My, have we come a long way since the start of the NHL season. The beginning of every NHL season is filled with optimism, as so many teams believe they have a shot at the Stanley Cup. It's the point teams feel they can build off of what they did the previous season. They feel their moves over the summer, be it through trades, free agency or coaching changes, they feel ready to go.
Adding Phil Kessel was supposed to springboard the Penguins back into Stanley Cup contention, but here they are again in the middle of the pack this season. The Anaheim Ducks were a popular preseason pick to win the Stanley Cup based on the firepower in their lineup, but sure enough, they've had trouble scoring goals and they resorted to defensive hockey to turn things around. There was optimism in Canada after five of the seven Canadian teams made the postseason last spring, but now, we may be looking at a year where no Canadian teams make the playoffs.
Teams that were once virtual locks for the playoffs and touted as possible Stanley Cup contenders are now viewed as disasters, with some teams on this list having already fired their coach and find themselves looking at a lottery pick. There are very few teams on this list that have actually exceeded their preseason expectations, but those few look really scary. You'll notice the juggernaut Dallas Stars aren't on this list, because they weren't preseason favorites by any stretch, but if they were on a current list, they're a top three team in terms of Stanley Cup odds.
This list will stack the 15 preseason teams who were given the best odds to win the Stanley Cup and where they are now. All odds have been taken from vegasinsider.com
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15 Winnipeg Jets: 27/1 - 125/1
What a terribly disappointing season it's been in Winnipeg. Hopes were high after the city experienced their first taste of playoff hockey in 19 years, but things haven't gone right this season. Ondrej Pavelec, who was a big part of the Jets' success last season, has been hurt for much of this season. Trade rumors were swirling about Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd being traded due to expiring contracts, but Buff is now re-signed in Winnipeg. With Byfuglien under contract, the Jets will have to re-tool around him for next season.
14 Detroit Red Wings: 25/1 - 18/1
No Babcock, no problem, right? The Red Wings lost their longtime coach in the offseason to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but Jeff Blashill's transition to the big club has been seamless. It seems their 25-year playoff streak will be extended thanks to the emergence of Dylan Larkin and Petr Mrazek's solid goaltending. The Red Wings' odds have improved and one can't rule them out in catching Florida in the Atlantic Division. While none would peg them as Cup favorites, they could make a deep run in the East.
13 Columbus Blue Jackets: 25/1 - 500/1
No team on this list has crashed below expectations like the Blue Jackets have. They started at 0-7 which led to the firing of Todd Richards and hiring John Tortorella as his replacement. Things improved slightly under Torts, but the organization is still a mess. They're not getting the goaltending they'd gotten accustomed to by Sergei Bobrovsky. Brandon Saad hasn't disappointed, but it hasn't translated to wins for the team. The team traded their young star center Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones, another blue chip young player. They're hoping for Auston Matthews now.
12 New York Islanders: 22/1 - 25/1
The Islanders have dipped slightly since the preseason odds, but they're right around where everybody thought they'd be in the Metropolitan Division. They face a tough battle with the powerhouse Capitals, Rangers, the surprising Devils and the improving Penguins there. Fans were hoping the Islanders would win their first playoff series since 1993, but they just don't seem like a team that's going to be able to make a deep run in the East. They'd better avoid Washington in Round 1.
11 Montreal Canadiens: 18/1 - 30/1
The Canadiens' Stanley Cup hopes went out the window with Carey Price's knee injury suffered in November. While they're not out of the playoff race completely, if oddsmakers knew for certain Price is out for the year, which reports suggest he is, than the Habs' odds would plummet way further. The Canadiens said they would prove they were more than a Carey Price team, but they've done nothing to suggest that's the case. After a historic 9-0 start to the season, they've experienced a historic collapse and are now a long-shot to make the postseason. It's not pretty in the pressure cooker hockey city of Montreal.
10 Nashville Predators: 15/1 - 30/1
After presenting a worthy challenge for the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks last spring, expectations were that Nashville would take the next step this year. Instead, their goal scoring dipped, which prompted the Preds to give up Seth Jones in exchange for a potential franchise center in Ryan Johansen. When your two top scorers are defencemen, it's usually not a good sign for a team's offensive power. The Preds seem like the kind of team that will squeak into the playoffs, only to be knocked out in the first round again.
9 Washington Capitals: 14/1 - 3/1
No team did more to improve over the offseason than the Washington Capitals. They landed T.J. Oshie in a trade with St. Louis and signed Justin Williams, a longtime clutch playoff performer. The Captials can win games 2-1 or 6-5 and have run away with the Eastern Conference. Braden Holtby has been the NHL's most dominant goalie this season and Barry Trotz has all of his players buying in. At the risk of jinxing it for long suffering Caps fans, this finally looks like the year.
8 St. Louis Blues: 14/1 - 17/1
You can't help but feel time is running out for this core in St. Louis. They have a really talented core, with Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexander Steen and talented blueliners in Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester. Yet, this team hasn't won a playoff series since 2002 and Ken Hitchcock has yet to win one with them as a head coach. Their odds haven't changed all that much because, well nothing's changed all that much. It looks like a team that will again find itself ousted in the first round by either Dallas or Chicago.
7 Minnesota Wild: 14/1 - 35/1
We now come to another team that was supposed to take a big step this season but have also fired their coach. Mike Yeo was on thin ice (no pun intended) last year, but the goaltending of Devan Dubnyk won a lot of games for the Wild and bought Yeo some time. That time has run out with the Wild having trouble finding offense and being abysmal on special teams. It's not too late for the Wild to squeak into a playoff spot, but this team sure doesn't look like a contender.
6 Pittsburgh Penguins: 12/1 - 17/1
Phil Kessel was the big acquisition of the offseason, but the Penguins were disappointing to start the season and fired Mike Johnston in favor of Mike Sullivan, whose seemingly revitalized Sidney Crosby. The Pens have found themselves hovering in and out of a wild card spot all year and seemingly still need to make a big move to reach another step. If the playoffs started today, would anybody give them a chance at beating the Washington Capitals? The Pens' ceiling seems to be a second round appearance.
5 New York Rangers: 11/1 - 18/1
The Rangers seemed to be rolling as usual to start the season, but along came the Capitals, who just steamrolled all their competition and knocked the Rangers off their Metropolitan pedestal. It's not that the Rangers have disappointed to much this season, it's just that the Capitals have surpassed them so much. You can count on the Rangers to try to make another big move at the trade deadline, but barring some godly goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist, they won't be knocking off the Capitals this spring.
4 Annaheim Ducks: 11/1 - 17/1
The Ducks had the Blackhawks down in the Western Conference Final last spring, but they didn't finish the job, allowing the Hawks to tie the series and smoke them on their own ice in Game 7. They started 1-7-2 this season, and there were whispers that Bruce Boudreau's job was in jeopardy. Now, the Ducks have climbed back in the race, despite a down season from Ryan Getzlaf offensively and the team's difficulty of scoring goals. They now have a chance of catching the Kings in the Pacific, but they don't look like the dominant favorite they were perceived to be in the preseason.
3 Los Angeles Kings: 10/1 - 8/1
The Kings missing the playoffs last year didn't do anything to cast doubt into oddsmakers, and hockey followers in general. Those perceptions are being proven right, as the Kings appear to be back and the kind of team nobody would want to face in the playoffs. Despite all the change we've seen in the Western Conference, would anybody be surprised if we get another Chicago/L.A. conference final? The Kings' window is now, so don't rule out another big trade at the deadline.
2 Tampa Bay Lightning: 8/1 - 15/1
It's been a baffling season from the Lightning. While they now appear to be getting back to where they were last year, a prevailing storyline this season has been where Steven Stamkos will end up this summer. Steve Yzerman has now made it clear Stamkos will finish the season in Tampa, so at least that distraction's out for now. The Lightning seem like they will recover enough to make the playoffs and from there, all bets are off. Still, it looks like they will fall short of preseason expectations.
1 Chicago Blackhawks: 15/2 - 11/2
Could it be four in seven for Chicago? Despite another offseason in which the team had to re-tool and let go of many important pieces from their Cup run, including Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya and Antoine Vermette, they've added Artem Anisimov and have seen Artemi Panarin emerge as a potential rookie of the year candidate. Patrick Kane was at the center of controversy this offseason due to a sexual assault investigation, but now leads the league in scoring. The Hawks are experts at re-tooling and can see themselves rewarded with another Stanley Cup very soon.
I don't know about you, but I'm not betting on anybody to knock off the Blackhawks this spring.
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