It was not a surprise that a Pacific Division team went to the Stanley Cup Finals. What was flabbergasting is that it was an expansion team named Vegas.
The Golden Knights original plan is in the garbage like a 10-team parlay as Vegas tries to return to Finals. Los Angeles and Anaheim figure to compete but San Jose made the biggest move and believes they can return to play for the Stanley Cup like they did in the spring of 2016.
Beside team previews, we will also cover each clubs Over/Under wager for season points in the standings and their odds to win their division and conference. The latter two odds are presented by Intertops.
San Jose Sharks | +250 to win Pacific and +600 to win the Western Conference
After years of being a bridesmaid on multiple levels, the Sharks are ready to devour the West and snatch that first Stanley Cup. San Jose ran into a buzz saw in Vegas and lost in the conference finals. The Sharks made cap room and took a serious run at John Tavares and came up short. In late summer, they took another run at all-world defensemen Eric Karlsson and landed him in a trade, while still maintaining their key assets. Match him with fellow blue-liner Brent Burns and scoring leaders Logan Colture, Evander Kane and Joe Pavelski and this is a team that can finally bring home the hardware with a little luck.
Vegas proved a shrewd front office, a head coach that could meld misfits together and a group of unwanted players with sheer desire and enough skill can take you a long way. Nobody other than the Golden Knights organization is calling for an unprecedented repeat. Vegas like the city is built for speed and that was up and down every line and group of defensemen. Though VGK suffered free agency losses, they seem to have filled those spots well and have stockpiled picks to fill the pipeline in the near future. Last year was pure magic and not one player or coach had anything to lose. Now established and with a reputation, will all those that exceeded every expectation return to normal? That's the hard question on Vegas.
It's been four years since the Los Angeles Kings were the kings of hockey. Instead of making changes that would benefit them in the long haul, L.A. has stood still thinking maybe they can counter speed with power and strength. Los Angeles is sticking with cornerstones like forwards Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, defenseman Drew Doughty, and netminder Jonathan Quick. Usain Bolt was not brought in to improve speed techniques, but this is an older team that comes to play every night. In an analytics-driven world, there is something comforting about an old-school squad that does it best and might have a few tricks left.
Anaheim Ducks | +500 to win Pacific and +1200 to win the Western Conference
The Ducks have won the Pacific Division five the last six years, been to the playoffs each time and made the West Finals twice in the past four seasons. But this is a franchise that wants another Stanley Cup trophy to match the one they captured in 2007 and they have not evolved because their style of play is going the way of cable TV. Anaheim's more plodding defensive style does not match up against the top level teams and while they have guys that can skate, how the Ducks play is too cautious. There is still talent up and down the Ducks roster, but can they fly and not waddle?
Edmonton Oilers | +500 to win Pacific and +1200 to win the Western Conference
The Oilers were the favorite to win the Pacific last year and instead, they finished 6th and missed the postseason. Edmonton's young players that were so brilliant the year before, fell off dramatically and exposed a roster with quite a few warts. Conner McDavid was the one player that did not fail and in the second half of the last year, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins found his stride. The Oilers right wing position is a weakness among all four lines. The defense finished 27th in goals allowed they are returning essentially the same cast, hoping they play like two years ago and not last season. If the present roster plays to expectations, this could be 100-points team. If not, Edmonton lands in 80's.
Calgary Flames | +600 to win Pacific and +1400 to win the Western Conference
The word "trending" is popular these days and it explains Calgary the last five seasons, trending one direction or the other. Here are there point totals starting with the 2013-14 season: 77-97-77-94-84. Ownership wanted more stability and winning and jettisoned the coach and several players including top defensemen Dougie Hamilton. GM Brad Treliving wants more puck possession and discipline. Ranking 27th in scoring will not cut it this season and taking too many foolish penalties contributed to a 16-28 record in games determined by two or more goals. Treliving wanted full responsibility of the franchise and has it, but will the Flames catch fire and reach 95 or more points?
Arizona Coyotes | +3300 to win Pacific and +4000 to win the Western Conference
The Coyotes started last season with one the youngest roster s in the NHL and it showed. It took them 21 games to register their first regulation time victory. But Arizona improved under than first-year coach Rick Tocchet and closed 17-10-3. The Coyotes were 30th in scoring and made a bold move in trading Max Domi to Montreal for Alex Galchenyuk, who they believe will become their true No.1 center. The Yotes also added veterans, Mike Grabner and Brad Richardson to beef up the offense. The defense has more overall talent, led by Oliver Eckman-Larsson and goalie Antti Raanta. After reaching just 70 points the last two seasons, Arizona is forecasted around 81 points and is improving.
GM Jim Benning is bullish on his roster moves and sees the Vancouver taking a large step forward, after finishing with 73, 69 and 75 points the past three seasons. Oddsmakers and most other hockey experts are less inclined to agree and wonder where the improvement will come on the team that 26th scoring and score prevention. The Canucks were 29th in even strength situations last year and as this season is about to commence, their second and third lines are not 100 percent set. The Vancouver defense offers little in the way of scoring or points and the goaltending is substandard. Can you say UNDER for points?