Now that the 2022 NHL season has come to an end, we can look ahead to the 2023 Stanley Cup futures market. It should come as no surprise to see the Colorado Avalanche at the top of the board after their impressive win in the Stanley Cup Final over the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Avalanche are the clear favorite according to DraftKings Sportsbook, and I think that reflects just how tough the Eastern Conference is.
There’s little doubt that Colorado will once again finish first in the Central Division, as there are no real challengers, but there’s a lot of parity at the top of the other three divisions. It will be a while before I project the 2022-23 regular season, as I have a lot of research to do. It’s a very nuanced process, and this article is more of a look at the big picture. This isn’t my favorite futures market by any means, as it’s much easier to find value in things like division and playoff futures but, at first blush, there are some things worth talking about.
The odds of teams like Buffalo and Detroit winning the Stanley Cup jumped out immediately. Both teams are listed at 50-1 after coming into last season with 100-1 odds. It’s not crazy to think that either of these teams takes a step forward, maybe even a big one into the playoffs, but winning the Stanley Cup? C’mon. Other teams in the conference could take a step back and create some room for a team like the Sabres or Red Wings to make the playoffs, but if either of those teams made the Stanley Cup Final it would be a black swan event, and 50-1 does not reflect that. The same goes for Ottawa at 75-1. I’d sooner bet on the Montreal Canadiens at 150-1, but regardless of whether that’s a value bet or not, it’s extremely unlikely to end up a winner. There really isn’t a team that missed the playoffs in the Eastern Conference that gives the impression it’s going to bounce back in a big way. Sure, the Islanders or the Flyers could squeak in, but Barry Trotz is gone and the Flyers could opt for a rebuild.
Of all the teams that made the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Rangers are probably the most intriguing bet at 20-1. They learned a lot in the playoffs, and that will surely benefit their young players. There’s a ton of talent, and Igor Shesterkin is one of the best goaltenders in the world. I don’t know that 20-1 is necessarily great value, though. The Boston Bruins are a good team, but bettors should be patient because Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy are slated to miss the start of the season and there’s uncertainty surrounding who will coach the team. There’s a chance that the Bruins could get off to a slow start, and if that’s the case, their futures odds would drop considerably. Things could’ve been different in Carolina and Pittsburgh with both teams losing their starting goaltenders before the playoffs, but each team’s odds seem to reflect that. Getting through the Eastern Conference is going to be tough.
In the Western Conference, we should expect to see the Avalanche lose a valuable player or two, but the team is so stacked that it probably won’t matter. It’s going to be hard to repeat, but they should be the favorite even if they lose Nazem Kadri and Valeri Nichushkin to free agency. However, it seems likely that they’ll sign one of those players to a new contract. After things settle down from their Stanley Cup win, I think the talk will shift to which teams will give Colorado the biggest challenge next season, and the Vegas Golden Knights are at the top of that list. What happened to the Golden Knights this past season was unusual. No team lost more due to injury than Vegas did. Other teams lost stars, but the Golden Knights were a legitimate contender and it was taken away from them. Bruce Cassidy is in as head coach, and maybe that means there won’t be a goaltending controversy when Robin Lehner returns from injury. Of all the teams with shorter odds (relatively speaking), the Golden Knights stand out as the best bet. It’s a fresh start for a very good hockey team, and they’re capable of winning in the playoffs.
The Pacific Division is good, though, with teams like the Flames and Oilers looking to get back into the playoffs. Let’s not forget the Kings made the playoffs without Drew Doughty and took the Oilers to a Game 7 without Viktor Arvidsson. Vancouver has a good goaltender in Thatcher Demko, and their young core might feel rejuvenated heading into this season. In the Central, a team like the Winnipeg Jets at 60-1 piques my interest, but between the alleged locker room issues and the uncertainty surrounding the future of some of their top players. It would have been easy to recommend a bet on the Jets if Barry Trotz took the head coaching job, but he’s not coming to save them and they haven’t finished their coaching search yet. Pete DeBoer hit the jackpot by signing on to coach the Dallas Stars. Jake Oettinger looks like he might be one of the best goaltenders in the league, and that makes the Stars an attractive bet at 45-1.