Something you must know about Puck Paddy….he likes to gamble away his hard-earned currencies on sporting events of all types. Currently, he has money tied up in golf, soccer, NFL, basketball, baseball, rugby…and hockey. Below is GambleBlog, a betting preview on the NHL’s upcoming 2014/15 season, and where you might find some value this season.
Being one of only but a relative few Hockey fans hailing from Western Europe, I feel compelled to flex my muscle and pretend like I know more than you about the NHL just because I understand Icing. And, you know, it’s probably true that I do know more than you, but it’s only because you probably don’t care about Hockey. Where I make my mistake is that I feel like prominent sports books from the British Isles are as ignorant about the game of Hockey as your bog-standard Joe Soap, thus making me think that I am capable of beating the bank.
As you can probably tell by the fact that I’m actually writing a blog instead of sitting on a beach somewhere in South-East Asia basking in my millions, that this is something I am not capable of.
So how can I help you? I will do it the way I help myself: by watching copious amounts of hockey and listening to analysts discuss the potential outcomes for the upcoming season, and try to identify gaps between North American discourse and Europe book-makers.
Furthermore, if I do end up getting things wrong (and by “if” I mean “when”) I can at least look back and blame the analysts for not knowing what they’re talking about. Of course, if they did know what they were talking about, they too would be on a beach in South-East Asia basking etc. etc. etc.
So without further ado, here is my gambling season preview!
Euro Sportsbooks love themselves some Boston Bruins to chalk down the East, and with good reason. The team has been a consistently solid performer for the past five years and have the pedigree of champions. Goaltending, a key ingredient to any top-tier team, is up there with the best as Rask continues to demonstrated, and the blue-line, lead by the beastly Zdeno Chara, has been solid for a number of years now. They’re a team built for the play-off’s and have great depth across all four lines, but the best price you’re going to see right now is 7/2. To me those odds are not great and would rather wait it out and see if they stray to about 6’s during the season.
The reason I say wait and see if they stray is because of Pittsburgh. The allure of Sid and Malkin lighting up regular season opponents every couple of days will result in heavy betting from those who see the big stars and think “who can beat them??”. Frankly, until Pittsburgh show they can get down and dirty with teams in the play-offs again, I want nothing to do with them. But they are a classic regular season superpower, and their current 5/1 price will certainly come in if they do what they are very capable of doing, and start to dominate their conference. That will push the value elsewhere.
Speaking of value, I like two value picks to start the season: Montreal at 8/1 and Tampa Bay at 10/1. Montreal could, and probably should have made the Stanley Cup finals last year but for an unfortunately-timed Carey Price injury. However, Carey Price may have been the top goaltender in the play-offs to that point, and with the gold medal of Sochi 2014 around his neck, he has proven top-tier talent. PK Subban is now signed on and committed, and although the team hasn’t made many significant additions over the past year, they’re a solidly built franchise moving in the right direction. Perhaps crucially, they may have Boston’s number, and for a legitimate top 3 or 4 team in the conference, 8/1 looks like a pretty good deal to me.
Tampa Bay is a team a lot of analysts like the look of this year, and at 10/1 they are nicely priced, but you would probably prefer a little more value here. A year of fully-fit Stamkos would be a welcomed addition, and they’ve made some nice additions through free agency that should offer a bit more depth to their roster. Stamkos’ goals and Bishop’s goal tending will be what really counts, though, and we’ll have to see if they’ve learned anything from last years whipping from Montreal in the first round of the play-off’s.
Want an outside bet? Why not the Blue Jackets? A lot of the league fell in love with their rousing effort against the Penguins in round one last year, and if Bobrovski and Ryan Johannsen keep their high-standards, they should be able to continue making an impact this year. Scotty Hartnell, noted Pittsburgh agitator, will also add a veteran presence to the team, and so those are a couple of feisty moves to get excited about, so at 16/1 CBJ could be worth a punt.
Eastern honourable mention needs to go to last years conference champion NY Rangers, but nobody is getting too excited about them this year. I love their coach and I love their goaltender more, but I also can’t help but feel they over-achieved last year and could regress to the mean in 2015. Rhyming, bitches.
Safe Bet: Boston 7/2 (but wait on it a bit)
Value Bet: Montreal 8/1
The Western Conference….Fuck Me.
Pardon my French.
It’s a behemoth. The talent is so disproportionate that there’s almost no point in betting on a team to win this conference directly because you might as well just bet on them to win the Cup. Of the last five years, Boston are the only team to have broken the cycle of Western dominance. Of course they’re capable of doing it again, but it might be worth your while going all-in, in that case. While Chicago and LA are 4/1 and 5/1 respectively to win the West, both teams have won the cup twice in four years, so perhaps the 8/1 and 9/1 available prices are what you want.
Last season, the Anaheim Ducks looked mighty during the regular season and play-off’s. They raced off to an impressive start and kept a tidy pace throughout an extremely difficult division. Perry and Getzlaf ascended to top 10 talents in the league, and each played integral roles in winning Gold at Sochi for Canada. They are, and presumably remain, Beasts. The recent signing of Ryan Kesler, a proven performer down the years for Vancouver, is a big name addition that may be one of the keys to their season. The unknown of goal tending is potentially the major concern, but Gibson is a highly-rated young stopper who showed great promise when drafted in during the post-season run last year, so at 13/1 for winning the cup, I think you’ve got to like that price, especially if they start hot again this year. Lest we forget, they took the eventual champions to Game 7 last year too. This team has a lot to prove and might be well positioned to do it in 2015.
If you want an outside hot tip then why not try Minnesota? Like Tampa Bay, Minnesota have made a few under-the-radar moves (if you call signing top-tier free agent Thomas Vanek under the radar) and could be nicely positioned to cause a bit of a ruckus in 2015. The last two years their progress has been halted by Chicago, and so that is an obvious hurdle they will need to overcome if they do want to progress, but in saying that this is a team that may be building towards a crescendo of success, slowly building quality talent and gaining invaluable experience. The West is a very hard conference to win, no doubt, but at 12/1 to progress three rounds, and 20/1 for the overall honours, I’d be tempted by that. Like Anaheim, the questions are primarily centered around goal-tending, which is problematic. But that’s why they’re 12/1.
The honorable mentions can extend almost to every play-off team from last year with this division. My American Father, Puck Daddy, sounds like he is interested in St. Louis for 2015 success and it’s hard to doubt they’re credentials, but for me the value isn’t there for a team that’s yet to beat a prominent team. Not saying it can’t happen, but just saying there’s no value there. San Jose are obviously a contender as well, but how can anyone feel good after their post-season collapse last year? Consensus on Colorado is that there’s a possibility of regression this year, which is very possible given their exception 2013/14 year, but the reality is there’s something to be said for about six of the Western Conference teams this season, so pick your poison.
Safe Bet: Toss a coin between Chicago and LA
Value Bet: Minnesota Wild at 12/1
The Rocket Richard trophy, awarded to the top Goal-scorer in the NHL yearly, could be changed to the Ovechkin award if he keeps at his current clip. The man has won it four times, including twice in a row, putting him second favourite behind one Stephen Stamkos to chalk it down in 2015. Either are solid bets to be honest, and if you expect Tampa Bay to be even better this year (like I do) then perhaps betting on the favourite isn’t a bad idea.
But where’s the fun in that!? Personally, I would be interested in Sidney Crosby at best priced 12/1 to take the award as it’s a good price for a man largely considered the best in hockey. Of course, what should give you pause is that he has never actually won the trophy outright by himself (tied with Stamkos one year) but with doubt surrounding his status as an all-time player, I would be interested taking a punt.
If you’re looking for a real outsider, as someone who watches Phil Kessel score a consistently large amount of goals, you get the feeling that he has a 50 goal season in him. Rarely injured and takes a heck of a lot of shots, at 25/1 you’re looking at a potential top 5 goal-scoring talent who tailed off towards the end of last year.
Safe Bet: Ovechkin 4/1
Outside Bet: Crosby 12/1
The Norris trophy is awarded to the best Defenseman, who according to Wikipedia “…demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the season”. This award has been a bit all over the map since stand-out Red Wing Nik Lidstrom surrendered the aware in 2008 (although he did nab it back for one last go around in 2011) with Duncan Keith the only other man to take it twice in the last six years. Duncan Keith is again going to be a top contender this year, with Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara always there or thereabouts.
For me, you can look no further than Drew Doughty. He is absolutely unquestionably going to win a Norris Trophy at some stage, and with the LA Kings still a super-power, it’s just a question of whether they are going to do enough in the regular season to win the award. Anyone who watches him play cannot deny his ability to go forward, and with an extremely strong supporting cast around him, he’s only going to look better this year. 7/1 is a nice price for such a good player.
Former champion P.K Subban is another guy I expect to have a strong year. He won the award two years ago, earned himself a beefy new contract and will excel in the Eastern Conference if he continues to lead a strong Montreal team towards the top of the standings. He’s a bit better at marketing himself and 14/1 for a recent for winner is another tasty figure.
The reality is this award is a bit all over the map and there’s a lot of potential contenders, so if you like the cut of someone’s defensive prowess then go for it.
Safe Bet: Doughty 7/1
Outside Bet: Subban 14/1
In many ways, this award can generate the most heated debate as goal tending metrics have not advanced the same way other positions have. There’s a bit more interpretation as to what constitutes a great goaltender and who actually deserves to win it, and recent trends have been towards some of the biggest names in goal-tending, between Tukka Rask, Lunqvuist, Miller and Tim Thomas (when the latter two were actually good)…
The obvious candidates are two prior winners, Rask and Lunqvuist, who again benefit from being in the favourable conference to save many shots. Jonathan Quick, a goal-tender I love, has got to be under consideration as well. For me, the main man needs to be Carey Price. For the year 2014, there has been nobody better in my estimation, beginning with the Olympics and going all the way to his injury in the play-offs. He was the main reason the Bruins went no further, and if he continues at this pace then I can’t see anyone beating him out at 15/2.
My slight outsider again comes from the East, and also focuses around a slightly under-the-radar pick. My feelings towards Tampa Bay are now out there, and if they’re to have the season that some analysts project then their goaltender Ben Bishop needs to be strongly considered. Last season he was probably in pole position until his injury, so at 8/1 I’d like my chances again. Honourable mention to Miller in Vancouver…although I don’t know why….
Safe Bet: Carey Price 15/2
Outside Bet: Bishop 8/1
Look, people love themselves some Sidney Crosby. I get it. He’s pretty good. He romped to the award last year and is prohibitive favourite again for 2015. It could be a very safe bet. Center’s do have a strangle-hold on this award, unless they perform great feats of scoring (see Ovi & Corey Perry) so there’s a formula for success here. But here I go again getting on the Tampa Bay bandwagon…
Look, I don’t think Tampa Bay are going to become the NHL’s next great superpower. Far from it. I’m just saying they’re playing in a weaker conference, they have a couple of big names and they’re building towards something. Stamkos is a top 5 player in the league, though. People are ready to crown him after last season’s return from injury. 6/1 for Stamkos to win the Hart Trophy, I like it. He fits two key criteria for the aware: he’s a center and he scores a heck of a lot of goals.
There has been a buzz about Anze Kopitar in LA recently too which has to be acknowledged. He doesn’t grab many headlines but he is a really excellent player. 14/1 isn’t a bad shout but he’s kind of the hockey hipster pick. Am I a hockey hipster? I suppose I want to be, I write a hockey blog and I’m from Ireland, where we call it Ice Hockey…
Want a real good player at a real good price? Then consider this scenario: Sidney Crosby, notorious for getting headaches, get’s a headache. He misses a few weeks. Weeks turn to months. Pittsburgh’s headline-grabber out of the picture for various reasons. But wait…the Penguins are still winning games? How is this possible without their best player? Oh that’s right, they have that great player Evgani Malkin dragging them towards success.
I’ve just described 2011/12 to you. Geno won the Hart that year. This year he’s 40/1. Tempting…
Safe Bet: Stamkos 6/1
Outside Bet: Malkin 40/1