Vegas Speaks: The 5 Most Overrated NHL Teams for 2014-15

Patrick Marleau is used to playoff disappointment, a fact that hasn't dampened San Jose's Vegas odds to win the Cup.

Patrick Marleau is used to playoff disappointment, a fact that hasn’t dampened San Jose’s Vegas odds to win the Cup.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again — W.C. Fields

It’s summertime, and the barbeque grill has firmly supplanted the frozen surfaces of NHL rinks in just about all of our minds. And yet, training camps open in about 30 days, so before you know it, the 2014-15 season will be here.

Overrated NHL teams per Las Vegas odds

The premise is admittedly subjective, but straightforward nonetheless: which five teams appear to be the most overrated, courtesy of current Las Vegas betting odds, when considering their chances of winning this year’s Stanley Cup?

Last year I studied each team and their respective lines, scoured rosters, flipped a few coins, scratched myself and eventually came up with six teams (two were tied) I felt were significantly overrated by Las Vegas with respect to their chances of winning the Cup. This does not necessarily mean these were the best non-Cup winning teams, just that their Vegas odds appeared to be significantly higher than good sense and reasonable judgment dictated.

How did I do? See for yourself:

Montreal Canadiens (46-28-8, lost in the Eastern Conference Finals)
Anaheim Ducks (54-20-8, lost in the second round)
New York Rangers (45-31-6, lost in the Stanley Cup Finals)
Vancouver Canucks (36-35-11, missed playoffs)
Edmonton Oilers (29-44-9, missed playoffs)
San Jose Sharks (51-22-9, lost in the opening round)

Needless to say, I had a few big whiffs last season.

Naturally, picking the Sharks was a good call, even if every rational person this side of the Silicon Valley would have done the same. Edmonton was another solid choice, since they ended up missing the playoffs. Vancouver was my best pick, given that they ended up careening over a cliff. The Ducks underwhelmed in the playoffs, so I didn’t fare badly there.

As far as the Rangers and Canadiens were concerned — ouch.

Possible Vegas flops for 2014-15

No matter how I did, it was fun trying to pick the teams most overrated by Vegas odds last year (and the season before), so despite my hit-and-miss history, I’m going to do it again. The following are my five most overrated teams as we close in on the 2014-15 NHL season.

As always, objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear.

#5: Dallas Stars

After five straight playoff-less seasons, the Stars were good last year. Well, pretty good. They went 40-30-11, finishing fifth in the seven-team Central. They also made the playoffs as the West’s eighth seed, losing to the Anaheim Ducks 4-2 in the opening round.

The Stars definitely improved their offense with the additions of Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky, but three of their projected defensemen have just three seasons of combined experience. That doesn’t bode well for a team that (as would be expected for an eighth seed) was pretty mediocre in most major statistical categories to begin with.

With defensive inexperience and general mediocrity taken into consideration, should the Stars really be Vegas’ 14th best bet to win the Cup at 28-1? I don’t think so.

#4: Tampa Bay Lightning

(Icon SMI)

(Icon SMI)

Talk about a roller coaster franchise. The Lightning won the Cup in 2003-04, made the playoffs the next two seasons, then missed three straight times before bouncing back and taking the eventual champion Bruins to seven games in the conference finals. Tampa fell below the line again in 2011-12 and 2012-13, then made the postseason last year, suffering a sweep at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens.

Whew.

The Lightning may still have one of the best in the game in Steven Stamkos, but after him the rest of the offense is rather marginal. Ben Bishop acquitted himself admirably last year, yet seems more likely to regress than improve. All in all, a Vegas line of 18-1 (ninth best in the league) doesn’t feel supportable unless the crowd of 19,204 septuagenarians turns up their hearing aids and makes some noise, baby. That’s not too likely with Denny’s running their typical early bird specials once again this year.

#3: Minnesota Wild

After four consecutive poor seasons, it’s nice to see the Wild back in the playoff mix over the past two years. That being said, although they added the electric Thomas Vanek, they lost the reliable Matt Moulson and the fading-but-still-capable Dany Heatley. The swap has the potential to be a net negative, which doesn’t bode well for an already offensively-challenged club.

Thomas Vanek Sabres

(Micheline/SynergyMax)

The Wild are listed as the 12th best bet to win the Cup at a Vegas line of 22-1. Are they really twice as likely to win it all as the Ovechkin-led Washington Capitals? I think not.

#2: St. Louis Blues

Now, I know what you’re going to say — the Blues went 52-23-11, good for 111 points, for Pete’s sake. That’s the second highest point total in franchise history, and after five out of six seasons missing the playoffs, St. Louis has made the postseason three straight times. They’re on the upswing, with the Cup seemingly within grasp, aren’t they?

Maybe, but into each life some rain must fall. Granted, Ryan Miller didn’t impress during his short stint in “The Gateway to the West”, but between him, the departed Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, the safest long-term bet isn’t the last man standing between the pipes. Furthermore, despite the addition of playmaking center Paul Stastny, the offense still feels top-heavy, and the Blues’ playoff track record over the past three years is abysmal.

Overall, the uncertainty of Elliot as the full-time starter and St. Louis’ playoff history hangover make Vegas’ 12-1 line seem more than a little too rich. The Blues will make the playoffs, sure, but the closest they will come to the Cup this year is when they visit the Staples Center. Wave hello when you’re there, boys.

#1: San Jose Sharks

Seriously? Already saddled with a playoff reputation that makes St. Louis look good, the Sharks go out and make history with an epic four-game collapse in the opening round of last year’s playoffs. Furthermore, the Sharks add little (John Scott, Tye McGinn), lose more (Dan Boyle, Brad Stuart, Martin Havlat), and are yet another year older.

There’s just no way the Sharks should be 14-1 to win the Cup. They are talented, but less so than last year, and we all saw what happened at the hands of the Kings. In fact, the Sharks are in as much danger of going the route of the Vancouver Canucks as they are winning the division. Regardless, for the second year in a row San Jose earns the #1 ranking on the Vegas overrated list.

Walter McLaughlin

Walter McLaughlin

Walter McLaughlin is a Los Angeles Kings correspondent for The Hockey Writers. He is an avid sports fan, having followed the Kings since living in L.A. in the mid-1970's, as well as suffering through Seattle sports teams' general futility. He has a Bachelor's degree in Finance and has worked in community banking for over 20 years, specializing in SBA loans. He lives in the Seattle area with his wife of 25 years and two daughters.
Walter McLaughlin
10 Potential Names for a New Seattle NHL Franchise http://t.co/YYQInj18Dc via @thehockeywriter - 3 days ago

36 Comments

  1. Agree with the Bolts, Sharks, and Blues on this list, but for different reasons. I think that all three teams are poorly managed- while they may look good on paper, statistically (i.e., Callahan on the Lightning), they don’t have the cohesive power needed to win a cup. Plus, taking a closer look at Tampa Bay, since everyone has been howling about how you put everyone behind Stamkos as mediocre- while that’s a bold statement, can anyone say that Callahan was a strong addition, based on his history and his playoff performance? His team made it farther in the playoffs than they ever had under him once he was gone, and he put up zero points for the Bolts in their four-game sweep. So the refs didn’t count his “clutch” goals? They didn’t take away his nonexistent assists. Sit down.

    I don’t think they have what it takes to win, particularly when they have Montreal and Boston in the same division.

    The only one I disagree with completely is the Stars. The team has inexperience, but their captain just made his first playoff appearance- and did pretty well, considering Peverley was taken from the team just prior to the playoffs, and Nitchushkin was only 18. Seguin-Benn-Nitchushkin is going to be a force to contend with, and Spezza and Hemsky will provide the vet experience needed to guide them through the season as they develop.

    In addition, you didn’t mention the goal. They replaced Tim Thomas- who was on his way out anyway- with Anders Lindback, who I think was underrated with the Lightning. He’s better than his stats show, while most of the teams on this list are worse than stats suggest.

  2. In my opinion, which doesn’t really count for anything, the Wild aren’t over-rated at 12th highest odds. They showed marked improvement from two-years ago to last year. They do a good job of getting the other teams out of a rhythm, and at least in the playoffs were very good at stopping teams from crossing the blue line. Sure they would have to go through three very good teams to get to the final, which is exceedingly unlikely, but they are the twelfth highest odds seems pretty accurate to me. Also I would like to chime in on the Kings discussion above, or below IDK, the Kings are loaded from 1st to 4th line. As a Blackhawks fan, why it is necessary to state our team allegiance is beyond me, I absolutely think the hawks and kings should be one two. If I base it on what the kings looked like healthy last year, as opposed to the year prior, I have to say the kings should probably be one. Odds makers are in it to make money though so I could see the hawks being highest odds just because I presume, based on television viewership, there are more hawks fans thus more bets on the hawks to win.

  3. I think sometimes we all forget that teams are a collection of human beings, and that is sad that we trash them like this. San Jose is a wonderful team just as Anaheim is! I’m a Kings fan and didn’t expect us to run through that gauntlet of SJ, ANA and the awesome Black hawks. I felt the Ducks were the team of destiny and I was wrong. But the only thing I did know was that whoever won the west would win the cup because our teams are superior to the east! Boston was the only team that could have won a series against a western Cup finalist, but they ran into a Montreal team that could turn the other cheek and focus on hockey! Lucic is an embarrassment to the sportsmanship of this great game and I hope he gets his anger under control because he is a terrific hockey player.

  4. I don’t understand the sharks lose a 38 year old d-man who was slow small and getting pushed around, a 36 year old d man who looked way past his prime, and a 32 year old health injury riddled worthless forward and those are big losses??? and you lose that age supplant it with youth yet were a year older??? this guy is an east coast biased who failed to research anything.

  5. The Sharks are the #1 most overrated team. Of course. This was written by a Kings fan. Go troll somewhere else.

    • How is it trolling when your team just got worked AGAIN by the Kings and they haven’t yet sniffed the Stanley Cup? That’s called reality, my friend.

  6. The Sharks won’t win the Cup, but I think they will still have a very strong regular season and will easily push the Kings again in the playoffs. Still see LA winning that though.

  7. The net negative on the Wild acquiring Vanek is off to me. Moulson was barely with the team and played terrible in the playoffs before going out due to injury. There was talk of Moulson getting benched he was playing so terribly, then it was announced that he’s injured and wouldn’t play any more. Heatley was so bad at the end of the season that they benched him and didn’t play him in the playoffs until injuries required it. So they were both performing poorly enough to get benched and neither were lining up in the top six in the playoffs (Moulson did briefly, but was dropped down the lineup during the Colorado series). Despite talk of Vanek’s rough postseason, I can’t see him falling down the lineup or getting benched, which would make that a positive acquisition instead of net negative to me.

    • Though you’re right that it seem weird that they’re twice as likely as the Caps. I think they’re more likely with good defense, especially from forwards, which is lacking in Washington. But twice as likely? I wouldn’t take that bet.

  8. Bart Dumpcake says:

    Anaheim Ducks will likely win the cup this year, too deep and with two power lines and plenty of size the Kings won’t get past them this year.

    • I hope the Quacks choke !

    • The Ducks are a team I thought would end up on this list. Their coach is just as bad of a post season choker as the Sharks, plus the Ducks are not as complete of a team like the Kings and Sharks are. Anaheim is lacking big time in the defense department, and getting rid of Hiller may have been a mistake as Andersen and Gibson are anything but proven. The Ducks are also very lucky to have had a fairly healthy two seasons of Getzlaf and Perry. Losing any of those two players would be a much bigger blow to the Ducks than the Kings losing Kopitar, or the Sharks when they lost Hertl.

      Put all those things together and I think Anaheim is closer to having another early playoff exit again than they are to winning a Cup. They need more D and a proven goalie.

  9. How did the Sharks lose more. They get Hertl back at full strength and they get Vlasic back at full strength. People seem to forget that the Sharks best defender went down in game 5 in the LA series and did not play the rest of the series.

    • Andrew Bensch Andrew Bensch says:

      Havlat, Stuart, and Boyle are all addition by subtraction. That said, the sharks have yet to do anything to add talent, guys like ehrhoff and peter mueller would have been solid pickups, but as of now they are still a player or two short of the kings and blackhawks. But you could make a case they are the third best team in the league behind those two.

      • I agree that the Sharks could stand to pick up a nice, left-handed defenseman to fill out a spot and keep Burns as a forward, but the team is also bringing up more prospects to try and make career guys out of them. Those slots that were opened up are being filled out from within the organization, which is a lot better in the long term for us and for the young guys.

  10. Knuckle_Bump says:

    Go Stars!

  11. I can’t speak to the accuracy of the rest of your article, but you bungled the W.C. Fields quote. He actually said:
    “If at first you don’t succeed, try again. If you still don’t succeed, then quit. No sense in being a damn fool about it.”

  12. The Sharks underachieved in the off season but I disagree that they lost a lot. Boyle was a shadow of his former self, constantly getting pushed around and beat by younger, stronger players. Stuart, when in the line-up, wasn’t getting the job done. Havlat was a non-issue since coming to the Sharks. Glad they’re gone!
    What the Sharks need most is heart! I don’t believe Scott and McGinn will bring that. I also don’t think Couture, Hertl et.al will change that. Hopefully, Doug Wilson will find someone or something to instill that. As a season ticket holder, I can’t bear to watch another playoff collapse. Maybe if Scott pummels half of the Kings players, the rest of the Sharks will step up and get a pair !

  13. You do realize the west coast of Florida and the Tampa area has a lot more younger people than old people? You have to go more south for the Retirees .

    As per Tampa Bay, no one expect them to win the cup this year, but give them a couple of seasons, then we shall see.

    Ryan Callahan is going to make a big difference for this team, that is if the refs don’t keep waiving off his legit cluth goals.

  14. Agree with tne others on the Tampa offense front but you are also right that yes they do look marginal in comparison to Stamkos and without St.Louis. Wait for Drouin.

  15. I disagree strongly with this list. Why? You obviously sit with your head in your ass, instead of watching NHL games. Stick with bowling.

  16. I love the Comment that everyone behind Stamkos is Marginal. 2 guys up for rookie of the year last year, One of the deepest prospect pools in the league, Fillppula killed it last season, Callahan jumped right in when he got there and oh yeah there is another marginal talent expected to play this year named Drouin but after all the reports they should expect too much out of him right?

    Doubt very highly that the Lightning win the cup this year but give an educated reason why they wouldn’t. the top 9 or even top 12 forwards certainly isn’t the reason. You get paid for this?

  17. So teams that are good at possessing the puck are overrated?

  18. LA hockey writer by way of Seattle LOL.. Sorry but you can write all day and it still won’t change the fact that you know nothing about hockey except what you parrot back… Wally wanna cracker?

  19. Walter McLaughlin says:

    Jochen, I will *absolutely* eat crow if the Lightning make a deep playoff run this year. That’s the unofficial dividing line, as this rather lighthearted piece is meant to judge the odds of challenging for the Cup, not merely regular season success. And Bonzi, that’s actually a pretty good point. I think the Kings are still stacked, but yes, it’s been a long time since we’ve had a repeat winner.

    Thanks for reading!

  20. Vanek’s injury history… he has played 663 games out of a possible 704 since 2005 (9 seasons), 41 total games missed in 9 seasons

    • Walter McLaughlin says:

      Yep, you’re right. It was really just last year. I removed the injury comments. Thanks for the catch.

  21. The Pittsburgh Penguins should be the kings of this list…every year they are the odds on favorites to win the Cup…yet they fail miserably. Most over-rated team in the NHL is Pittsburgh,hands down.

    • You’re right, at 12/1 the Penguins are a very bad bet. Not that the team lacks the talent to win it all, but I think we are going to find out in the coming season how good a coach Dan Bylsma really was.

      My pick for the 4 teams to come out of the Metro this year is Pittsburgh, Philly, Columbus and Washington in some order. Maybe the Rangers or Jersey instead of Washington, but I like the 4 I picked best. And the Pens, even if they survive the first 2 rounds, will get the snot beat out of them in the process and be easy birdseed for Tampa, Boston, or Montreal in the ECF.

  22. Bonzi the Magnificent says:

    You should put the 8-1 Kings here. They’ve only won the cup twice in their 48 year history. That’s a pathetic .041 batting average, making Mario Mendoza look like Ted Williams. They lost one of their stalwart (if fading) defensive leaders in Willie Mitchell, foolishly resigned Greene, King and Richards, and are a year older. All that aside, they’re up against 16 years since the last back-to-back champion was proclaimed. 8-1? Make it 80-1. Their odds should be jack and s#@t, and jack left town.

    • I don’t know how 8-1 is a misrepresentation. The Kings have proven themselves, and are lead by a balanced offense (Mike Richards is on the fourth line for Pete’s sake) and a veteran defense. And Jonathan Quick in net? They are a serious threat to hoist the Cup again.

    • The Kings have been in the WCF 3 years in a row..The only team in the NHL that can say they have been in the CF the last 3 years. Pretty impressive in the CAP era

      Also I am still trying to figure out the stupid argument what the Kings prior to 2010 has any bearing on how they have performed the last 3 years.

      Kings along with Hawks are still the 2 best teams in the NHL and losing 1 aging defensemen is not going to change that in the Kings case. Other teams need need to put up or shut up.

    • what a stupidly idiotic statement!!!! what the kings did in their first 45 years have no bearing on whether or not they can win a cup THIS YEAR….so that sentence alone shows your ignorance. they lost one aging defensive while keeping their core stars who are still in their prime and mostly under the age of 30. just because winning back-to-back championships isn’t easy doesn’t mean the kings don’t have an excellent chance of winning it all again.

    • Which means the Kings have exactly 2 more Stanley Cups than the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks and Minnesota Wild combined. Hence the inclusion of those three wise-guy picks on this list.

      Honestly, it’s going to take a good team getting very fortunate to prevent a Blackhawks/Kings WCF. On the other hand, I can see the ECF potentially including anybody with the exception of Buffalo and Toronto, with Ottawa and Carolina also being highly unlikely. (Even Islanders/Panthers, while remote, is not totally out of the realm of possibility.)

  23. “The Lightning may still have one of the best in the game in Steven Stamkos, but after him the rest of the offense is rather marginal”

    Spoken like somebody who doesn’t watch Lightning games. A complete nonsensical choice to have the Lightning on the “possible flop” list. But that’s fine. underestimate them and in April, May & June you can admit you were very wrong.

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