Sergei Belski, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Travis Hamonic
- The NHL season has hit the first-quarter mark and the playoff picture is still very unclear with so many teams packed together in the standings.
- There are two teams with odds at 20-1 or longer that offer value in the Stanley Cup futures market.
Thanksgiving is the unofficial end of the “it’s still early” part of the NHL season. By the time we’re all carving turkey, most teams will have 20 games in their pocket.
A 20-game sample is still small and in a league where some games are worth three points and others are worth two, it takes a while for the pack to separate. Still, it’s worth giving the futures market a good look and seeing if there are any opportunities to get involved.
For the sake of uniformity, I took all odds from the Westgate SuperBook, but remember to shop around for the best number. And remember, just because a future bet has value, doesn’t mean you are betting it because you think it will win.
For example: A 20-1 future has an implied probability of 4.8% which means you expect that team has better than a 5% chance of winning the Stanley Cup, which in turn means you expect it to lose 95% of the time. With that out of the way, let’s get to it.
Columbus Blue Jackets
- Odds: +2000
- Implied probability: 4.8%
On paper, the Columbus Blue Jackets looked like one of the strongest teams in the NHL coming into 2018-19. However, there was a gray cloud hovering over the club all summer as the team’s two most important players, talismanic forward Artemi Panarin and stalwart goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, are in their walk year and both players have made it pretty clear they will be moving on in the summer.
Further complicating the issue was that the Jackets — and the rest of the NHL — just watched the Islanders get burned by a former franchise player. John Tavares left Long Island and the Isles got nothing in return. It was unprecedented and left the Isles in a horrible position.
While I still am a little worried that Columbus could end up trading Panarin and/or Bobrovsky (though at this point it seems unlikely that Bob will be moved), I think general manager Jarmo Kekalainen will fancy his club’s chances to make a deep run in the playoffs, especially since the other contenders in the Metropolitan Division don’t look the part so far.
That isn’t to say the Blue Jackets have been great, either. Bobrovsky has been inconsistent, top defenseman Zack Werenski has struggled with partner Seth Jones injured and depth forwards like Riley Nash, Nick Foligno and Oliver Bjorkstrand haven’t made much of an impact. Even with all of that, the Jackets are atop of the super-tight Metro Division and the other contenders in the set look a lot worse than Columbus does.
If Kekalainen decides to throw caution to the wind and go for broke this season with Panarin and Bobrovsky, I expect him to be aggressive at the deadline. I think it’s more likely than not that the Blue Jackets get better from this point on and end up putting themselves in a good spot to make a run in the East this spring.
- Odds: +3000
- Implied probability: 3.2%
I actually think this number is pretty appropriate for the Flames’ chances right now, but I think Calgary will be active in the trade market and should benefit from some positive regression.
While I fully expect Calgary’s below-average shooting percentage to correct given the amount of chances it generates, the situation in goal needs addressing.
Last season, the ageless Mike Smith punched above his weight for the Flames. Before Smith got injured, he was arguably the team’s MVP. This season has been a different story for Smith as he’s struggled mightily. With Smith in the dumps, the Flames have handed the keys to David Rittich. The 26-year-old Czech has been good in limited action, but he’s an unknown quantity and I’d expect Calgary to be actively shopping for an upgrade.
The fact that Calgary is producing good results even with bad goaltending and poor shooting luck is encouraging. The Flames are fourth in the NHL with a 54% Corsi Rating and an average of 2.57 expected goals for per 60 minutes. If they start getting bounces and improve on their .914% 5v5 save percentage, they can contend in a division that features plenty of struggling-to-mediocre teams and one bonafide contender in San Jose.
It’s hard not to be intrigued by this team. Calgary has a dynamic group of forwards and their top-four on defense have looked sharp even without Dougie Hamilton. If the Flames stabilize things in goal, they will have a real shot to make a deep run.