Which Struggling NHL Team Holds the Most Value?

Toronto Maple Leafs Logo, Tampa Bay Lightning Logo, and San Jose Sharks Logo on Custom Hockey Background

We are more than a quarter way through the NHL season and it’s probably a good time to throw out the term “early” when discussing a team’s spot in the standings.

If a team is near the top of the standings at this point there’s a good chance that they’re a good team and destined for the postseason. The same can be true of the bottom-feeding teams as they are likely not going to play past the first week of April.

However, there are exceptions to the rule and we don’t have to look too far back to find an example.

The 2018-19 Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues sat dead-last in the standings when the calendar flipped to 2019. A whopping 37 games into their season, they were the worst team in the NHL. A little more than six months later and they were hoisting the Stanley Cup.

Such epic comeback stories are few and far between, however let’s take a look at a few of this year’s struggling teams and see if they hold increase value at their now-reduced Stanley Cup odds.

*Current Stanley Cup odds courtesy of Betonline.

Toronto Maple Leafs

  • Record: 9-10-4
  • Opening Stanley Cup Odds: +1000
  • Current Stanley Cup Odds: +2000

The Maple Leafs opened the 2019-20 campaign as one of the top four favorites to win the Stanley Cup, however the season has not gone to plan to this point.

At 9-10-4, the Maple Leafs’ winning percentage is better than only five other teams in the NHL: The Senators, Red Wings, Devils, Kings and Wild. That’s some… not so good company.

A new-look roster that’s failed to gel combined with notable injuries – including to John Tavares and now Mitch Marner – have hampered what was supposed to be a Stanley Cup-contending season for the blue and white.

Needless to say, it’s going to be a slippery slope getting back into the thick of things in an Atlantic Division that also contains the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning as well as the upstart Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens.

A quick look at the raw numbers and it’s not hard to see why the Maple Leafs are where they are in the standings.

Stat Number League Ranking
Offense 3.13 GF/GP 13th
Defense 3.43 GA/GP 24th
Power Play 17.6% 18th
Penalty Kill 73.1% 27th

The team is currently mired a six-game losing streak with another four games to go in their current road trip. At this point, they will need to salvage this road trip somehow to get back home with at least some sort of opportunity to rally back towards the pack.

For now, the veteran bench boss will lean on his star talent and try and increase the compete level on a team that is spinning its wheels in a big way.

Is there Value?

The Maple Leafs’ current +2000 odds puts them alongside six others teams at the moment. One of those teams is the surging Edmonton Oilers who sit behind only St. Louis in the Western Conference. Right there I’m seeing very little value in a team that has just two regulation wins over their last 16 games compared to a team in the Oilers who have ridden the backs of MVP-type seasons from both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl – as well as quality goaltending – to the summit of the Western Conference to this point.

I think I’ll pass on the Maple Leafs until they can show some resolve in the short-term.

Tampa Bay Lightning

  • Record: 9-7-2
  • Opening Stanley Cup Odds: +800
  • Current Stanley Cup Odds: +1000

If someone told you they predicted the Maple Leafs missing the playoffs this season they were probably lying – or they are a Montreal Canadiens fan. However, if someone told you they predicted the Lightning missing the playoffs they are blowing so much smoke it looks like a nuclear power plant.

No one, and I mean no one, could have predicted such a slow start for the Lightning after they rattled off a historic 62 regular season wins last year. Sure, they were inexplicably swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Columbus Blue Jackets, however that type of stuff happens in the playoffs. The playoffs are a whole other ball game and the expectation was that the Lightning would cruise through the regular season again this time around.

Not so fast.

While the Lightning will likely inch up the standings once they catch up on their games in hand on the rest of the east, however their +3 goal differential is tied for seventh in the conference at this point. What’s more is they are doing so with much of the same roster as last year and haven’t dealt with many injuries – although Brayden Point missed some time early and Nikita Kucherov could miss time after getting blasted by Brayden Schenn on Tuesday.

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Their offense remains one of the best in the league but it’s been more thanks to their depth than the big boys lighting the league on fire as they did a season ago. The bigger issue is their defensive struggles while 2019-20 Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy has yet to find his form between the pipes with just a 2.95 GAA and .904 Sv% on the season.

Is there Value?

The oddsmakers sure haven’t bought the slow start as their odds have moved from +800 to only +1000 despite the slow start. Keep in mind oddsmakers aren’t dumb and the odds are they’re probably right on this one.

For a moment, let’s assume the Lightning win all three of their games in hand on most of the conference. That would put them at 12-7-2 and their 26 points would sit tied for third in the Atlantic Division. They have four games in hand on the top three teams in the Atlantic at the moment, and if they win all four of those games they would technically be in second behind only the Boston Bruins.

Those wins are by no means guaranteed, but you catch my drift. The Leafs are in trouble because they are already out of a playoff position and have played two more games than most contenders in the east. The Lightning aren’t looking so bad at all if they can capitalize on their games in hand.

Given the level of talent on board, it’s likely only a matter of time before Tampa gets it going. Once they do, look out. I’d be flat-out shocked if they weren’t a playoff team come season’s end, so I believe we’ve notched some increased value with the Lightning from their early-season struggles.

San Jose Sharks

  • Record: 10-11-1
  • Opening Stanley Cup Odds: +1600
  • Current Stanley Cup Odds: +2000

The Sharks marched their way to the Western Conference Final a season ago after finishing second in the Pacific Division, and most expected a similar fate this time around.

That hasn’t been the case as the Sharks sit ahead of only the Kings and Wild in the Western Conference and their -13 goal differential is tied with the Wild for the second-worst mark in the conference.

The issues have been at both ends of the ice as the Sharks have struggled to score and their once-lauded defense is tied for the fourth-worst group in the league at this point. After a poor 2018-19 season, goaltender Martin Jones’ hopes of a bounce back were quashed early as he owns a 3.35 GAA and .885 Sv% on the season – both of which are notably worse than his figures from last season.

As is the case with the Maple Leafs, the Sharks’ possession numbers indicate they should be better than they from a record standpoint while some would think it’s only a matter of time before their sputtering offense puts it together – even without long-time goal-scorer Joe Pavelski aboard.

The scoring has picked up of late, but the Sharks will need much more from Jones moving forward if they want to climb they way back into the playoff picture.

Is there Value?

The Sharks are a good example of the difficulties of climbing back into the race in a league full of parity and one that offers a single point for an overtime or shootout loss.

After a 4-11-1 start to the season, the Sharks rattled off six wins in a row. That’s well and good, but their start was so bad that their six-game winning streak simply provides them an opportunity to continue to battle back from their horrid start as opposed to not winning six in a row and beginning preparations for next season.

The NHL is such a tough league from a parity and balance standpoint that teams cannot afford to fall too far behind as the climb back is an arduous one thanks to the three-point games across the league. As of the end of play on Tuesday, 26.7% of games are going into overtime – on pace for the highest total ever in a season. That means more than 1/4 of the games played are handing out at least one point to both teams.

To me, this situation reminds me a lot of the Maple Leafs. They’ve fallen back after high expectations and their are upstart teams making a run in the division – the Coyotes and Canucks in the Sharks’ case. As a result, I’ll lay off on the Sharks for now until I see that defense and goaltending show consistent improvement.

Nashville Predators

  • Record: 9-8-3
  • Opening Stanley Cup Odds: +2200
  • Current Stanley Cup Odds: +2000

The Predators’ odds actually improved from their opening odds in the summer, however that was before the team went out and signed Matt Duchene and their offense lit the league on fire in the early going.

The offense has since cooled off, but the more pressing issue is the fact the usually-stout Predators’ defense isn’t buoying them through their cold stretch up front.

A top-four defense from last season, the Predators sit 22nd in team defense this season and Pekka Rinne sits with a save percentage south of .900 after a strong start to the season. The Predators accomplished their need to increase offense with 3.55 goals per game this season, but the 3.30 they’ve allowed to this point has wiped most of that production out.

They too remain a strong possession team at seventh in terms of Corsi on the season, but until you can get a save consistently that isn’t going to matter a whole lot.

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Their recent 3-5-2 stretch has coincided with a 8-1-1 stretch from the division rival Stars while the Blues, Avalanche and Jets remain strong in a difficult Central Division.

Is there Value?

In my opinion, the east is superior to the west and I truly believe that’s how things will shake out at when it’s all said and done. If that theory holds true, it’s beneficial to the Preds’ chances of climbing back into this thing.

While the Central remains tough, it appears the Predators will be battling alongside the likes of the Canucks, Flames, Blackhawks, Ducks , Stars and Sharks for one of the two Wild Card spots. If that’s indeed the case, I like their chances. Of course, once you’re in, anything can happen.

Rinne owns a career .918 Sv%, one that’s he’s matched twice and exceeded over the last three seasons. Even at 37, he’ll play better. Backup Juuse Saros owns a career 2.59 GAA and .917 S% in 88 impressive games as Rinne’s backup, but he owns a 3.47 GAA and .886 Sv% this season. He’ll also play better, and that began Tuesday by stopping 23 of 25 shots in a tough-luck loss to the rival Jets.

The Predators will get better goaltending moving forward and if their offense can hang inside the top 10 I like their chances of rallying back into a postseason spot. Their +2000 odds hold value in my opinion.

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Brenton Kemp / author

Brenton is a lifelong sports fan who resides in Ontario, Canada. Brenton is a fan of most all sports but specializes in hockey, baseball, football, basketball, and golf. He’s a fierce researcher with a strong appetite to deliver accurate and relevant facts that in turn have led to past success with picks and DFS advice across the board. Brenton’s biggest goal is to deliver readers with the picks and advice that can build their bankroll. He takes great pride in his success and loves nothing more than to share that success for the benefit of everyone involved.