Taking a look at some of the best bets of the 2009-10 season to take home the cup based on odds provided by bet365.
Pittsburgh Penguins +550
It’s hard to think of ways to bet against the Pens to win back-to-back championships with a star-studded lineup boasting Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Marc-Andre Fleury. Last year the Pens caught fire late in the year under first-year interim Head Coach Dan Bylsma after Michel Therrien was axed after their poor start. Bylsma, however, is still an inexperienced Head Coach fortunate enough to land with a talented roster playing with a sense of urgency to disrupt former teammate Marian Hossa’s run for a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings. This year, the Penguins could suffer from a Stanley Cup hangover after losing contract-year defensive stalwarts Hal Gill and Rob Scuderi – Jay McKee just doesn’t fill those shoes. Without someone to rough up forwards in front of the net, Fleury could have a tougher year keeping pucks out of the net. Putting all of that aside, though, the Penguins will score goals and plenty of them. Crosby and Malkin will be among the scoring leaders and you can expect Ruslan Fedotenko and Sergei Gonchar playing in contract years will help with the scoring punch.
Detroit Red Wings +600
Mike Babcock is a Stanley Cup machine. Since making it to the finals with the Ducks, Babcock has led the Wings to no less than first place in the Central each year and won Cup in ’08. Detroit looked poised to win last year if not for the key injuries sustained from the grueling second round series with the Ducks. What Detroit lost in the offseason with Hossa, Samuelsson, Hudler, Kopecky, Chelios, and Conklin they’ve replaced with Todd Bertuzzi, Jason Williams, and Patrick Eaves. Those three will certainly perform well enough to fill the shoes of Samuelsson, Hudler and Kopecky but what about Hossa? I’m not concerned about losing Hossa because it creates the same effect on Detroit that Pittsburgh benefitted from last year. Expect Detroit fans to rally against Hossa at any home games and Hossa to disappear in the late postseason rounds. It’s also clear that Chris Osgood is a money-goalie when it comes to the playoffs (29-12 1.78GAA over the past two seasons) and Detroit also has the same solid defensive core that has been so successful for them the last couple years.
San Jose Sharks +800
There’s little evidence to prove that San Jose won’t dominate the regular season again but have they overcome their notorious playoff choke-ups? In the 2008 offseason, Sharks GM Doug Wilson hired Wings’ Stanley Cup-winning assistant Todd McLellan as their head coach and signed more Stanley Cup winners for their blueline with the hopes that their veteran Cup-winning leadership will assist in the postseason. Barring any key injuries (if Nabokov goes out, the Sharks are fish food), the Sharks are in a position to perform better in the postseason. The team has the same core with no major subtractions (or additions) in the offseason (I’ll update if this Heatley-to-Sharks trade has any legs) and surely veteran Rob Blake will provide the Cup-winning leadership in what could be his last season. The Sharks have the scoring depth and defensive prowess to hold off the NHL’s elite teams, they just need to stay healthy and avoid the playoff upset.
UPDATE: Heatley to the Sharks while giving up just Michalek and under-performing Cheechoo bolsters an already potent Sharks offense giving them the scoring depth necessary to succeed in the postseason (see: Detroit, Pittsburgh).
UPDATE 2: San Jose’s line hasn’t changed on bet365 since the addition of Heatley (as of Sept 14). This could potentially be the best odds available for a team of their caliber.
Philadelphia Flyers +1600
This sounds just like the Flyers teams of the past: high scoring, bone-crunching hitters, and a question-mark in goal. Last year, the Flyers couldn’t shake the speedy Penguins in their first round matchup. This year, Chris Pronger and Ian Laperriere were brought on board to stir it up with the likes of Malkin and Crosby, wearing them out to lighten the load on Ray Emery. Chris Pronger (you love him if you’ve got him, hate him if you don’t) has the size and grit to sway a playoff series in the Flyers’ direction and really shut down the other team’s offensive superstars – provided they stay out of the penalty box. Sugar Ray Emery needs to be his 2006-07 self and leave all the off-ice distractions and temper tantrums away from the team because the Flyers can’t afford to give Brian Boucher the reins. Emery should be on his best behaviour after he was essentially booted to the KHL last season, posting good numbers (22-8, 1.86) but didn’t lead his team, Atlant Moscow, past the second round.
Calgary Flames +1800
Cammalleri is out but Olli Jokinen, playing in a contract year, should be more-than-ready to fill most of his 82-point shoes. Bouwmeester was also signed and adds to an already potent defensive lineup featuring Dion Phaneuf, Rhett Warrener, and Robyn Regehr. Bouwmeester delivers a much-needed upgrade to their Power Play of which could rival the best in the league. Miika Kiprusoff is still one of the top goalies in the NHL and will need to stay healthy in order for the Flames to even have a postseason chance. Brent Sutter has also signed on to try and help the Flames out of their four-consecutive-year habit of getting ousted in the first round. Sutter, a Memorial Cup winner in 2000-01, joins his brother-GM Daryl, looks to improve the Flames after leading the Devils to a first round exit (should have been second round if not for a Marty Brodeur relapse).
Teams that also have a shot
Chicago Blackhawks +550, Boston Bruins +900, Vancouver Canucks +1800, New Jersey Devils +2500