Handicapping Homework After NHL Season

The hockey season seems to go on forever, so by the time it ends even the most avid hockey fans and bettors are probably ready for a break. As soon as the Cup is hoisted most bettors are thinking ahead to other sports, other bets, and where their next action is going to come from. Smart hockey bettors, though, know that it’s important to take the time while the season is still fresh in your mind to look at what just happened, what you did well, and what you can and will do better next year. If you leave that kind of analysis until next fall when the puck is about to drop again then you aren’t going to have the time to do it properly, and you will have forgotten about the details of what happened. Here are three things you should do when the season ends to finish things off right and give yourself an edge over most hockey bettors at the start of next season:

Evaluate playoff teams – Pretty much every playoff team will look different the next time they hit the ice. If you don’t have a good sense of how they looked the last time they played, though, you can’t effectively assess how much they have really changed and whether they have been improved. Most bettors will rely on the headlines to make their assessments of how teams have changed, so if you can establish a good baseline to assess the real impact of the changes you will be ahead of the pack. You would ideally do this for all teams, but teams that didn’t make the playoffs have been inactive for a long time and are more likely to make significant changes, so the effectiveness of the exercise could be limited. What you want to get a good sense of is their strengths and weaknesses – not what the media will say the problems are, but what they really are. Did they struggle on the power play or on penalty killing? Were they much better on home than on the road? Did they have consistent, effective defensive pairings, or did they change things up, lack consistency and struggle to play shutdown hockey? Do they have four solid lines, or are they lacking in depth? Do they have top level talent on their first two lines? Do those lines play well together? Is their goaltending strong enough? How is their backup? The more different things you can think of to evaluate the better off you will be. If you don’t have time to do an in-depth analysis of every team just pick a handful and focus on those. At least then you’ll have an edge in the games those teams play compared to everyone else.

Consider coaching changes – By the time the Cup has been won most of the coaching changes that will happen have already been made – or at least what is going to happen is pretty clear. If you wait until the fall to get a sense of how these changes will turn out then you may not have time, and the analysis won’t be fresh. You’ll have more to judge by the fall, but in a case like this the first impression is very valuable. Was the coach received well by the media and the team, or was he a controversial choice? Was he the first choice of the team, or was he more of a default choice? Does he have a style that suits the players he has, or is there going to be growing pains as he reworks things? Are his first steps confident or tentative? Is he experienced or is this his first time on the big stage? Does he have connections to many players on the team? Are those connections positive? Are the connections with key players?

Look for holes in your game – This is, by far, the most important thing you can do. Few things are really crucial in this world, but this comes close. Before the dust settles and you have moved on from the season you need to look back and truly evaluate how you did with your betting during the season. That means looking very closely at your record keeping to get a real sense of your strengths and weaknesses. Overall performance is important, but it doesn’t really give you much to learn from. You need to break those results down to really get a sense of where you are strong, and where you have work to do. Are you better at sides or totals? Do you do better betting favorites or underdogs? Heavy favorites or slight ones? Home teams or road teams? Were you better early in the season or later? Are you a strong playoff bettor or a weak one? Do you do better betting on defensive teams or offensive ones? Do you win a lot of games in shootouts, or consistently lose if the game doesn’t end in regulation? Do you do better in the East or the West? The more ways you can think of to break your season down the more you can learn. You’ll be surprised what you find. There will be bets you consistently make that you lose a lot of money on. Just eliminating those bets, or improving your work on them, can improve your bottom line significantly. There will be bets that you don’t consciously favor which you probably should given your success when you do play them. You can’t fix what doesn’t work and focus on what does if you don’t really know how well you are doing. Be creative in ways to evaluate your season and you will be pleased with your results. Just make sure that you have a large enough sample size to base any conclusion on. If you find only two or three games of a particular type then how you did on them is irrelevant because there are so few.

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