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
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.
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.
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 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 25 years, specializing in SBA loans. He is married and has two daughters.