detroit Red Wings – They are the co-favorites at 5/1. I will never count this team out because they are so well run, but I certainly wouldn’t touch them at this price. They have gone through all sorts of changes in the offseason , they have a few questions, and some significant pieces aren’t getting any younger. They could win it, but they aren’t as good as last year and they didn’t win then, so I’d need a better price than this to back them.
Pittsburgh Penguins – They are also at 5/1. I respect this team a lot, and I think that they are going to be just as good as last year. They’ll have even more of an advantage – they aren’t likely to be as lousy out of the gate as they were last year, so they weren’t have to work so hard down the stretch just to make the playoffs. This price is low, but I see them as a justifiable favorite.
Chicago Blackhawks – They are at 8/1. There is some risk in backing them – Marian Hossa isn’t going to be healthy out of the gate, so we won’t know for a while if he is going to fit in and help the team. I also have some real doubts about their goaltending situation as it currently stands. That being said, they have the offensive strength and defensive depth to make some real noise, and they have to sense that their window is small – they will only be able to afford to keep their young talent together for so long. This is a fair price.
San Jose Sharks – Also 8/1. I think I like this team. I only hesitate because we can’t yet know if Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley are going to be able to play together. Individually they are both ridiculously talented, so if they have chemistry this team could be a scary team. They are a bit of an underlay at this price, but they are the clear class of their division. The other issue this team has is that they are notoriously bad in the playoffs.
Philadelphia Flyers (14/1) – This is one of the best value teams on the board. Perhaps the best. They can score. They are bruising on the blueline. They are very tough. The concern is with the goaltending. Ray Emery unquestionably has the talent to be a top goalie, but he’s a big flake, and it remains to be seen if he can hold up over the course of the season. I like the risk at this price.
Washington Capitals (10/1) – They have the best pure scorer in the league, they got tougher up front, and they have a solid defense. If they can get goaltending then they could be tough. They are a bit of an underlay, but not much of one.
Toronto Maple Leafs (28/1) – Biggest joke on the board. The Leafs are a very public team, and this price shows it. They have been terrible for a long time. Though new management has brought about big changes they still have a long, long way to go. You could bet on this, or you could put your money in a big pile and burn it. The latter would be faster and less painful.
Calgary Flames (16/1) – wish I could say that my hometown team was a steal at this price. They aren’t. Not at all. It’s not clear who is going to score their goals, and theirgoaltending gives me nightmares.