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Ducks, Kraken, Wild Best Bets in West to Return to Playoffs

It wouldn’t be an easy bet to win if you tried to predict the Western Conference playoff team that does not return to the postseason a year from now.

The eight teams that qualified are clearly set up to contend again in 2024-25, and the eight teams that missed all have issues going forward. But it would not be foolish NHL betting to put some money on at least six of the eight teams to make the postseason in 2025-26.

Ducks, Kraken, Wild Best Bets in West to Return to Playoffs
Filip Gustavsson #32 of the Minnesota Wild/Ronald Martinez/Getty Images/AFP

The Minnesota Wild and the Seattle Kraken both missed the postseason after making it in 2022-23 while the St. Louis Blues were the closest to getting into the fun. The Wild and Kraken certainly foiled a lot of NHL expert picks.

The Calgary Flames, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks are all in different stages of rebuilding plans that expect improvement next season. Meanwhile, the Arizona Coyotes are relocating to Utah and that transition won’t be easy.

Among non-playoff teams, the Flames had the lowest odds to win the Stanley Cup to start this season, but the Wild and Kraken were close. Things went wrong, but can they all turn it around quickly? If so, you can get some decent odds. Click here to view the latest NHL odds.


Wild, Kraken, Flames Disappoint

Minnesota was touted as a possible Stanley Cup contender on April 1, 2023, after an amazing run, but a 2-4-1 finish and a first-round exit from the playoffs spoiled a great season.

A poor start to this season meant the end of Dean Evason’s coaching tenure for the Wild and John Hynes got them back into contention. But they were 21st in scoring offense and 20th in goals-against – just not good enough.

Where the Wild go from here is a difficult call, because there is plenty of talent around and they expect to get top-pair defenseman Jared Spurgeon back from injury. But they are saddled with $14.7 million in dead cap space for one more season due to buyouts of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise.

Seattle made it to the second round of the playoffs after shocking Colorado a year ago, but the Kraken were never as good this season – primarily because of an impotent offense (29th in the league). Matty Beniers, the 2023 Calder Trophy winner, returning to form could help solve that along with the emergence of 2022 fourth-overall pick Shane Wright (four goals, eight NHL games).

Calgary tried to sign several of its top players, but ended up dealing most of them off for draft picks and prospects. Center Elias Lindholm, defensemen Noah Hanifin, Nikita Zadorov and Chris Tanev were traded during the season and Tyler Toffoli before it.

Now, the Flames must decide whether to move goalie Jacob Markstrom for a nice package and turn to highly touted prospect Dustin Wolf. It would also help if Jonathan Huberdeau produced more for his $10.5 million per year contract than 12 goals and 52 points.

All these teams could go either way, but the best sports bet to return to the postseason is Minnesota. The Wild have three solid goaltenders, a burgeoning No. 1 defenseman in Brock Faber and superstar Kirill Kaprizov.


Where Do Blues, Coyotes Go From Here?

St. Louis was not expected to be in the hunt for a playoff spot this season, especially after coach Craig Berube was fired on Dec. 12.

But interim coach Drew Bannister was 30-19-5 and had the Blues in it until the final week. St. Louis was fourth in save percentage (.913), while forwards Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou made big strides. The Blues could be the two steps forward, one back team like Seattle this season, though

The Coyotes are heading to Salt Lake City with an improving roster. Rookies Dylan Guenther and Logan Cooley looked good, goalie Connor Ingram had an improved season, Clayton Keller is a star and they have lots of cap space. Sometimes a move invigorates a team. Sometimes it derails progress.

Rebuild Plans in Place for Three Teams

Anaheim, Chicago and San Jose are all at slightly different levels in the rebuilding process.

The Ducks are probably in the lead with a mix of productive veterans and youngsters such as Troy Terry, Mason McTavish, Leo Carlsson, Trevor Zegras, Cutter Gauthier and Olen Zellweger. Anaheim got off to a 7-4-0 start this season and will be expected to sustain that longer in 2024-25, paying off more bets at the sportsbook.

Chicago has Connor Bedard, the favorite in the NHL odds to win the Calder Trophy after posting a team-high 61 points in 68 games. The Blackhawks started retooling the defense with youth, but it is a slow process. Getting veteran Taylor Hall back next season will help, but the Hawks are a work in progress.

San Jose is in about the same place and may not get top prospect Will Smith signed after his freshman season at Boston College. The improvement of former first-round pick William Eklund up front (45 points) was a good sign, but GM Mike Grier will be busy.

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Questions Of The Day

What team is the best value bet to reach the postseason in 2024-25?

Anaheim. Lots of young talent, some valuable trade options and another high draft pick for GM Pat Verbeek.

What goaltender could change the course for a team?

Filip Gustavsson. Minnesota could either trade him for a nice haul and go with veteran Marc-Andre Fleury, along with prospect Jesper Wallstedt, or he could return to 2022-23 form (.931 SP) and lead the revival.


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