- Taking a chance on the Blues at the right time paid off big for bettors in 2019
- The Lightning, Bruins and Golden Knights are the early favorites to win the 2020 Stanley Cup
- A trio of teams are in position to repeat the Blues’ success next season
If you were lucky enough to bet on the St. Louis Blues to win the Stanley Cup exactly one year ago, congratulations on that +2800 wager. Or better yet, kudos to Scott Berry who laid $400 down at a Las Vegas sports book in January when the Blues were 250-to-1 to win the Cup.
St. Louis’ incredible season and Cup finals victory over the Boston Bruins just reaffirms that it can be worthwhile to play those longshots because sports, hockey in particular, sometimes has the most unexpected outcomes.
Can a surprising underdog come through again to win the Stanley Cup next year? Considering that the top three favorites this time last year were the Lightning, Maple Leafs and Jets and none of them made it past the first round, going for a team with longer odds is worth considering.
Let’s take a look at how the BetOnline NHL futures bets look now as the offseason is just getting started.
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+800|
|Vegas Golden Knights||+900|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||+1000|
|St. Louis Blues||+1200|
|San Jose Sharks||+1600|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||+2800|
|New York Islanders||+2800|
|Los Angeles Kings||+5000|
|Detroit Red Wings||+6600|
|New Jersey Devils||+6600|
|New York Rangers||+6600|
*Odds as of June 16, 2019.
Of course, it’s mid-June and most team rosters will look very different by mid-October because of free agency, trades, the draft and emerging prospects. Trying to make the right pick now means predicting which team’s management and coaches will pull the right strings while also getting plenty of luck along the way. Blues general manager Doug Armstrong made great additions by trading for Ryan O’Reilly and signing Tyler Bozak, David Perron and Pat Maroon.
As good as those moves were, it was the hiring of Craig Berube as interim coach after 19 games and handing their fourth-string goalie, Jordan Binnington, the reins in January that put the Blues over the top.
So, looking at the above list means assessing which teams have a solid foundation, strong resources and a bold GM who will find the right ingredients while also getting a certain amount of luck and avoiding key injuries during the long grind of the playoffs.
Sounds simple enough. Let’s look at who appears to have the wherewithal at this point of the offseason.
The favorites to win the 2020 Stanley Cup
Tampa Bay could stand pat and likely again be among the league’s elite teams next season. But after a spectacular flameout in the first round to Columbus, some changes are inevitable for the Lightning. The big question is whether general manager Julien BriseBois can make the right moves to get them to that next level.
Vegas had some hard luck in the playoffs when the referees guessed on a penalty call, but the Golden Knights could have gone much further with better penalty killing. Former GM and now president of hockey operations George McPhee was unafraid to make bold trades to create a Stanley Cup contender, and there’s every reason to believe newly elevated GM Kelly McCrimmon will continue the progress as they co-manage the club.
Toronto has some salary cap issues while trying to fit a lucrative new deal for leading scorer Mitch Marner, who is due to be a restricted free agent July 1. The Maple Leafs also have to figure out a way to fit soon-to-be restricted free agents Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson under the cap. The Leafs can’t let any of those contract negotiations drag out into the season as they did last year with William Nylander, so this offseason will be pivotal in determining whether they truly have arrived as one of the league’s elite teams.
Colorado is a team on the rise, and the Avalanche have gotten the attention of oddsmakers after they pushed the San Jose Sharks to Game 7 of the second round. Rookie defenseman Cale Makar’s immediate impact in the playoffs (one goal and six points in 10 games) after two seasons at UMass boosts an already explosive offense led by Nate MacKinnon (41 goals, 99 points), Mikko Rantanen (31 goals, 87 points) and Gabriel Landeskog (34 goals, 75 points). The Avalanche also have the fourth and 16th picks in the first round of the entry draft.
Boston was one victory away from winning the 2019 Stanley Cup, so oddsmakers are thinking the Bruins don’t have to make many changes.
After a storybook season can the St. Louis Blues repeat as champs? That’s a tall order, but nobody should count out this resilient group.
Serious contenders in the second tier
Washington and Pittsburgh are recent Cup winners that still have superstars and core players capable of leading another championship run. San Jose, Winnipeg and Nashville have the ingredients to contend for the Cup, but just haven’t put it all together.
Florida makes this group because it hired Joel Quenneville as head coach, has plenty of cap space, and is expected to make a splash in free agency, perhaps landing forward Artemi Panarin and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky from Columbus.
The +2800 club
Just as the Blues were at this time last year, Columbus, Dallas, and the New York Islanders are a +2800 bet to win the Cup next season. They each can make a compelling case to follow St. Louis’ example if they can make the right moves in the coming months.
Columbus finally won a playoff series after building a formidable lineup, but in addition to Panarin and Bobrovsky, the Blue Jackets have forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel headed to unrestricted free agency and defenseman Zach Werenski due for a big raise as a restricted free agent.
Dallas lost in double overtime of Game 7 to eventual Cup champions St. Louis in the second round, so an argument can be made that the Stars aren’t that far from Cup contention. They have the firepower up front with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, slick defenseman John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen and a Vezina Trophy finalist in net with Ben Bishop.
The Islanders had a big turnaround last season and swept the Penguins in the first round. With Barry Trotz behind the bench and Lou Lamoriello as GM, New York’s fortunes figure to continue on the upswing.
Do any longshots have a chance?
The rest of the teams are at the bottom of the list for good reasons. They all have plenty of holes to fill. But Montreal’s odds seem higher than it deserves after barely missing the playoffs.
Edmonton is another intriguing possibility. Though they have continually disappointed despite having the world’s top young player with Connor McDavid and others, the Oilers should finally have get back on track with Ken Holland as their new GM and Dave Tippett as head coach.