You know that construction site in your ‘hood, the one that was a giant, empty pit for years and then one day, BAM, a building showed up? That’s the real estate version of the Edmonton Oilers.
Mired in a decade-long rebuild despite four first-overall picks (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015), Edmonton’s ultra-talented roster has started to resemble a successful team almost overnight. Led by generational talent Connor McDavid (first overall in 2015), the Oil have a double-digit cushion on a playoff spot and are all but certain to break their ten-year postseason drought. If McDavid stays healthy, he’ll finish top-five in scoring at worst. If Sidney Crosby cools off, he could take home his first Art Ross.
McDavid being in the Art Ross conversation isn’t a surprise. He had 48 points in an injury-shorted, 45-game rookie season. Some of the contenders for the NHL’s other hardware do come as a shock.
It’s been seven years since Crosby eclipsed 40 goals. The playmaker is lighting the lamp at a clip this year; with 28 goals in 41 games, he’s on pace for over 50. He holds a four-goal cushion in the Rocket Richard race, despite missing six games.
To no one’s shock, his fiercest competition for the award will likely come from Alex Ovechkin (22 goals in 48 games), who’s won the award four straight years. But the Blue Jackets’ Cam Atkinson (24 goals), who’s never topped 30, also finds himself in the running. The 27-year-old’s sudden scoring outburst is almost as surprising as his team’s emergence as a Cup contender.
As we head into the stretch run, it’s time to reset the odds for some of the major hardware, separating the real contenders from the … well … Cam Atkinsons of the world. (Sorry dude.)
2016-17 NHL Awards Odds
Art Ross Trophy Odds
- Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh): 9/4
- Connor McDavid (Edmonton): 7/2
- Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh): 7/2
- Patrick Kane (Chicago): 11/1
- Nicklas Backstrom (Washington): 19/1
- FIELD: 7/1
Crosby is the points-per-game leader (1.32 PPG) by a pretty wide margin. If he stays healthy – big question mark – this is his to lose. Malkin and McDavid are scoring at roughly the same pace (1.15 PPG and 1.14 PPG, respectively). Malkin has the track record (2009, 2012 Art Ross winner), but is also battling injuries.
Rocket Richard Trophy Odds
- Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh): 15/8
- Alex Ovechkin (Washington): 9/4
- Auston Matthews (Toronto): 9/1
- Jeff Carter (Los Angeles): 10/1
- Patrick Laine (Winnipeg): 15/1
- FIELD: 10/1
Crosby has a six-goal cushion on Ovie with less than half a season to play. That feels like a lot. It’s not. When Ovie heats up, goals come like grapes (in bunches). And Crosby has slowed down lately, scoring just two goals in his last ten. When it comes to putting the biscuit in the basket, bet against the Great 8 at your own risk.
Some might question whether two rookies, Matthews and Laine, should be on the list, given that they’ve never felt the grind of an 82-game regular season. But these aren’t ordinary rookies. Matthews played against men last year in Switzerland. He has the physical capabilities to keep up his 0.5 PPG page (23 goals in 46 games). Same goes for the surprisingly large Laine (6’5, 210 lbs), who is close behind Matthews with 21 goals in 43 games. He’s a pure scorer in the vein of Mike Bossy. He missed time recently with a concussion, but didn’t look any worse for wear in his first game back, notching an assist in over 20 minutes of ice-time.
Vezina Trophy Odds
- Devyn Dubnyk (Minnesota): 3/2
- Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus): 2/1
- Braden Holtby (Washington): 7/1
- FIELD: 6/1
No offense to the likes of Carey Price and Tuukka Rask, but one of these three guys is going to win it. Even including Holtby by name is a stretch. Dubnyk and Bobrovsky are the rocks on which two shocking turnarounds have been built. Dubnyk currently leads the league in both save percentage and goals-against average. Bob is top-three in both categories and leads the league in wins. (Dubnyk is second.)
Holtby is top-five in all three stats, but also has the best team around him, among the three. Plus he won last year. The voters will spread the wealth unless Dubnyk and Bobrovsky both fall off.
Norris Trophy Odds
- Brent Burns (San Jose): 1/1 55
- Ryan Suter (Minnesota): 3/1 28
- Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay): 10/1
- Erik Karlsson (Ottawa): 15/1
- FIELD: 5/1
What do you want in a Norris winner, gaudy offensive numbers or a stalwart, shutdown D-man?
If you want the former, this is Burns’ award, bar none. He’s top-five in the NHL in scoring and 12 points ahead of the next defenseman (Karlsson). His 21 goals are ten more than the best D-men (Kevin Shattenkirk and Shea Weber). His beard, alone, is a top-25 scorer.
If you want the latter, Suter is the top dog. He’s an NHL-best +27, averages 27:17 of ice-time (second to Dustin Byfuglien), and plays against other teams’ top lines night after night for the Western Conference-leading Wild.
If I was starting a team, I’d want the shutdown guy. Norris voters rarely get past offensive numbers like Burns is putting up.
Photo credit: Connor Mah (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/].