Looking into season-long futures, you have to keep an open mind.
Certainly more often than not the pre-season favorite doesn’t win the Stanley Cup, meaning you can go down the list and select some teams that have something to work with in terms of getting to the playoffs and making some noise once there.
And then there’s the other side of the coin.
There are teams that we can identify that have odds that don’t offer enough upside in terms of the roster they have and their ability to outcompete the other 30 teams in the league.
Let’s identify three such teams and explain why their current 2020 Stanley Cup odds don’t offer enough value.
*Odds courtesy of BetOnline
Calgary Flames (+2000)
The Flames paced the Western Conference with 107 regular season points last season and finished tied for second in league offense alongside the San Jose Sharks at 3.52 goals per game.
So, why the hate?
Well, I wouldn’t call it hate, but I happened to watch most of their final five games of the season, i.e. their embarrassing first-round exit at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche.
The Avalanche are a very good team with a ton of high-end skill and speed, but boy did they simply toy with the defense of the Calgary Flames, a top-four that’s supposed to rival the best in the league.
After winning game one 4-0, the Avs simply peppered Mike Smith with an inexplicable amount of rubber. They fired 39 shots on goal in game two, 56 (!!!) shots on goal in game three, 52 (!!!) shots in game four and finally 32 in game five. Smith finished the series with a very respectable .917 Sv% or else this thing could have been a lot worse.
Keep in mind those 56 shots from game two took place in a regulation game while the 52 from game four took almost 70 ½ minutes to accomplish.
Smith is now backing up with the rival Oilers, and interestingly enough, Cam Talbot, Edmonton’s netminder for three and a half years before last season’s trade to the Flyers, is now a member of the Flames to share duties with 26-year-old David Rittich.
Rittich endured an up-and-down season last year, his first full season in the NHL. He logged only 42 starts, but he faded down the stretch, whether it was fatigue or not, to the tune of a 2.89 GAA and .898 Sv% over his final 15 games.
At just 26, Rittich could still be the future in goal for the Flames, but handing him the full-time keys is risky business, which brings me back to Talbot.
The Flames had options in goal, including free agent Robin Lehner coming off a Vezina-nominated season and with a real good NHL track record. They also could have had Curtis McElhinney coming off back-to-back good seasons.
Instead, the Flames opted for Talbot, a goaltender coming off a season in which he posted a 3.40 GAA and .892 Sv% split between the Oilers and Flyers. Talbot is the owner of a .903 Sv% over the last two seasons combined.
In other words, the Flames’ goaltending situations is no clearer now than it has been over the last 12 months.
The forward group will remain productive and keep the Flames competitive. Hopefully Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm can maintain their career years from a season ago and perhaps one of James Neal or Sam Bennett find another gear next year. If none of those things happen, however, there could be trouble.
I’m disappointed the Flames didn’t address their blueline that was schooled in quick fashion in round one last year or bolster their goaltending situation, an area of need for some time now.
I just don’t think the Flames can expect to fare much better with the status quo on the back end, so I am firmly disliking their value at these odds.
New Jersey Devils (+2500)
The Devils got better this summer, that’s for sure.
They got fortunate and landed the top pick in the draft and selected consensus number one Jack Hughes, a potential franchise center with skill for days.
Less than 24 hours later, GM Ray Shero pulled off a blockbuster trade that brought prominent right-shot defenseman P.K. Subban to New Jersey and it only cost Shero Steven Santini and Jeremy Davies, the former a veteran of 114 NHL games and 21 points and the latter a former seventh-round pick currently playing defense for Northeastern University.
The cost was cheap due to the cap relief it provided Nashville has the Devils took in the three years and $27M remaining on Subban’s contract.
Both of these additions make the Devils better, but let’s get one thing straight: the Devils missed the playoffs by 26 points last season. Simply put, an 18-year-old center and a defenseman coming off a career-low 31 points aren’t about to turn the Devils into Stanley Cup contenders anytime soon.
The Devils also signed free agent winger Wayne Simmonds to a one-year deal, but Simmonds’ production has fallen off in each of the last three seasons and he tallied just 30 points last season between the Flyers and Predators.
New Jersey is simply lacking quality depth, both upfront and on the blueline. A blueline carrying Subban, Sami Vatanen, Andry Greene, Damon Severson, Will Butcher, and Connor Carrick leaves plenty to be desired.
After Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, Kyle Palmieri and perhaps Hughes or Simmonds, their forward group is lacking any sort of enviable depth as well.
That leaves the goaltending which is a massive question mark itself. Mackenzie Blackwood fared quite well in his rookie season as he posted a 2.61 GAA and .918 Sv% behind one of the worst defensive teams in the league. At just 22 years of age, the Devils could have something here, but the NHL is often hard on young goalies and Blackwood made just 21 starts a season ago.
Veteran Cory Schneider was stout down the stretch, posting a 2.46 GAA and .921 Sv% in his final 17 appearances after dealing with injuries for much of the first half and posting a 4.66 GAA and .852 Sv% as a result.
In an ideal world, having the 33-year-old veteran Schneider splitting time and mentoring the 22-year-old Blackwood seems like a logical idea. However, Schneider hasn’t posted a save percentage above .908 in each of the last three seasons and, as mentioned, the NHL is tough on young goalies.
I just don’t see this goaltending duo as a championship-caliber battery.
At +2500, the Devils have odds only slightly higher than the Capitals, Sharks, Penguins, and Predators. New Jersey is a distant fifth on that list to be sure as their current odds aren’t dishing out any value whatsoever.
New York Rangers (+2500)
Full disclosure: I absolutely love where the Rangers are at.
Prior to the 2017-18 trade deadline, the Rangers’ front office declared a full-scale rebuild with an eye towards the future, which at the time was interesting because the Rangers were on the fringes of postseason contention.
Fast forward about a year and a half and the Rangers just landed the top free agent on the market in Artemi Panarin and traded for one of the best young defensemen in the game in Jacob Trouba. Furthermore, they just selected high-ceiling winger Kaapo Kakko with the second overall pick in the draft.
Add those additions to the assets acquired in trades for Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller, and Mats Zuccarello and the Rangers are stocked with young talent set to bring broadway back to the promised land.
In due time.
Like with the Devils, we need to keep in mind that the Rangers missed the playoffs by 20 points last season. They ranked 23rd on both defense and offense and it’s hard to envision the Panarin and Trouba acquisitions skyrocketing New York to a top-10 in either department.
The best teams in hockey are strong down the middle, and the Rangers are not. With a four-man center group that projects as Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome, Filip Chytil and Brett Howden, the Rangers are going to get beat at the center ice position in a conference loaded with elite pivots.
I love the Trouba deal in terms of the long-term ramifications, but he now joins a team with Brady Skjei, Anthony DeAngelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Marc Staal, and prospect Adam Fox as their projected top six. Not the worst group in that league, but don’t kid yourself into thinking this d-core is going to deliver any championships.
In goal, the Rangers have 38-year-old Henrik Lundqvist under contract for two more seasons, but there’s no doubt he’s in decline. Lundqvist is coming off a trying season in which he posted a 3.07 GAA and .907 Sv% in 52 starts, the worst numbers of his storied 14-year NHL career.
The Bulgaria native has a strong history of production in professional hockey ranging from Finland’s top pro league to the AHL and last season to the NHL.
While the Rangers split time between the veteran and the youngster. I can certainly fathom Lundqvist wanting to move to a contender in the strong likelihood that the Rangers aren’t serious contenders next season. Without a Stanley Cup ring on his resume, it’s an understandable move.
Nonetheless, there’s far too many question marks for this time to add a couple of strong pieces in the offseason and make up 20 points without any sort of center depth or a change in the goaltending situation.
Again, at +2500, the Rangers are sporting odds slightly higher than the aforementioned Sharks, Penguins, Predators, and Capitals. Crazier things have happened, but I think your longshot money is best suited elsewhere than the bright lights of broadway.