The 2014-15 NHL season is rapidly approaching. Respective prospect tournaments and training camps are starting any day now, and the preseason schedule itself gets going less than two weeks from now. Those are sure-fire signs that hockey is on the horizon.
Another harbinger that makes that realization feel more tangible? Bovada has released their over/under lines for team point totals this coming season.
Keeping in mind that gambling lines tend to be fluid and shift routinely based on which side the public happens to be directing their money towards, I’ve gone ahead and put together a chart that hopefully illuminates a few interesting trends at the moment:
|New York Islanders||79||85.5||6.5|
|Los Angeles Kings||100||106.5||6.5|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||84||88.5||4.5|
|New York Rangers||96||95.5||-0.5|
|Detroit Red Wings||93||91.5||-1.5|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||93||90.5||-2.5|
|New Jersey Devils||88||84.5||-3.5|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||101||94.5||-6.5|
|San Jose Sharks||111||102.5||-8.5|
The Biggest Fallers
If you’re a devout reader of this network of sites, you’re likely already readily familiar with the two teams at the bottom as ones that’ve been highlighted as prime regression candidates this coming season. Particularly the Avalanche, whose 5v5 PDO of 101.8 last season was the 3rd most inflated mark in the league. While they benefitted from a high shooting percentage collectively, it was Semyon Varlamov’s equally unexpected and elite performance that waves high in the sky as the biggest red flag.
They were a bottom of the barrel possession team last season, and despite the expected progression of some of their younger players they’ll be hard-pressed to improve in that regard given that their particularly curious summer saw them lose two legitimate top-6 forwards while replacing them with a pair of formerly great players now over 35 years old. As scintillating as MacKinnon and Duchene promise to be, it’s difficult to envision them once again being able to overcome a defense corps that’ll heavily feature Brad Stuart should the bottom fall out from under their goaltending.
Unfortunately, people are getting smarter. After spending countless weeks rubbing my hands together waiting to pounce on what seemed like an inevitable 100+ line for the Avs, since the moment the totals were published their’s has been rapidly dropping and dropping and dropping and dropp–..
I’d be curious to hear the reasoning for why the Nashville Predators will be 10 points worse than they were in a year in which Marek Mazanec and Carter Hutton started nearly 60 games for them. Pekka Rinne and his career .918 save % figure to be back between the pipes now that his hip situation has been sorted out, which is good news for a team that stopped the 3rd fewest rate of shots against at 5v5 last season.
Despite losing Mike Fisher to injury, their forward group looks significantly better with the likes of James Neal, Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy, and Olli Jokinen all now in the mix. It’s not a group of world-beaters by any means, but at the very least it’s a crew of solid NHLers that seem like decent enough buy-low reclamation projects. Heck, maybe they have a little bit left in the tank for the Perds to squeeze out.
There’s also a non-zero chance that Seth Jones takes a big leap in his 2nd season in the league, after an expectedly up-and-down rookie campaign. That could be a massive development for a blueline that’s already looking good as is.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks are coming off of a hilariously befuddling offseason in which they signed every single Face Puncher available and made a point of publicly shaming their best players. Most of that was done in an over-reactionary state to an unfortunate playoff exit, but their line here feels like it’s just keeping up with that theme more than anything else.
Despite everything they did, none of it was irreversible and there’s a good chance that none of it matters if those aforementioned Face Punchers don’t draw into the lineup. And after all, it’s important to keep in mind that despite all of the chatter that prevailed throughout the summer their best players remain in tow (for the time being at the very least). They’re still a really good team, and seem undervalued at the price you can get them at right now.
The Biggest Risers
The line of reasoning for setting the line for Sabres at 65.5 is sound, at least in theory. Their 52 points last season made them the first team since the Flyers back in ’06-’07 to finish a year with fewer than 60 points. Just purely based off of recent history, one would have to think that they’d at the very least hover around the low-60s next season.
But that one person would be overlooking the fact that they’re headed into the season with Michal Neuvirth and Jhonas Enroth as their tandem between the pipes. With all due respect to those individuals, there isn’t much in their past performance to indicate that they’ll have any semblance of a fighting shot to survive the inevitable barrage they’re set to face night in and night out.
It’s also worth considering that Tim Murray clearly has a plan in place there, and with a last place finish essentially guaranteeing a team either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, don’t be surprised if you’re seeing.. [/performs a quick Google search to make sure that Brian Flynn is a forward].. BRIAN FLYNN leading a high powered attack next season in Buffalo!
New York Islanders
The Islanders had as good of a summer as anyone could’ve reasonably hoped for, nailing it out of the park in all respects. The biggest acquisition of all was unquestionably the addition of Jaroslav Halak, who has quietly been remarkably consistent at being ‘comfortably above league average’. Just that alone is a monumental upgrade from the Evgeni Nabokov/Kevin Poulin/Anders Nilsson comedic triumvirate who gave up the 3rd most goals in the league last season.
Beyond that, they’re getting their star back from injury, and have given him some help by essentially signing a brand new 2nd line to play behind him. Even the likes of TJ Brennan and Cory Conacher were quality low-risk signings that could quite realistically contribute to the cause next season.
Furthermore, they’re playing in a Metro Division that’s muddied at best, with a legitimate opening beyond the Penguins as the Rangers and Flyers got markedly worse while the Hurricanes and Capitals remained mediocre. I feel pretty good about the Islanders getting back to where they were two years ago, and apparently the general public does as well; their line has been bet up to 85.5 and you’re only getting -125 to bet the over on that.
I’m often hesitant to attribute too much of a team’s success or failure on a coach, because that generally seems to be an awfully convenient route to take in your analysis. With that being said, it seems unfathomable that a coach – even one with no prior experience on the coach – could be anything but an upgrade from someone that openly refused to work on his team’s two biggest deficiencies in practice.
2013-14 was a comedy of errors for the Canucks as nearly every key contributor either had an uncharacteristic drop in play, an injury, or both. Their power play can’t possibly be less productive all things considered, and regardless of what you may think of the Ryan Miller signing at least it means poor Eddie Lack won’t have to start 20+ games in a row again.
When your fantasy draft rolls around in a few weeks, you’d be well served to buy low on a handful of players from this team. In particular Alex Edler, who can only go up from where he finished off last season.
Toronto Maple Leafs
- New Jersey Devils (Over 84.5): Quite possibly my favourite bet. They’re not going to give away 40 gimmies to their opponents next season, added a legitimate top-6 goal scorer, and based on past history will benefit from some better shootout luck. Why would they finish 4 points worse than last season, exactly?
- Philadelphia Flyers (Under 90.5): They’ve lost their best defenseman from last season, and plan to replace him with a heavy dose of two players that were featured in an article titled “Wasting Money, NHL-style: Six players on the side“. How lucky do you really feel?
- Dallas Stars (Over 92.5): As was discussed on the podcast in extensive detail a few weeks back, the Dallas Stars promise to be amongst the funnest teams in the league to watch. Their blueline is suspect, but they’ve got outstanding talent up front and strong goaltending to bail out the defense’s mistakes. A) They don’t need to really improve that much from last season to hit the over, and probably even more importantly B) this seems like an incredibly fun bet to root for.
- Florida Panthers (Over 71.5): Much like the Islanders, the impact of replacing a cataclysmic goaltending situation with a reliable, above average one goes a long way. They made some highly questionable moves on July 1st giving away way too many dollars and years to suspect players, but the Jussi Jokinen signing should do wonders for what was easily the worst power play unit in the league last season.
- Tampa Bay Lightning (Over 94.5): .. aaand maybe even sprinkling a couple of bucks on them to win the Eastern Conference at 15/2? The Penguins are the Penguins and the Bruins are the Bruins, but both of those teams have their fair share of warts. I still don’t fully trust Ben Bishop but their group of skaters is equally deep and talented.
- Ottawa Senators (Over 78.5): It’s somewhat ironic given the team that came before them on this list, but people don’t seem to be cognizant of the fact that Jason Spezza wasn’t all that good last season. They’ll miss his production on the power play, but they’ve also got a handful of young players that could rather reasonably elevate their play with expanded opportunity. Plus, their goaltending was surprisingly bad last year and figures to at least be marginally better. With all of that being said, their biggest selling point may very well be that line which seems like a byproduct of an overreaction to the disappointment that was last season more than anything else. [/Robin Lehner lets my family run free]
- Edmonton Oilers (Under 80.5): Their point totals the last 62, 62, 74, 77 (pro-rated), 67. I was obviously a big fan of their summer (bringing in Fayne, Pouliot, Purcell, Big Corsi) but I’d like to see them actually live up to the offseason hype for once before buying in.