So much of my time the last few weeks has been spent dreading how terrible the NHL trade deadline will be that I almost forgot: hockey can be enjoyable too. Sure, it’s been sandwiched between a Department of Player Safety that doesn’t care about safety, and so many outdoor games you forget what real ice is supposed to look like, but overall, this has been a pretty interesting regular season.
The Canadiens recently hired the rival Bruins’ old head coach, and could be on track to meet them in the playoffs now. Some Chewbacca-looking fellow could become just the second defenseman ever to win the Art Ross Trophy. And the standings are so tight in the East, nearly anyone could make the playoffs.
These are just some of the fun things happening in the NHL right now and we’ll get to odds for all of that. But to begin, let’s settle perhaps the most heated debate in hockey right now. You know what it is.
NHL 2017 Futures and Props
Odds to win Calder Trophy
- Patrik Laine, Jets: 6/5
- Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs: 13/10
- Matt Murray, Penguins: 12/1
- Mitch Marner, Maple Leafs: 35/1
- Zach Werenski, Blue Jackets: 50/1
Isn’t it funny how one can go years without caring who wins this award? (Did you know Tyler Myers won it in 2010? Because I sure didn’t!) Then suddenly, when a strong rookie class enters the league, it becomes the most important honor bestowed by hockey writers. In case you couldn’t tell, we’re in one of those seasons.
The Matthews versus Laine debate started before they were even selected first and second-overall in last summer’s NHL Draft, and so far, both have exceeded expectations to the highest degree. So now that they’re both playing at such an unfathomable level, the Calder discussion suddenly includes intricacies like: who has a bigger role defensively, and who makes those around him better? But why? That’s never been the case before.
Here’s the checklist for whether or not you can win a Calder. (1) Did you lead all rookies in scoring? (2) If not, are you a kickass goalie or defenseman? That’s it. Those were the rules last year when Connor McDavid was snubbed; that’s what they’ve always been. If the rookie leader in points ends up being Marner, then Marner wins it. Or maybe the voters think Murray’s contributions to the Penguins trump any number of goals? Too bad, everyone else.
Obviously, stating these simple facts is not going to stop the raging debate over which great player deserves the award more, but it should be known that such scholarly exchanges are a giant waste of time. Time you could spend planting a garden, or figuring out if Columbus is actually good.
Odds Brent Burns wins the Art Ross: 18/1
The mountain man from Barrie is within striking distance of Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby, but actually catching them won’t be possible unless his teammates step up. While Crosby and McDavid can set up linemates for easy tap-ins by working the puck down low, Burns runs the Sharks offense from the point, mostly by just blasting the puck on net. He leads the league in shots by a wide margin, and a lot of points are coming off rebounds, tipped shots, or just well-screened goalies.
Despite Burns’ statistically impressive campaign, the Sharks’ power play has been awful this year, ranking 22nd. Unless they improve in that area, he won’t be making history this year.
Odds the Bruins advance farther than the Canadiens: 2/1
For a team that’s not very deep and pretty slow on the back end, Boston is over-achieving on the strength of its goaltending. Yet if you re-read the last sentence and replace Boston with Montreal, it would also hold true. Despite that, either one of these teams is capable of going on a run in the playoffs because of how good Carey Price and Tuukka Rask can be. If they do meet head to head, that’s where Claude Julien will give the Habs a big advantage: he knows the ins and outs of Boston better than even Bruce Cassidy.
Stanley Cup Futures
- Pittsburgh Penguins: 11/2
- Washington Capitals: 6/1
- Chicago Blackhawks: 9/1
- Minnesota Wild: 10/1
- San Jose Sharks: 12/1
- New York Rangers: 16/1
- Columbus Blue Jackets: 16/1
- Montreal Canadiens: 18/1
- Edmonton Oilers: 22/1
- Anaheim Ducks: 22/1
- Nashville Predators: 25/1
- St. Louis Blues: 25/1
- New York Islanders: 30/1
- Ottawa Senators: 35/1
- Boston Bruins: 40/1
- Calgary Flames: 40/1
- Florida Panthers: 40/1
- Toronto Maple Leafs: 45/1
- Los Angeles Kings: 45/1
- Tampa Bay Lightning: 50/1
- Philadelphia Flyers: 60/1
- Buffalo Sabres: 60/1
- Winnipeg Jets: 100/1
- Dallas Stars: 150/1
- New Jersey Devils: 150/1
- Detroit Red Wings: 200/1
- Carolina Hurricanes: 200/1
- Vancouver Canucks: 400/1
- Arizona Coyotes: 1000/1
- Colorado Avalanche: 9999/1
Man, it really is hard to stay optimistic about this league. Consider this: barring upsets, Pittsburgh and Washington, the two best teams in the entire NHL (sorry Minnesota) will meet in the second round of the playoffs. Thanks new playoff format! It also means both the Rangers and Blue Jackets, teams currently ranked fifth and sixth in the entire league, are going to hit the road for the first round of the postseason.
While the East representative will probably come out of the Metropolitan Division, don’t underestimate the impact of wear and tear. Say Pittsburgh survives wars with New York and Washington in the first two rounds, only to play a well-rested Montreal team that breezed by Toronto and Ottawa: that’s when Price steals you a run to the Cup.
The West feels a little easier to call, as there is a sizable divide between the haves and have-nots. The only real wild-card is a young, fast Edmonton team that doesn’t know any better. Could Connor McDavid really lead the team from worst to first that quickly?
Photo Credit: Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.