Hurricanes Moves Don’t Move Oddsmakers

This year’s projected point total for the Carolina Hurricanes posted by sportsbooks for over/under wagering shows that oddsmakers are not moved by the team’s offseason moves. The team has undergone a radical makeover from top to bottom. But the powers that be who set the over/under totals for each NHL team apparently are not impressed, setting a number that is way lower than last preseason’s forecast.

This is not a primer on betting on hockey or anything else, but an illustration of what a segment of professionals that are supposedly “in the know” has projected for the Hurricanes’ upcoming season.

Every year at about this time the oddsmakers in Las Vegas post their predicted point totals for each NHL team for the upcoming season. Those who gamble can wager on whether they think a team will accumulate enough points to go over that point total, or finish with fewer points than predicted at season’s end. Comparing the preseason totals from the previous year can give insight as to what the oddsmaking experts are thinking about how teams will finish.

NHL Over/Under Totals 2017-18

On Sept. 25, 2017, the Bovada Sportsbook published their point totals for NHL teams for last season. It is conceivable that one might use this also as an insight into who the oddsmakers think will win the Stanley Cup. The logic being that the higher the projected point total the likelihood that playing in the playoffs and possibly in the Stanley Cup Finals is greater.

A fun fact is that the Pittsburgh Penguins were the favored team to win the Stanley Cup last season, and were projected to have the second highest point total at 104.5. Only the Anaheim Ducks were thought to do better, projected at 106.5. The Washington Capitals, of course, went on to win the Stanley Cup Finals.

Alex Ovechkin Stanley Cup
Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) hoists the Stanley Cup after defeating the Vegas Golden Knights in game five of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena. (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

The posted number for the over/under for the Hurricanes prior to last season at Bovada was 92.5 points. On Sept. 5 of last year, the Westgate sportsbook had the Hurricanes projected point total at 93.5. Essentially, both of these sportsbooks had the Hurricanes in the same neighborhood regarding how they felt the team would perform.

The previous season the ‘Canes had notched 87 points by seasons-end. Those whose job it is to set numbers that will attract wagers and still make a profit for the sportsbook felt that the team was five-six points better than they were the previous season.  How did they do with their forecast? The Hurricanes ended the 2017-18 season with 83 points. Those who wagered that the team would put up more than the posted totals lost badly. Those who bet the under won by a comfortable margin.

How could the smart guys who get paid to post these numbers for a living be so dreadfully off in their assessment of the Hurricanes’ likely performance last season? It’s simple: Nobody knew that goaltender Scott Darling was going to have such a bad year. When Ron Francis, the general manager at that time, signed him to be the starter, he, Darling and most everyone else who had looked at his play with the Chicago Blackhawks as a backup, believed he could get the job done.

What Does Vegas Think About the Hurricanes?

On August 24, The Athletic featured an article written by Dom Luszczyszyn entitled, “2018-19 NHL Best Bets: Which teams to put your money on.” It was a look at the point totals posted by the Bovada Sportsbook for the upcoming season. Low and behold the Hurricanes are projected by the oddsmakers there to put up 84.5 points.

Calgary Flames defenseman Dougie Hamilton
TAMPA, FL – JANUARY 11: Calgary Flames defenseman Dougie Hamilton (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)

About the Bovada 84.5 number, Luszczyszyn wrote, “Dougie Hamilton is a big-time addition, as is Andrei Svechnikov, the Canes’ second-overall draft pick from this summer’s draft. This team still has goaltending issues, but they’re better than the team that finished with 83 points last season. Maybe this year they’re finally competitive, maybe it isn’t, but 84.5 is still likely too low.”

The Westgate has the same number, 84.5. Another group of oddsmakers seemingly not feeling the love for all of the changes made in the offseason. For most folks, bringing in Dougie Hamilton was a huge positive for the Hurricanes. Along with getting forward Micheal Ferland and the rights to defenseman Adam Fox, while sending Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin to the Calgary Flames, this trade was seen as good for the ‘Canes.

As Luszczyszyn mentioned, getting the second overall draft pick in Svechnikov was also a great move by the Hurricanes. While trading Jeff Skinner is still debated as to its merits for the team, most see it as good in the way of a culture change. Up and down the roster it can be argued that the Hurricanes had a fantastic offseason. Signing defenseman Calvin De Haan from the New York Islanders was like icing on the offseason cake.

Not to mention they have a new general manager and head coach. They even have a new owner entering his first full season as such with the team.

Scott Darling Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Scott Darling makes a save during warmup against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place. (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

The bottom line is that the Hurricanes’ goaltending is still a gigantic question mark. Darling is putting in the work that he did not put in last season, and Petr Mrázek was brought in to firm up the position. But, his career has been marked by inconsistency and the pros who set the numbers know that in-goal is where the Hurricanes will have to prove themselves in the upcoming season.

The conclusion can be drawn that the pros just are not moved by the moves the Hurricanes made in the offseason. They are obviously not seeing the Hurricanes as a playoff team, and the fans won’t appreciate that forecast one bit. If there were any need for motivation, this year’s Hurricanes might want to post that 84.5 in the locker room and use it as a chip on their shoulder to show the “pros” that they are a team with which to be reckoned.