2019-2020 NHL Point Totals: Are the Avalanche Really This Good?
Andy Marlin, USA Today Sports. Pictured: The Ottawa Senators
The NHL season is still two-and-a-half months away, but that didn’t stop the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas from giving us the first real picture of what to expect this upcoming season.
Over the weekend, the Westgate released Season Point Totals and Make-or-Miss the Playoff props for every NHL team.
The Tampa Bay Lightning lead the way with an Over/Under of 108.5 points while the Ottawa Senators are at the other end of the table with a total of 68.5 points.
It is still incredibly early to project how things will shake out — point totals didn’t really trickle out until later in August last year — and there are several elite players — Mitch Marner, Brayden Point and Patrik Laine to name a few — without contracts.
A lot can, and will, change between now and training camp, but that doesn’t mean we can’t break down the picture these odds paint for the upcoming season.
The First NHL Point Total That Jumps Off the Page
Colorado Avalanche, 98.5 Points
Bettors should be ready for TV pundits to pick the Avs as their “dark horse” or “sleeper” for the 2019-2020 NHL season even though they currently sport the third-best odds (10-1) to win the Stanley Cup and are the second-favorite to win the Western Conference behind the Golden Knights.
Even though the odds tell us Colorado is not a sleeper at all, it will feel that way because it’s been a long time since the Avs were a serious contender for a Cup. Colorado is just two years removed from a 48-point campaign and missed the playoffs in six out of seven seasons from 2010-11 to 2016-17.
Why is the market so high on Colorado this offseason? For one, the Avs finished strong down the stretch last season and had a great showing in the postseason, upsetting the No. 1 seed Calgary Flames in the first round.
There was reason to be skeptical of the Avalanche going into the postseason, they hovered around 50% in Goals For, Expected Goals and Shot Share, but things started to trend in the right direction down the stretch and their victory over the Flames was not a mirage. The Avs were the better team in that series and were a bit unfortunate not to upset the Sharks in the second round.
The Avs followed up that run with a terrific offseason. Colorado’s biggest flaw was its offensive depth but Joe Sakic took care of that quickly by acquiring Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi. The Avs also still have a bunch of cap space — though Mikko Rantanen is due a big raise — so they could still be players this summer.
Even with all the good buzz, the Avalanche’s over/under opened at 100.5 points at the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas. That number seemed pretty lofty and was bet down to 98.5 pretty quickly.
Even with the improvements, getting to 99 points is a lofty goal for the Avs. Their young defense, headlined by 2017 No. 3 overall pick Cale Makar, has all the promise in the world but it remains to be seen if Makar, Samuel Girard and possibly 2019 No. 4 overall pick Bowen Byram can handle an 82-game marathon.
The West will be the weaker conference again in 2018-19 but Colorado plays in a division with St. Louis, Nashville, Dallas and Winnipeg — all of whom are expected to contend in 2019-20. In fact, Minnesota is the only team in the Central has an over/under below 90 points and the Wild won’t be that bad.
The market seems to fancy the Avs a little too much in a division that will likely cannibalize itself.
The Best Over Bet
Anaheim Ducks Over 80.5 Points
The Ducks were bad last year and if it wasn’t for John Gibson’s heroics in goal, they could have been a lot worse.
Anaheim finished with the third-lowest point total (80) and second-worst goal differential (-52) in the Western Conference last season. The Ducks also boasted the second-worst expected goals. Things were ugly above the hood and they were ugly under the hood.
But there is cause for optimism looking ahead to 2019-20.
Let’s start with the obvious bright spot. Anaheim has the best goaltender in the league. John Gibson finished last season with an +18.66 Goals Saved Above Average and a .928 save percentage at 5-on-5. Goaltending is volatile, but Gibson is as close to a sure-thing goaltender as we have right now.
The Ducks play in what should be the weakest division in the NHL this coming season. The Knights are the clear favorites to win the Pacific but each team behind them is flawed and there are three other teams with Over/Unders below 90 points (Canucks, Oilers, Kings).
Anaheim should also benefit from a change behind the bench. Dallas Eakins will be a welcome change of pace from Randy Carlyle. Eakins will be far more analytically-inclined than Carlyle and that should have positive results. There’s plenty of young talent for Eakins to work with and he’ll be familiar with plenty of Anaheim’s up-and-comers as he was coaching its AHL team since 2015.
If Ondrej Kase, Troy Terry and Max Comtois take steps forward, the Ducks could have a decent top-six. I expect Kase to highlight plenty of “2019-20 breakout candidate lists” as training camp approaches.
Finally, I expect the Ducks to benefit for a little bit of good fortune this coming season. No team was bit harder by the injury bug than Anaheim last season as the Ducks were without Ryan Getzlaf, Ondrej Kase, Corey Perry, Cam Fowler and Rickard Rakell for an extended period of time.
Despite the slew of injuries, bad coaching and poor play, the Ducks still managed to get to 80 points last season. That is some achievement when you consider they endured a 12-game losing streak and lost 19 of 21 games at one point.
The Ducks may not be good in ’19-20, but with stronger coaching, better injury luck and Gibson leading the way I think they should improve on their showing from last year.
The Best Bet to Miss the Playoffs
Winnipeg Jets +160
Expectations were high for the Jets going into last season and even though they tallied 99 points, contended for a division title and made the postseason, they didn’t live up to the hype.
Winnipeg finished the season below 50% in expected goals (48%), shot share (49.4%) and high-danger chances (48.1%). After a terrific 2017-18 season, Connor Hellebuyck struggled mightily last season and ended the year with a -6.91 Goals Saved Above Average. In fact, if it wasn’t for back-up goalie Laurent Brossoit — who finished with a +9.34 GSAA in 21 games — the Jets may have been in big trouble.
This season, expectations are tempered a bit. The Westgate opened the Jets at 96.5 points but they were bet down to 94.5 already. There’s plenty to be skeptical about with the Jets, who still have plenty of work to do this offseason.
Top-line wingers Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine are still restricted free agents and the Jets need to improve their defense after trading Jacob Trouba to the Rangers.
As they stand now, the Jets are very top heavy. Their projected top line of Connor, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele will be one of the best trios in the league and Laine should bounce back towards to the 40-goal mark this season but there’s a troubling lack of depth and if Dustin Byfuglien can’t stay healthy, Winnipeg’s defense could be a mess.
There’s too much that has to go right for Winnipeg this season to compete in a tough division. Hellebuyck will need to find his form, the defense needs to improve and the team will need to be better at 5-on-5. I don’t think things will click and believe the Jets are a fringe playoff team at this point.
2019-20 NHL Season Point Totals
Anaheim Ducks 80.5
Arizona Coyotes 91.5
Boston Bruins 100.5
Buffalo Sabres 83.5
Calgary Flames 96.5
Carolina Hurricanes 94.5
Chicago Blackhawks 90.5
Colorado Avalanche 98.5
Columbus Blue Jackets 83.5
Dallas Stars 96.5
Detroit Red Wings 76.5
Edmonton Oilers 85.5
Florida Panthers 96.5
Los Angeles Kings 74.5
Minnesota Wild 86.5
Montreal Canadiens 88.5
Nashville Predators 97.5
New Jersey Devils 88.5
New York Islanders 92.5
New York Rangers 88.5
Ottawa Senators 68.5
Philadelphia Flyers 90.5
Pittsburgh Penguins 94.5
San Jose Sharks 94.5
St. Louis Blues 96.5
Tampa Bay Lightning 108.5
Toronto Maple Leafs 102.5
Vancouver Canucks 88.5
Vegas Golden Knights 103.5
Washington Capitals 97.5
Winnipeg Jets 94.5