Avalanche Aims to Continue Repeat Trend
And they said the NHL is one of the best leagues for parity? Not according to the NHL betting odds. The 2023 Stanley Cup outrights favor the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Colorado Avalanche, to win it all by the summer of 2023. Colorado sits at +400, which is more than double the Tampa Bay Lightning (+900). But can Colorado repeat even with all the big changes in the offseason?
Retooled Avalanche Still a Juggernaut
It speaks volumes about how stacked the Colorado Avalanche are that they can lose two of their best players and remain a step ahead of the competition. Colorado lost Nazem Kadri, its third-leading scorer, and Darcy Kuemper, its main goaltender. On top of that, Andre Burakovsky also departed for Seattle.
But Colorado will be just fine with Alexander Georgiev in net. More will be asked of players like Alex Newhook, JT Compher and Bowen Byram. The good news is that they’re still young, especially with Newhook and Byram, who are both still just 21.
The core remains the same with Nathan MacKinnon now sporting the richest salary in NHL history. But as he’s come to be known, MacKinnon will remain hungry and push the team to keep playing with chips on their shoulders. Hence, they remain a solid bet online.
Next in Line: Western Rivals
If folks think Colorado can just waltz into the playoffs and win the Cup, they are sorely mistaken. Several contenders will look to give the Avalanche everything they can handle. It starts in their own conference as the Vegas Golden Knights, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames are all tied at +1800 as the second-best choices in the Western Conference.
The Golden Knights, the last team to beat Colorado in the postseason, were ravaged by injuries last season. They missed the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The team’s injury woes continue with starting goaltender Robin Lehner on the IR. Max Pacioretty is also gone. But a full season with Jack Eichel, Mark Stone and Alec Martinez could solidify this team.
Edmonton, like Colorado, returns all of its best players, including Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane. The Oilers became the third-best team in the NHL when Kane joined the lineup last season. In net, Jack Campbell comes over from Toronto looking to bring more stability.
As for the Flames, the Avalanche could be facing Kadri’s new team in the playoffs. Calgary swapped Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau and Erik Gudbranson for Kadri, Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar. The online sportsbook expects Calgary to not lose a step while the public believes the team got even better.
Beasts of the East: Tampa Bay has Plenty of Competition
If the betting lines prove accurate again, it will be a rematch between Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay in the Stanley Cup Finals. But that has not happened since 2009. The gap between Tampa and Toronto, Florida and Carolina is not too sizable. Any of these three could meet Colorado should the Avalanche win the West.
The Maple Leafs are constantly parodied for their consistent first-round exits. But the team was this close to taking out the Lightning and are making incremental gains each season. Led by Auston Matthews, the reigning Hart Trophy winner, Toronto will once again boast immense firepower. The question lies in net, where Ilya Samsonov and Matt Murray battle for the starting job.
Florida and Carolina both made splashes in the offseason. The Panthers were eliminated by Tampa Bay in consecutive postseasons. So the team made a change in coaching with Paul Maurice and acquired Tkachuk from Calgary. Carolina was upset by the New York Rangers and went out to get Pacioretty and Brent Burns, two veteran stars who can alleviate the team’s goal-scoring woes come to the playoffs.
Underdogs: Can a Team Sing the Blues?
It was just three years ago when the St. Louis Blues pulled off a historic Stanley Cup championship run. And both the Golden Knights and Canadiens made the Finals as significant underdogs in 2018 and 2021, respectively. So which long shots this season can surprise?
The Rangers made a deep run last season thanks to Igor Shesterkin’s efforts in the crease. But it could be their neighbors, the York Islanders, who go on a Cinderella Run of their own. The Isles have Ilya Sorokin, potentially the best goaltender this coming season. At +3300, there are worse long shots to back.
In the West, the Winnipeg Jets are +8000 to win the Stanley Cup. The team seemed to hit rock bottom last season when Maurice left the team and it finished with its worst point percentage since 2016-17. But Rick Bowness could reignite this team, which still has one of the deepest forward lineups in the conference on top of an elite netminder in Connor Hellebuyck.