With the NHL realignment for the 2021 season, the West Division features two 2021 Stanley Cup favorites in Colorado and Vegas. The two are the leading favorites to win the West, but they will face a challenge from 2019 Stanley Cup champion St. Louis.
An eventual Avalanche trip to the NHL semifinals was made much easier when the league placed Dallas in a different division. The Stars went 4-0 against Colorado in the regular season last year. Here’s a look at betting the NHL West Division in 2021.
Oddsmakers everywhere have pegged the Colorado Avalanche as an early Stanley Cup favorite. Colorado (+135) is loaded with talent and any time Nathan MacKinnon is on the ice you cannot count the Avs out. The line of MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog is the best in hockey. Cale Makar is an All-Star defenseman and Colorado added Devon Toews in the offseason to boost the defense.
The key for Colorado will be the health of G Philipp Grubauer. He had to bow out of the playoffs last year due to injury.
The Vegas Golden Knights (+150) may have the best goaltending duo in the league with veteran Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner, who was acquired via trade last season. It’s possible that the Knights will have to trade Fleury though to stay under the salary cap. Still, Vegas is talented enough to capture the division. Remember, the Knights won the Pacific Division twice in the last three seasons.
If there is a real threat to break the two-team race at the top of the West Division, it’s the St. Louis Blues. They did lose D Alex Pietrangelo to Vegas, but the Blues return enough talent – leading scorer Ryan O’Reilly for example – and enough playoff experience to pull a mild upset.
The Blues are listed at +325 and if you’re looking for value in a team other than Colorado or Vegas, St. Louis is it. Minnesota, listed at +850, has won exactly one division title in franchise history and that was back in 2008. Plus, the Wild gave up the eighth-most goals per game last season.
The Arizona Coyotes are also listed at +850, but like Minnesota has just one division title (2012) in franchise history. The Coyotes are one of the stronger defensive teams in the NHL, but they have trouble putting the puck in the net. Last season, Arizona ranked 23 rd in scoring netting 2.71 goals per game and did little to address its lack of scoring in the offseason.
The three California teams – Los Angeles, Anaheim, and San Jose – did not qualify for last year’s postseason tournament. Those three teams have been off the ice since March of 2020. Will all that rest make a difference in 2021?
Probably not. All three teams are longshots and for good reasons. The Kings (+1350) are the best of the bunch, but San Jose (+1550), Anaheim (+1750) and L.A. are all in the same boat. They have young rosters and are a few years away from being competitive. None of the three are likely to earn a playoff berth let alone win the division.
A native of Western Pennsylvania, Rick, a Generation X-er, who now lives just north of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. A former high school, college, and professional football player, Rick now spends his time as a high school coach and as a personal quarterback trainer. An all-state high school quarterback, he went on to become an Academic All-American at Division II Indiana University of PA. He later coached at his alma mater helping lead the program to the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship game. Rick has also served as a high school head coach and as an assistant in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan.
His passion for sports writing started when he was the sports editor for his high school newspaper and continued when he worked as a sportswriter for the Jamestown (New York) Post-Journal in the early 1990s. A true sports fanatic, Rick enjoys all things Pittsburgh: Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. The Immaculate Reception, the 1979 We Are Family Pirates, and the ’91-’92 Penguins are among his favorites. After working as an educator and athletic director for several years, he again took up sports writing and has contributed to several websites and publications, including Coach & Player magazine, X & O Labs, American Football Monthly, and many others.
When not consumed with coaching, watching, thinking about, or writing about football and other seasonal sports, he finds himself working out like he was still in college and reading everything from military history to Brad Thor novels. Rick has also been chasing rock god stardom as a drummer who has played with bands that have opened for the likes of Fuel, Days of the New, and Alien Ant Farm. He continues to play with his church worship group. Most importantly, Rick is married to the love of his life, Lisa, and has two beautiful daughters.