NHL Worst Regular Season Record 2022-23 Odds: Which Team Fails Its Way to Connor Bedard?
Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews
The NHL Draft Lottery is a silver lining at the end of a painful season for fans of the league's cellar-dwellers, and that will be especially true this season with Connor Bedard eligible for the 2023 draft and an overwhelming favorite to go first overall.
Bedard will likely be a true franchise-changing player, and he will in all likelihood be the best player to join the NHL since Connor McDavid, leaving teams well incentivized to finish dead last in the 2022-23 season.
Luckily, the league's recent restructure of the draft lottery rules will hopefully prevent full-blown tanking to an extent, as the team finishing with the league's worst record will still hold just a 25.5% chance of claiming first overall.
The betting market for which team will emerge with the league's worst overall record has been posted to Bet365 and FanDuel as of the time of writing, and I believe is currently providing some strong options to bettors.
My belief is that many of the teams listed with reasonable chances to finish last (Buffalo +1200, Anaheim +1200, Columbus +1200, Seattle +1600, Detroit +2000, Ottawa +2200) are far more unlikely than those numbers suggest to actually do so, and therefore some of the true favorites in this race for last hold better prices than I would have expected.
There are a number of reasons all of those teams should be better than last season (outside of Columbus, which overachieved points-wise last season but should still remain well out of the race), and they're certainly heading into the season with aspirations of a competitive season.
Obviously, that plan can change very quickly, as we saw with Montreal last season. However, even considering that we will see some teams possibly sneak into this race due to roster losses, I'm surprised the teams that we know have zero aspirations of winning aren't more favored in these odds to finish last.
So while I think a case could be made that Arizona or Chicago hold a better chance of finishing bottom than the implied odds of Bet365's prices suggest (25% for Arizona at +300, 20% for Chicago at +400), I believe Chicago at +400 is a notably strong play.
The Hawks roster figures to be terrible this season, and I actually believe it holds even less upside than Arizona, which features a few more young players to be excited about, as well as a defensive core that could quietly be better than the Hawks.
Most of the teams likely to be in the mix for last place feature a number of young talents keen to make a difference at the NHL level and likely to be given the opportunity to do so. But that's not exactly the case in Chicago.
Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson has pointed out that in years past the organization has rushed young talents to the NHL. And it seems that particularly on the defensive end, few spots are available for anyone but middling veterans, particularly after the signing of Jack Johnson in free agency, who will in an ideal world (for our bet) play 82 games this season.
Offensively, the Hawks figure to be quite bad, and the floor for its forward corps is extremely low, which is exactly what we want with this +400 number.
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews could take steps backward again in the 2022-23 season at ages 33 and 34, respectively, but even if not, this group doesn't hold much in the way of top talent. It's also likely that both players will be traded by season's end.
Max Domi and Andreas Athanasiou will likely fall into top-six roles before becoming trade bait prior to the deadline, and they would be overachieving recent results to even be strong top-six options prior to their likely departures.
Lukas Reichel, 2020's 17th overall pick, could offer some upside at the NHL level and would likely draw a role alongside Kane considering the nature of his game. But it could be just as likely we see Reichel spend the majority of the year with AHL Rockford again.
Goaltending is typically the hardest position in hockey to project accurately, but Chicago's netminding situation should be well below average, as well, in 2022.
Petr Mrazek will likely be given a long leash to prove himself as the starter, even after a disastrous 2021-22 campaign that saw him post a -11.34 Goals saved above expected (GSAx) rating with an .888 save %.
Arvid Soderblom should likely edge out veteran Alex Stalock for the backup role after a strong finish to the season with AHL Hartford, and he could take a step forward. But he did find disastrous results at the NHL level last season with a -5.8 GSAx and .863 save % through three games.
Chicago will need quite a parlay of stuff to go right in 2022-23 to not be heavily involved in the race for last. They appear to be one of only three or four teams that enter the year accepting of that fate.
So even at FanDuel's price of +300, I would be willing to get some money in play on Chicago here with how poorly the roster projects. But at Bet365's price of +400, I feel we have a slam-dunk.
A price of +1100 could be a reasonable wager (maybe you're a Flyers fan who wants to cheer a tank for Bedard), but due in large to the fact that Carter Hart is a far better netminder than any of these other bottom-feeders hold, Philadelphia should still remain out of the mix for last. So that leaves Chicago as my favorite choice in this market.
*UPDATE (Sept. 22): News has come out of Philadelphia that veteran defensemen Ryan Ellis will likely miss the vast majority of the season if not all, while top-center Sean Couturier is now listed as week-to-week with another back injury.
With Bet365 still offering a price of +1100 amid that news, I would upgrade the Flyers from a lean on this market to one worthy of a small play.*
Update Sept. 23
FanDuel is still offering +1500 on the Flyers to finish last, something I missed during yesterday's update, and obviously a number I see value on.*