2021 Stanley Cup Odds, Format and Realignment: Colorado Avalanche the Favorites, Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights Right Behind
Credit: Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Nathan MacKinnon
At long last, the 2021 NHL season has a start date.
According to Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, the league and the NHLPA have reached an agreement to play a 56-game season beginning on Wednesday, January 13.
There are a lot of new wrinkles to the season and there are a lot of moving parts, but we do have a pretty good idea of what the upcoming campaign will look like.
So let’s start with the most important thing, the odds:
2021 Stanley Cup Odds
|Colorado Avalanche||+650 [Bet Now]|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+750 [Bet Now]|
|Vegas Golden Knights||+900 [Bet Now]|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||+1500 [Bet Now]|
|Boston Bruins||+1500 [Bet Now]|
|Philadelphia Flyers||+1600 [Bet Now]|
|St. Louis Blues||+1700 [Bet Now]|
|Carolina Hurricanes||+1800 [Bet Now]|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||+2200 [Bet Now]|
|Washington Capitals||+2300 [Bet Now]|
|Edmonton Oilers||+2400 [Bet Now]|
|Dallas Stars||+2600 [Bet Now]|
|Nashville Predators||+2900 [Bet Now]|
|New York Islanders||+2900 [Bet Now]|
|New York Rangers||+3200 [Bet Now]|
|Calgary Flames||+3300 [Bet Now]|
|Florida Panthers||+3500 [Bet Now]|
|Montreal Canadiens||+3500 [Bet Now]|
|Winnipeg Jets||+3700 [Bet Now]|
|Vancouver Canucks||+3700 [Bet Now]|
|Buffalo Sabres||+4500 [Bet Now]|
|Minnesota Wild||+4500 [Bet Now]|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||+5000 [Bet Now]|
|Chicago Blackhawks||+5500 [Bet Now]|
|San Jose Sharks||+5500 [Bet Now]|
|Arizona Coyotes||+6000 [Bet Now]|
|Anaheim Ducks||+7000 [Bet Now]|
|Los Angeles Kings||+7000 [Bet Now]|
|New Jersey Devils||+7500 [Bet Now]|
|Ottawa Senators||+20000 [Bet Now]|
|Detroit Red Wings||+35000 [Bet Now]|
The NHL prides itself on parity and, judging by the odds, it looks like the season is wide open. That said, there are three teams that seem to be a cut above the rest.
The Colorado Avalanche are currently the Stanley Cup favorites at +700 ($10 bet wins $70). The Avs finished with the third-best record in the league, advancing to the Western Conference Semifinals before losing in Game 7 to the Dallas Stars. Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon is +500 to win the Hart Trophy (MVP), making him the second favorite behind Connor McDavid.
At +700, the Avalanche have an implied probability of 13.3%. That means that, while they are the favorites, there’s an 86.7% chance they won’t win the Stanley Cup.
After years of knocking on the door, Jon Cooper’s Tampa Bay Lightning finally lifted Lord Stanley to the rafters in 2020. It’s been a while since a season started without the Lightning at, or near, the top of the oddsboard and that trend ain’t changing this winter. The Bolts are a close second-favorite at +750 to repeat and the only traditional Eastern Conference team with single-digit odds.
According to the bookies, the Carolina Hurricanes (+1800) and Dallas Stars (+2600) are expected to provide the stiffest competition for the Bolts in 2021. The Lightning and Stars are well-acquainted after meeting in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final just a couple months ago.
The Vegas Golden Knights (+900) advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the second time in their three-year history in 2019-20, but ultimately fell short against Dallas. The Knights made one of the biggest splashes of the offseason, bringing in All-Star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo from the St. Louis Blues.
One thing to keep in mind if you’re interested in betting Vegas or Colorado is that the two Western Conference behemoths are set to play in the same division this season, along with the St. Louis Blues (+1700).
Not only does that mean these three teams will play each other eight times since teams will only play regular season games against divisional foes, but the NHL has announced that it will keep the intra-divisional playoff format, meaning that at least one of the Blues, Knights or Avs will be eliminated in Round 1 of the postseason. Woof.
Things start to get bunched after the Knights, with nine teams between +1500 and +2600, starting with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins at 15/1.
The Leafs were one of the preseason favorites in 2019-20, but endured an up-and-down season before getting eliminated by the underdog Columbus Blue Jackets in the best-of-5 qualifying round in The Bubble.
Toronto will be the favored to win the All-Canada Division, which has been implemented to avoid border issues because of the pandemic, but, with the exception of the Ottawa Senators (+20000) there is very little separating the teams up north. Six of the seven teams have Stanley Cup odds between +1500 and +3700.
One price that jumped out to me at first glance was the Philadelphia Flyers at +1600. After an rollercoaster start to the 2019-20 campaign, Philadelphia caught fire right before the hiatus and ended up as the No. 1 seed during the playoffs because it won the round robin.
The Flyers were lucky to beat Montreal Canadiens in Round 1 and were outplayed by the New York Islanders in Round 2, so I’m not sure why this number is so short in what looks like the deepest division in the NHL. The Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins (+2200), Washington Capitals (+2300), New York Islanders (+2900) and New York Rangers (+3200) will all consider themselves contenders this season, so Philadelphia is not a sure thing to even make the postseason.
The Detroit Red Wings (+35000) finished in last place last season by a whopping 23 points, so it’s no shock to see them listed as the biggest longshot ahead of the new season. The Red Wings should improve from what we saw in 2019/20, especially since the Wings upgraded their goaltending situation in the offseason by bringing in Thomas Greiss.
According to a report from The Fourth Period, the league will re-align the four divisions for one season only. There is a caveat, though.
This plan needs to be approved by the provincial governments in Canada or else the seven Canadian teams will have to play in the United States and the league will re-align again:
- East: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals
- Central: Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning
- West: Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Vegas Golden Knights
- Canada: Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets
2021 Stanley Cup Playoff Format
- The 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs will feature 16 teams.
- The top four teams in each division will make the playoffs.
- The winners of the first-round series (No. 1 vs. No. 4, No. 2 vs. No. 3) will play to advance to the conference semifinals.
- The format for the conference semifinals has yet to be determined.
2021 NHL Key Dates
The NHL has said that the schedule is still subject to change, but here’s what we know so far:
- Training Camps Open: Dec. 30 for teams who didn’t qualify for the Bubble, Jan. 3 for 2020 Bubble teams
- Opening Night: Wednesday, Jan. 13
- Trade Deadline: April 12
- Last Day of Regular Season: May 8
- Last Possible Day of Stanley Cup Playoffs: July 15
- Expansion Draft: July 21
- 2021 NHL Draft: July 23-24
- Free Agency Opens: July 28