Even the silent majority (or in the case of podcasters chirping of how excited they are, the not-so-silent majority) of ice hockey fans who’re pleased with the NHL’s decision to participate in the Winter Olympics seem to agree on 1 negative point – that the NHL and the Beijing Olympics will be at cross-purposes in manufacturing a healthy, exciting season of pond shinny.
Even the aging Don Cherry, who wears a Maple Leaf on his sleeve the size of a pink slip from CBC, worried about “the best guys” in the NHL “getting hurt in China” before acquiescing that yes, it’s neat to see the best version of Team Canada at the Olympics again. Insofar as the National Hockey League season goes, the Beijing break is seen as a dangerous wild card and a potential nuisance.
That’s where just about everybody is getting it wrong. Remember that the players are 99% responsible for pressuring the NHL into green-lighting Men’s Ice Hockey participation in 2022. But when pundits say “the NHL’s best are excited to play in China,” who are they talking about exactly?
Except for a token batch of Olympic skaters enjoying a round of early publicity, no one knows yet. Rosters will be chosen in November and December, just about the time that – I don’t know – people whisper that there’s an “NHL season” or something that gets rolling around that time.
NHL players have only 1 way to make a national team headed to Beijing in February, and that’s by impressing scouts on the ice. That factor is a clue to what could be the most overlooked gambling angle of any winter sport’s betting board headed into a new cycle.
Scroll down for more – or viddy the current futures lines on a Stanley Cup champion in spring ’22.
NHL Futures Odds: Stanley Cup Winner 2021-22
Colorado Avalanche : +550
Tampa Bay Lightning : +650
Vegas Golden Knights : +700
Toronto Maple Leafs : +1100
Boston Bruins : +1400
New York Islanders : +1600
Pittsburgh Penguins : +2100
Carolina Hurricanes : +2200
Florida Panthers : +2200
New York Rangers : +2400
Washington Capitals : +2400
Minnesota Wild : +2500
Dallas Stars : +2800
Philadelphia Flyers : +2900
Edmonton Oilers : +2900
Winnipeg Jets : +4100
St. Louis Blues : +4100
Chicago Blackhawks : +4100
Calgary Flames : +4800
New Jersey Devils : +4800
Seattle Kraken : +4800
Montreal Canadiens : +5000
Vancouver Canucks : +7000
Los Angeles Kings : +8500
Nashville Predators : +8500
San Jose Sharks : +8500
Anaheim Ducks : +10000
Ottawa Senators : +10000
Detroit Red Wings : +10000
Arizona Coyotes : +10000
Columbus Blue Jackets : +15000
Buffalo Sabres : +15000
Despite not winning a Stanley Cup since Ray Bourque and Peter Forsberg skated for the club, the Colorado Avalanche boast shorter 2022 Stanley Cup odds than the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Perhaps the history of Lord Stanley’s grail is keeping some clients shy of the Bolts, as no team has won more than 2 Stanley Cup Finals in a row since the New York Islanders took advantage of a league in transition to stay on top for 4 years in the early 1980s.
The list of dynasty-level teams limited to 2 consecutive NHL championships includes Wayne Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers, the Pittsburgh Penguins led by Mario Lemieux and head coach Scotty Bowman, and Bowman’s other 1990s powerhouse the Detroit Red Wings. Forsberg and the Avalanche lifted the cup more than once but failed to ever repeat as champions.
Salary cap issues also pose a problem for Tampa Bay. The Lightning had to let go of exciting center Yanni Gourde in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft. Gourde’s underwhelming size and finesse style ought to have landed him in the KHL by now, but the club’s rookie scoring record-holder stuck it out to become a sensational newcomer in the Sunshine State.
Tampa will miss Gourde’s scoring in 2021-22, though the Lightning’s addition of Corey Perry will add a much needed dose of veteran skills and toughness.
Following a strong 2021 expansion draft, the Seattle Kraken are a 50-to-1 futures line for the upcoming NHL season, optimistic odds for a start-up team despite the $50 on $1 payoff.
Bookmakers aren’t giving Seattle exaggerated Stanley Cup odds solely because of skaters like Gourde, however. Las Vegas learned a chilling lesson when the Vegas Golden Knights arrived as an expansion team in 2017-18. Stanley Cup odds makers respected the Golden Knights’ choice of Marc-André Fleury in goal, but laughed at a roster filled with former European club pros, youngsters, and power-play specialists, giving the new “home team” 500-to-1 odds to win the next Stanley Cup Finals. Sin City fans and even some tourists bought VGK’s odds for $10 simply to take home as a souvenir.
Jump to the spring of 2018, and those bet slips started to show real promise. The Vegas Golden Knights were advancing with ease in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and Fleury was garnering a rep as the NHL’s best expansion GK since Jacques Plante. Sportsbooks were threatened by an epic payout if Vegas won Lord Stanley’s hardware and gamblers cashed-in their bets at 500/1 odds.
Alas, the Golden Knights lost in 5 games to the Washington Capitals, and except for wise bets at 250/1 odds on VGK to win the Western Conference, the slips turned into souvenirs after all.
The 2020-21 season also saw a phase out of “Flower” in favor of goaltender Robin Lehner. VGK’s popular (+700) odds to win the Stanley Cup illustrate that FanDuel clients trust Lehner and Golden Knights skaters to surmount the scars left by a goaltending controversy. Lehner’s performance ceiling may not be close to that of Fleury, who is quick enough to catch up to a slap shot in mid-air. He is a solid positional netminder who may prove handier in the President’s Cup race than in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Long-shot wagers to lift the Stanley Cup this year include Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins at (+2100) and 2019’s unlikely winner St. Louis at 40-to-1. The improving New York Rangers enjoy shorter-than-average odds to win the grail in spring 2022, while the proximity of the Big Apple and a certain Canadian town continues to play strange mind-games on sportsbook clientele. Canadian teams are all sitting at long Stanley Cup odds after not lifting the trophy for nearly 30 years, except for – you guessed it – the Toronto Maple Leafs who are an 11/1 pick this year.
How the Olympic Games Will Affect the NHL Season – For the Better
The 2022 Beijing Olympics have thrown a wrench into sportsbooks’ predictions, and in a bizarre turn, a contingent of NHL fans do not want the world’s best players taking part in the event. NHL players, of course, are 99% in favor of the league’s break for the Winter Olympics, putting such supporters in the strange circumstance of rooting for their own favorite players to be unhappy.
Arguments over the Beijing decision overshadow the fact that many NHL clubs could be helped, not hindered, by the Olympic break. To begin with, a majority of NHL players will not participate in the Winter Olympics, as there are only so many U.S., Canadian, and Swedish roster spots to go around. Countries like Russia and Finland won’t even select 20+ NHL players to join their teams, preferring to use loyal national-team cogs on the 4th line.
Spectators who are complaining about a gap in the NHL schedule aren’t thinking of how fun it will be to see healthy, rested skaters in March and April.
Stanley Cup futures betting may eventually shift to favor NHL teams with fewer Olympic participants. But such teams can likely be wagered on at long Stanley Cup odds well into the season, because the biggest name-brand superstars vying for President’s Cup honors will be in China competing for gold and garnering huge headlines.
Meanwhile, NHL clubs with lots of “bubble” candidates – who may or may not be selected by their national teams – could experience a feeding-frenzy of adrenaline and top form as skaters strive to impress national-team scouts in November and December.
Toronto is drawing 4x more futures action than Edmonton, perhaps because of the buzz surrounding the Olympic Games. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl of the Oilers could each fall asleep by a tree and wake up in February to play for Canada and Germany, without much of a “Rip Van Wrinkle” thrown into the sportsbook odds. Toronto’s Austin Matthews is also a lock to play in China, but Maple Leaf skaters like Michael Bunting, who led Canada’s IIHF team to unlikely gold in 2021, will need all kinds of scoring numbers to be considered over the winter. Jake Muzzin skated with Canada’s veteran All-Stars at the 2016 World Cup, but he hasn’t scored 20 goals since 2018, and may also need a career season for the Maple Leafs to earn an Olympic spot for his home country.
It is extremely likely that Russian sniper Nikita Gusev will play for ROC no matter what, but he still has every reason to overcome league-transition woes and come out with a strong start.
Pond shinny sharks should be wary of short game lines and NHL playoff odds on teams full of Olympic heroes returning from Beijing, who may not have much gas in the tank in March. Players who labor to make their national teams will endure 2 rounds of heart-stopping hockey overseas before returning to resume the season, a steep disadvantage when matched against well-rested rosters.
Remember, big headlines almost always add up to too-eager betting action on favored teams, making the odds sweeter on NHL rosters who’ll spend February practicing, preparing, and (imagine!) resting.
Canada, Russia, and Finland are enjoying the most action in early Olympic betting odds. Team USA is considered a 10-to-1 underdog for gold despite a potential roster of top NHL playmakers, as the United States hasn’t won Men’s Ice Hockey gold at the Winter Olympics since the “Miracle on Ice” in 1980.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.