The 2017-18 season kicks off this week. Each team has reset itself at the starting line with a world of opportunity ahead. Winning streaks, highlight-reel goals, controversial calls and rivalries will all develop as history unfolds before us.
It’s also prediction time. Fans, media, players and coaches all have expectations. Some will be happy for their team to sneak into the playoffs while others will accept nothing less than a lap around a rink hoisting the coveted Stanley Cup.
Let’s take a look at Las Vegas oddsmakers’ odds to win the Stanley Cup, obtained from several websites within the last week.
There are four teams that are favorites to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup. The defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers top the list, followed closely by the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks.
Pittsburgh Penguins, 7-1
The Pens are a slightly higher favorite, but the NHL hasn’t seen a three-peat champion since the New York Islanders’ dynasty during the early 80s. Though they have mixed up their lineup with some dramatic changes, they still have a stellar roster, with arguably three or four of the NHL’s best 25 forwards, a top defensive pairing and a premier starting goalie in Matt Murray. Add in a supporting cast of Carl Hagelin, Justin Schultz and Patric Hornqvist, as well as Jake Guentzel, a winger who could hit 30 goals, and they’re as competitive as ever.
Edmonton Oilers, 8-1
The upstart Oilers and point-producing machine Connor McDavid nearly made the Stanley Cup Final last year. With a year of experience under their belts, they’re full of both confidence and potential. They need to be taken seriously.
Tampa Bay Lightning, 11-1
While their captain was injured for nearly the entire season, the Lightning failed to even make the playoffs last season. Can Steven Stamkos pick up where he left off and stay healthy this year?
Chicago Blackhawks, 12-1
Rounding out the favorites are the Chicago Blackhawks. It feels like a make-or-break year for them, having been a contender for many years but getting swept by the Nashville Predators last year. Another early exit would tarnish their record and give pause to label their run as a dynasty. They welcome back familiar faces Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp while they’ve bid adieu to Artemi Panarin, Trevor Van Riemsdyk, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Scott Darling.
The Good Bets
There are seven teams in this group of ‘Good Bets’ grouping: the Washington Capitals, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers. All of these teams are full of questions but can make a run and challenge ‘The Favorites’ if things go their way.
Washington Capitals, 14-1
Is this the year Alex Ovechkin’s Capitals finally advance to the Conference Final, translating their regular-season winning ways to the postseason? Was dispatching Karl Alzner and Marcus Johansson the right thing to do?
Dallas Stars, 14-1
The Stars made some bold offseason moves, adding Alex Radulov and Martin Hanzal, Marc Methot and Ben Bishop. Will they pan out or was it an overblown shopping spree?
Nashville Predators, 14-1
Smashville’s Preds and their stacked blue line are back, but will be without Ryan Ellis for a stretch. Can the fast-skating team live up to their surprise Stanley Cup Final appearance from last year?
Toronto Maple Leafs, 14-1
Can rabid Maple Leaf fans, delirious with their wonder boys, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, literally will their team to the Final? Does Patrick Marleau pan out as a $6 million player?
Anaheim Ducks, 14-1
Can the Ducks move forward with basically the same team as last year?
Minnesota Wild, 16-1
The Wild added Matt Cullen and Kyle Quincy, becoming the league’s third-oldest team. They also added Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis while showing Marco Scandella and Jason Pominville the door.
New York Rangers, 16-1
In New York, will the additions of Kevin Shattenkirk and Anthony DeAngelo be enough to boost the Rangers? Does Henrik ‘The King’ Lundqvist have enough in the tank at 35-years old?
The ‘Hey, You Never Know’s’
Predicting the success of the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Montreal Canadiens, Columbus Blue Jackets, Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild, Calgary Flames and Ottawa Senators is like flipping a coin. Like the Preds last season, any of these teams could sneak into the playoffs and play the role of Cinderella. They are the epitome of wild cards.
Los Angeles Kings, 22-1
The Kings lost Jonathan Bernier and Jarome Iginla but added Michael Cammalleri. They are one of the league’s oldest teams. Most of the core from their old Cup days is still around. With Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Marian Gaborik, Drew Doughty, Matt Greene and Jonathan Quick in net, you’re never really out of contention.
San Jose Sharks, 22-1
Patrick Marleau, a mainstay in San Jose, is gone. But elder statesmen Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Brent Burns can still carry this team.
Montreal Canadiens, 25-1
How much impact will Jonathan Drouin have on the Habs’ offense? Can Carey Price and his monstrous contract carry the team?
Columbus Blue Jackets, 25-1
Can the Blue Jackets and John Tortorella re-capture the all-in-it-together intangibles that enabled them to succeed last year?
Boston Bruins, 28-1
Will all the rookies in Boston–Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, and Anders Bjork–find their games at the NHL level?
Calgary Flames, 28-1
The Flames brought in Travis Hamonic and will try to find harmony in net with Mike Smith and Eddie Lack. Will the ageless Jaromir Jagr make a difference or should he have retired?
St. Louis Blues, 33-1
The Blues built an excellent core before losing Jori Lehtera, Troy Brouwer, David Backes, T.J. Oshie, David Perron and Kevin Shattenkirk in the last few seasons. Now their success rests with Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny and Jaden Schwartz. Can this new core take them anywhere?
Ottawa Senators, 33-1
The Sens surprised many with their deep run last year. Can stud defenseman Erik Karlsson lead the charge again? They’re the oldest team in the league, but with age comes wisdom.
The Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders, Winnipeg Jets, Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes have better odds of missing the playoffs than making them.
Florida Panthers, 50-1
Florida has a bevy of youth and skill in Aaron Ekblad, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck. Jonathan Marchessault and the ageless Jaromir Jagr gone. They seem to be trending downward.
Philadelphia Flyers, 50-1
How will Nolan Patrick adjust to the NHL? The offense is still there with Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov and a hopeful bounceback year from Shayne Gostisbehere. Can this team find its way? Doubtful.
New York Islanders, 50-1
The Isles were in the playoff hunt last year before they fell apart, their coach got fired and they spiraled down the standings through the final stretch. They sent their first-round pick to Vegas over the summer to protect Brock Nelson and Calvin de Haan. How will the Jordan-Eberle-for-Ryan-Strome trade pan out? Could this be John Tavares’s last season in New York?
Winnipeg Jets, 50-1
Is this the year the Jets finally put things together and make a run? Their offense was the seventh-best in the league last year. Their defense is decent with Josh Morrissey, Jacob Trouba, Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom and Tyler Myers. With better goaltending, they could be in the postseason.
Buffalo Sabres, 50-1
Jack Eichel just inked a monster contract. It’s his team. With a revamped blue line and depth added, it could be enough to propel Phil Housley’s rookie year as head coach into the playoffs.
Carolina Hurricanes, 50-1
The Canes could be a sleeper pick, having missed the playoffs nine straight years. They’ve been quietly piecing together a young group. With a little magic by Scott Darling in net, they could be a playoff team.
The Blind Squirrels
Like a blind squirrel finding a nut, the Vegas Golden Knights, Detroit Red Wings, Colorado Avalanche, Arizona Coyotes, New Jersey Devils and Vancouver Canucks have a chance to succeed. It’s just not very likely.
Vegas Golden Knights, 66-1
The expansion-draft Golden Knights are trying to make the playoffs within three years. Not surprisingly, they’ll likely struggle this year, especially putting the puck in the net. But with a decent defense and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, an important piece of the Penguins’ back-to-back championships, their defense should be legit.
Detroit Red Wings, 75-1
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The Wings, who had their run of 25 consecutive postseasons snapped, face an uphill challenge.
Colorado Avalanche, 100-1
What the heck is going on with this organization? Who will be gone first, Joe Sakic or Matt Duchene?
Arizona Coyotes, 150-1
Derek Stepan will try to reinvigorate Max Domi and Anthony Duclair to have bounce-back years. The second line of Clayton Keller, Dylan Strome and Tobias Rieder has a lot of potential. Defensively, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Nicklas Hjalmarsson, Alex Goligoski and Jakob Chychrun give them some depth.
New Jersey Devils, 150-1
All eyes will be on number-one overall pick Nico Hischier. The top line of Taylor Hall, Hischier and Kyle Palmieri should be entertaining. It likely ends there.
Vancouver Canucks, 150-1
The Sedins, in the final year of their contracts, are fading. Can Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi, Brandon Sutter and Markus Granlund can be the youth that takes over?
Jeff has been covering the NHL for over a decade for various sites. He’s been with The Hockey Writers as a lead Sabres writer three years, while also writing a satire column called “Off the Crossbar.”