Knock on wood.
We’ve made it through the first month and roughly 10 percent of the season without any interruptions or postponements, but the pandemic continues to play a significant role. Even though nearly all of the players are vaccinated, teams have been forced to sit players due to the league’s COVID protocol.
Nevertheless, we’ve got a big enough sample size (though still small) to make some observations and take a look at the updated futures bets for the Stanley Cup winner. Green and red arrows signifying movement are based on implied odds numbers and compared to our last look at them.
All odds are courtesy BetMGM and accurate as of Nov. 1, 2021.
Colorado Avalanche +550
The Avs remain the favorite even though they sit fifth in the Central, already four points behind the first-place Blues. I would be confident with the Avs if they had better goaltending; Kuemper has a .904 Sv% and -2.1 GSAA according to hockey-reference.com’s model. We also still don’t know if this team has any reliable depth beyond their top line, though the upside of a Cale Makar-Bowen Byram pairing could potentially provide an offset. This is hockey, and being the favorite rarely leads to a storybook ending.
Florida Panthers +850
The Panthers understandably made one of the biggest jumps, finishing the month earning 17 out of a possible 18 points. Their odds have increased steadily since the summer and now have leapfrogged the Knights into a second-place tie with the rival Lightning. There’s plenty of room if you still want to jump on the bandwagon, but being considered the potential runner-up is already about as good as you can get. The Panthers’ .944 points percentage pace is obviously unsustainable, which means maybe the odds may come back down for another opportunity to buy.
Vegas Golden Knights +1000
This is what happens when you dedicate too much of your cap to your top players and those top players end up getting injured. The Knights don’t have the requisite depth or prospects to cover the void left by Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, and both the Oilers and Flames look like they can challenge for the division title. Even acquiring Jack Eichel won’t help their short-term prospects, but if you still like Vegas’ chances when they’re healthy, there might be some value here. They need to get through the next couple of months relatively unscathed because the competition in the Pacific is a lot tougher than expected.
Edmonton Oilers +1400
Good goaltending from Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen has changed the outlook for this team. The defense is still allowing a league-high 36 shots per game, but with the league’s eighth-best .925 Sv% from their goalies and fourth-best offense in goals per game, they’ve been able to cover up that weakness. With Vegas faltering, the Oilers’ chances of winning the division have increased, and it could be the difference between facing a wild card team or a red-hot Jacob Markstrom and the Flames in the first round. The Oilers look pretty good so far, and their path to the Finals might be easier than the Leafs’.
St. Louis Blues +2200
Jordan Binnington’s .926 Sv% is just one basis point off his career-high in 2019, the year the Blues won the Cup. Funny coincidence aside, it looks like the Blues have enough depth to roll all four lines the way they like, and sitting in first place in a tough division with a 6-1-0 start will certainly help stem any ground lost when they start to cool off. I’m not sold on the Blues just yet, but among the three teams with odds at +2200 – the others being Pittsburgh and Minnesota – the Blues definitely seem like they have the easiest path.
Calgary Flames +3000
At worst, the Flames look like the third-best team in the Pacific behind the Knights and Oilers. They rank sixth in Corsi% and 11th in Fenwick%, according to hockey-reference.com’s model, and that’s a good sign Darryl Sutter has a good handle on this team now that they resemble the championship-winning Kings teams that he used to coach, only with a better offense with a dominant top line of Elias Lindholm between Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau. Their playing style and having arguably the best goalie in the division right now means they’ll be able to go deep into the playoffs. The Flames have gone from pre-season playoff-hopeful to an outside chance at winning the division title.
Winnipeg Jets +4000
The Jets went 4-2-2 after a horrible start and missed key players due to COVID protocol, but it wasn’t enough to change their odds either way. Their possession numbers at 5-on-5 aren’t very good – to be fair they never have been under Paul Maurice – but finishing second during a tough month in a tight division should be a very positive indicator of how good the Jets can be. It doesn’t feel like the Jets’ odds will get any lower, and surely their odds will improve along with their 19th-ranked .903 Sv%.
Chicago Blackhawks +12500
The team is a disaster both on and off the ice, and even with the amount of talent on that roster, you wonder if they can really dig out of their hole. They earned a meager two points in nine games in October, and we’ve yet to see them really play well as a group. Their roster overhaul seems to have highlighted even more weaknesses than before, and even the most hopeful fans should agree that there’s close to zero chance this team even makes it out of the first round should they be lucky enough to make the playoffs.