NHL 2019-20 Betting Preview: Will We See Another Longshot Upset the Odds?
Timothy Ludwig, USA Today Sports.
- The Senators, Red Wings, Kings, Ducks and Sabres are all listed longer than 50-1 to win the 2020 Stanley Cup.
- Below we dive into each team's season outlook, and examine if any are worth a future bet.
Last season, Scott Berry became one of the most famous sports bettors in the world when he cashed a 250-1 ticket on the St. Louis Blues for $100,000. The bet was placed in the middle of the season when St. Louis was in the league basement, and served as another feather in the cap for the NHL’s “we’re all about parity” ethos.
The Blues’ unexpected run came on the heels of the Vegas Golden Knights running to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season. The Knights were listed at triple-digit odds before the season.
The NHL may feel like the paradise for longshot bettors, but bookmakers aren’t getting caught up in the hoopla this season.
Coming into 2018-19, there were nine teams with odds at 80-1 or higher. This year, there are four. In fact, there are only five at longer than 50-1 at PointsBet:
- Ottawa Senators: 250-1
- Detroit Red Wings: 100-1
- Anaheim Ducks: 80-1
- Los Angeles Kings: 80-1
- Buffalo Sabres: 66-1
Odds may differ from sportsbook to sportsbook, be sure to shop for the best number before placing a bet. Check out PointsBet, where Action Network users get an exclusive 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).
The hard truth of betting the NHL (and sports in general) is that you’re going to have to suck it up and bet on bad teams on a regular basis. The good news is that the NHL is a volatile, luck-driven sport (it’s played on ice, after all) so these terrible teams will still win you games as 2-1 underdogs.
Let’s get to know some of these bad teams before we lose money on them for the next six months:
- Stanley Cup Odds: 250-1
- Season Point Total: 68.5
- Odds to Make Playoffs: Yes +1000, No -10000
Every league needs a laughingstock and that title currently belongs to the Ottawa Senators. The on-ice product is bad, but the off-ice situation is even worse. Owner Eugene Melnyk is no good, and it’s hard to believe he’s got the fans’ best intentions at heart.
This is a forward-looking preview, so it’s no use spilling ink over the players that Ottawa dealt away, but the current roster is filled with flaws — though there’s some reason for optimism.
Brady Tkachuk is front-and-center as the team’s best asset. The 20-year-old put up a stellar rookie campaign and did so in somewhat limited playing time. Tkachuk’s supporting cast up front won’t ever be confused with an All-Star team, but Collin White is a bonafide top-six center and Anthony Duclair has shown he can be a positive-impact player.
Thomas Chabot just re-upped on a long-term deal and he’s got the makings of a franchise-cornerstone defenseman, but outside of the 22-year-old it’s slim pickings on the blue line.
How cautious the Senators are in bringing along their prized prospects like Drake Batherson, Erik Brannstrom and Alex Formenton will play a big role in how successful this team will be in 2019-20.
I actually think the Senators have a chance to beat their projected total, but I hate playing overs on a team that is likely going to be a seller at the trade deadline.
Detroit Red Wings
- Stanley Cup Odds: 100-1
- Season Point Total: 74.5
- Odds to Make Playoffs: Yes +750, No -2000
The Red Wings have more talent on their roster than the Senators but I don’t know if that’s a good thing considering that a full-on tank would do the Wings more good than a middling season.
Dylan Larkin is Detroit’s best player and he’s got some help at the top of the lineup. Tyler Bertuzzi, Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha give Detroit a little bit of scoring punch, but beyond them things turn bleak.
The defense is the real eyesore here, as there is nobody that really shines. Filip Hronek is a good enough player, but asking him to be the No. 1 guy is unfair. Detroit’s defense is probably the worst unit in the league.
Jimmy Howard will be back in goal for his 14th season in Detroit. I’m not going to waste much time on the 35-year-old other than saying he’s been a pretty steady goalie for much of his career and that’s what I’m projecting we’ll see in 2019-20.
I think the Wings are appropriately priced heading into the season.
Los Angeles Kings
- Stanley Cup Odds: 80-1
- Season Point Total: 75.5
- Odds to Make Playoffs: Yes +410, No -667
You could lump the Los Angeles Kings in with the Senators and Red Wings, but I think Ottawa and Detroit are in a different phase of their respective rebuilds compared to Los Angeles.
While the Wings and Senators are already at the bottom, the Kings will need to work hard to tear it down to get there. Los Angeles is a clear tanking candidate and the Kings will try to get what they can for players like Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli and perhaps Drew Doughty and/or Anze Kopitar, though their contracts make it very unlikely the latter two will be moved.
A complete tank-job may be tough for Los Angeles, though, as there are some players who could carry the Kings to results if they find their form. The Kings also happen to play in the weakest division, so there’s a chance they could just be less bad than other teams in their circuit.
Goaltending will go a long way in determining just how poor the Kings are, as Jonathan Quick struggled through an injury-riddled season in 2018-19, posting a .889 save percentage at 5-on-5 and a -23.4 Goals Saved Above Average.
The Kings will need their No. 1 goalie to exceed expectations if they have any shot at grabbing an unexpected playoff berth and the netminder that’s likelier to do that is Jack Campbell. The 27-year-old first-round pick finally showed up in 2018-19, posting a .934 5-on-5 save percentage and a +6.1 Goals Saved Above Average.
If Quick and Campbell do big things and the Kings get their top guys to click, then there’s a chance the Kings could luck their way into the playoff mix.
That is unlikely, though.
Stanley Cup Odds: 80-1
Season Point Total: 83.5
Odds to Make Playoffs: Yes +230, No -334
Now this is a longshot I can get behind.
The Anaheim Ducks were bad last year, but a coaching change, a healthy roster and the best goaltender in the NHL should give the Ducks a puncher’s chance in the league’s weakest division.
Goaltending is tough to project and relying on a goalie to be the main vehicle to get a bet to the window is risky, but John Gibson may be the exception to the rule.
The 26-year-old netminder boasts a +45.04 Goals Saved Above Average over the last three seasons, the second-highest mark in the NHL.
Anaheim also has the luxury of having one of the league’s strongest backup goalies in Ryan Miller, who has been terrific in a No. 2 role behind Gibson. If Gibson gets injured or loses his way, the Ducks could do a lot worse than having Miller step in.
Gibson is clearly the star at The Pond, but there are a few other reasons to be optimistic about Anaheim.
The Ducks have some established pizzazz up front with Ryan Getzlaf, Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg, but the youngsters are the key.
Ondrej Kase looks like he’s about to vault himself into a top-line role and Max Jones, Max Comtois, Troy Terry and Sam Steel all have high ceilings. Whether any, all or some of Anaheim’s bright young players realize some of their potential will go a long way into deciding if this team can overachieve.
Prior to 2018-19, Anaheim’s defense looked like it was on its way to growing into a stable unit. Unfortunately, Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler and Josh Manson endured up-and-down seasons and will each need to bounce back to help turn the Ducks around. It’s worth remembering that with Gibson behind them, Anaheim’s defense just needs to be average to keep them afloat.
I may be too high on a team that finished second-to-last with a 45.3 xG%, but I’m confident that new head coach Dallas Eakins can help sort some of the Ducks’ systemic issues. Randy Carlyle coached this team into the ground over the past couple of seasons and any change in strategy should be a plus.
Finally, it’s hard to imagine the Ducks won’t get a little bit luckier in terms of injury luck this season. No team was hit harder by the injury bug over the past two seasons than Anaheim and some better health should provide a much-needed boost.
There’s a lot that could go wrong here. Gibson may struggle. The youngsters may not produce. The defense could continue to flail. Maybe Eakins isn’t the guy. Longshots will have more cons than pros, but the number is too good to pass up not to take a flier on the Ducks. There are some triple-digit Stanley Cup odds floating around the market, but the most-widely available number is 80-1.
Even with their blemishes, I’m confident enough that the Ducks have better than a 1.2% chance of winning the Stanley Cup.
At 80-1 that’s all you need.
Stanley Cup Odds: 66-1
Season Point Total: 81.5
Odds to Make Playoffs Yes +260, No -371
The Buffalo Sabres are taking longer than expected to become relevant, and last season was a cautionary tale of hyping teams up just because they were bad for so long and made some moves that signaled they thought they were ready to contend.
The top six looks in decent shape, Rasmus Dahlin looks to be a cornerstone piece on defense and the Sabres made a couple of nimble additions over the past six months in Marcus Johansson, Colin Miller and Brandon Montour.
There’s enough randomness in the NHL that you could make a case to take a flier almost any team and there’s certainly some interesting pieces in Buffalo that I wouldn’t call anybody crazy for giving them a twirl, but there are two big red flags with investing in the Sabres.
The first, which is out of their control, is that they play in the Atlantic Division, which is easily the toughest in the NHL. Not only do the Sabres need to navigate a schedule that sees them play a dozen games against the Lightning, Maple Leafs and Bruins, but they also need to out-pace the Panthers and/or the Canadiens to qualify for the postseason. It’s hard to see them doing that.
Secondly, the Sabres are not strong in goal. Buffalo made a wonky decision by handing out a hefty contract to Carter Hutton, a career backup who was coming off an outlier performance with the Blues, with the hopes that he would stabilize things in net.
That didn’t work out and Linus Ullmark (-5.11 Goals Saved Above Average) hasn’t shown anything that would make you believe he’s about to challenge for the position.
The Sabres seem destined for somewhere between 78 and 85 points, so I don’t think there’s anything to get enthused about here.