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Edmonton Oilers NOT favourited to win 2019 Stanley Cup and what Vegas odds really mean

As Ovechkin and the Capitals were lifting the holiest of grails last night, the Vegas oddsmakers were hard at work placing odds on the favourites to win the 2019 Stanley Cup. Where do the Oilers rank based on last year’s playoff miss? Higher than you probably think.

A quick note about the betting terminology here. “20/1” or “100/1” odds are just a quick way of saying whatever the first number is, is what you would get if you bet the second number with a sportsbook. So, in a 100/1 bet for $5 hard-earned dollars on the Ottawa Senators, you would make roughly $500 if they ended up winning. Get it? Of course you do. 

You will no doubt remember this time last year, as the Oil were fresh off a second-round exit at the hands of the cheating Ducks, they were listed as the second favourites to win the Cup along with the Lightning and the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Washington Capitals. We know how that turned out for the Oilers but that didn’t make too much difference for the oddsmakers.

Heading into the 2017-18 season, the Oilers, led by back-to-back Art Ross Trophy winner Connor McDavid, are listed as 20-1 favourites to win the Stanley Cup (though we have noticed that the odds vary a bit depending on the site you look at):

Those odds put them behind nine other teams, including the Lightning, the Golden Knights and the Leafs. So what that means is the Leafs have a better chance of winning the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas’ mind, right? Well not exactly.

Vegas is in the business of making money (as anyone who has taken some time to visit the city in the desert will likely know first hand). They aim to win with everything they do above all else, so when Vegas places its seemingly arbitrary odds on each team to win the cup, they take into account a whole lot of underlying factors.

The two main factors being the actual chance of success and then where the money is going. The odds that any one team has at winning has about as much to do with their chance of success as who is going to be the most popular bet.

Let’s look at a few examples of the odds from last year and this year to see what I mean.

Vegas Golden Knights opening odds 2017: 200/1 2018: 10/1

This one makes sense. For all the doubters and the haters of the Golden Knights, they were nearly a Cinderella story that no one would have ever expected. Back before the season started, a bet of $100 on the Knights on the day the odds were released would have given you a $20,000 payout had they won. That’s a wild number. Looking at this year’s odds, you have to wonder if the Vegas sportsbooks really think that a team that stands to lose three of it’s top performers in Perron, Neal and to a lesser extent Reaves, will once again be slingshotting their way to the top of the Western Conference? Or is Vegas betting that people will look at what happened this season and bet heavily on the idea that they can do it again?

Toronto Maple Leafs opening odds 2017: 14/1 2018: 10/1

The Toronto Maple Leafs are tied for the second-best chance to win the Stanley Cup. That means they have the same chance to do win it all as the Western Conference finalist Winnipeg Jets. They are as good if not better than the Jets right? Not so fast. The Toronto Maple Leafs have THE biggest fanbase in the NHL. It’s a fan base that continuously believes that the upcoming year will be the year they win it all, despite the fact that they haven’t seen a Stanley Cup Final since the league had only six teams. Basically, Vegas might be betting that they can finally do it, but it is much more likely that they are guessing that Leafs fans will put their money where their mouth is.

Detroit Red Wings opening odds 2017: 100/1 2018: 100/1

Ok, this one is pretty safely set in the “Vegas is saying Detroit is going to be bad this year” camp. So what Vegas is doing here is guessing that a lot of people won’t be looking to spend money on a Red Wings team in full rebuild and retool mode. They are enticing bettors to take a long shot chance like they did with the Golden Knights last year. They’re basically saying, “yeah they have no chance, but if they did it man, what a story I could tell”.

I guess what I am trying to say is, take Vegas odds (as with any so-called experts) with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, they’re trying to make money in the same way the experts are trying to get magazine sales or article reads for their advice. The point is that if you are going to gamble, go with your heart, and take the Oilers to win the Stanley Cup in 2019. Believe it.