Early Odds for Every NHL Team to Win the 2015 Stanley Cup
The Stanley Cup Final generally causes mixed emotions for fans of 28 teams.
For those who are not fortunate enough to have their favourite club in the mix, the skill on display can be exhilarating, but there is almost always a sense of looking ahead and wondering when their team can play for the championship.
With the Los Angeles Kings taking home the 2014 Stanley Cup, the NHL offseason begins immediately, with the Kings and the league's 29 other teams maneuvering for a chance to win it all in 2015.
Which teams are the early favourites? Which teams are far away from even contending? Read on to see every team's early odds of winning the 2015 Stanley Cup.
30. Buffalo Sabres
Why they're here: Some really bad teams finished 14 points out of the playoffs. Buffalo finished 14 points out of 29th. There's a full-scale rebuild going on here, and it has only just started.
Where they need to improve: Everywhere. Connor McDavid should help.
29. Florida Panthers
Why they're here: Florida's leading scorer couldn't crack 40 points, and while everything to come out of the team since the conclusion of the season seems to indicate a desire to launch a dramatic and immediate turnaround, it's a tough hill to climb.
Where they need to improve: One major problem—goaltending—was addressed with the late-season addition of Roberto Luongo. But the Panthers are leaning on a forward corps that is either very young or not very good, and that needs to change.
28. Edmonton Oilers
Why they're here: The Oilers haven't had a sniff of the playoffs since going to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006, and for the most part, they have lodged in the NHL basement since then. The club would have needed 24 more points just to qualify for the postseason, let alone contend for the Cup.
Where they need to improve: Goaltending seems to be buttoned down for the time being with the additions of Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth, but the defence is still a disaster. Jeff Petry—who is probably only a No. 3/4 defenceman on a decent team—was the club's most complete defender last season.
27. Calgary Flames
Why they're here: That Calgary replaced its general manager yet again this season serves as a good indicator of where the team is at. With significant problems in nearly every area and a limited group of prospects, there's a lot of work to do.
Where they need to improve: Better goaltending would cover for a lot of sins. Karri Ramo emerged late in the season but was an average NHL option at best, and nobody else cracked a .900 save percentage.
26. Toronto Maple Leafs
Why they're here: Even with Vezina-caliber goaltending and an incredible 9-4 record in the shootout, Toronto couldn't crack the top 10 in the NHL's weaker Eastern Conference. No team surrendered more shots than the 2,945 that the Leafs gave up last season.
Where they need to improve: The first step is admitting the problem, and the Leafs struggled to do that all season. How can the team improve when the incumbents who dismissed the problems—general manager Dave Nonis and head coach Randy Carlyle—are back in their same positions?
25. Ottawa Senators
Why they're here: The 2013-14 season saw Ottawa ice a team slightly south of mediocre, and the situation appears to be worsening. Per Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, Jason Spezza is a fixture in trade rumours, talks have broken off with late-season add Ales Hemsky (who played extremely well for the Senators), and it is expected that austerity will be the order of the day for 2014-15.
Where they need to improve: The defence after Erik Karlsson leaves a lot to be desired, and it isn't at all clear who is going to drive the offence if Spezza and Hemsky both depart Ottawa.
24. New York Islanders
Why they're here: After strong work in 2012-13, the Islanders slipped in 2013-14, falling to 14th in the East. The biggest reason was goaltending, where New York posted an NHL-worst .894 save percentage over the course of the season. With Jaroslav Halak (career .918 save percentage) on board, a big leap is possible.
Where they need to improve: The defence needs an injection of veteran talent, which explains why general manager Garth Snow went out and traded for pending free agent Dan Boyle from San Jose. If he can land some help here, the team should be in decent shape.
23. Carolina Hurricanes
Why they're here: With a new general manager (Ron Francis) and a new head coach (to be determined) in place, the Hurricanes are in a state of transition after a disappointing 2013-14 campaign saw them place 13th in the East.
Where they need to improve: Depth is an issue up front, and the team is carried by a largely no-name defence corps. Carolina won the Stanley Cup with one in 2006, but it's going to be difficult to do it again the same way.
22. Phoenix Coyotes
Why they're here: Phoenix has been the little team that could for a while now and has both an exceptional head coach (Dave Tippett) and general manager (Don Maloney). The difficulty is that the Coyotes just don't have the financial footing to compete with the NHL's big boys.
Where they need to improve: This team gets by because it has a solid group of two-way forwards, strong defencemen and a decent No. 1 goalie. But it also needs a high-end finisher or two.
21. Winnipeg Jets
Why they're here: There is a lot going for the Jets, including a decent group of forwards, some up-and-comers and an underrated defensive group.
Where they need to improve: As long as Ondrej Pavelec is posting a .901 save percentage and getting starting minutes, the playoffs are going to be a tough goal to attain and the Stanley Cup virtually impossible.
20. Nashville Predators
Why they're here: A serious injury to Pekka Rinne doomed the Predators in 2013-14, but even with decidedly mediocre goaltending, they only finished three points outside the playoffs. The question is whether Rinne, who posted a .902 save percentage upon his return, will return to his old form next season.
Where they need to improve: Offence has been a major issue forever and played heavily into the firing of head coach Barry Trotz. Hiring Peter Laviolette may help, but the roster needs an injection of scoring talent.
19. Washington Capitals
Why they're here: Washington's rotate-a-goalie system always seems to produce good results, the team boasts a formidable set of offensive players headlined by Alex Ovechkin, and new head coach Barry Trotz proved his mettle in Nashville.
Where they need to improve: The main task for Trotz is getting better play from his top forwards. Ovechkin's minus-35 rating last year overstates the case, but the fact is that Washington's top line was outshot, outscored and outplayed. That cannot continue.
18. Philadelphia Flyers
Why they're here: Philadelphia has a lot going for it, but the team is banking on Andrew MacDonald to play key minutes on defence and Steve Mason to be incredible in net after a late-season slump. Despite the Flyers' good points, those don't look like smart bets.
Where they need to improve: The defence corps needs some help, especially if Kimmo Timonen doesn't return, and it would be a really good idea to have a Plan B in place just in case the Columbus version of Steve Mason shows up in net.
17. Colorado Avalanche
Why they're here: This seems like a low placement for the Avalanche, but it's important to remember that a year ago they were 29th in the NHL and this year they couldn't get past a Minnesota Wild club with goalie problems in the first round. Semyon Varlamov had a career year and is unlikely to repeat it.
Where they need to improve: It was fortuitous that Varlamov was so good last season because the defence corps was unimpressive and desperately needs an infusion of talent.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets
Why they're here: Columbus put in a creditable performance in 2013-14, and with a number of improving young players in key roles, another step forward isn't out of the question.
Where they need to improve: Marian Gaborik didn't work out, but the Blue Jackets could use some top-end talent. Aside from Ryan Johansen, there isn't much in the way of firepower on the roster.
15. Vancouver Canucks
Why they're here: 2013-14 was a nightmare campaign for the Canucks, with head coach John Tortorella being a particularly terrible fit for the team. However, the core group is still in place, and Vancouver could rebound in a big way to be a legitimate contender.
Where they need to improve: Few teams would feel very comfortable competing for the Stanley Cup with an Eddie Lack/Jacob Markstrom tandem in net.
14. Minnesota Wild
Why they're here: Minnesota did a nice job in both the regular season and playoffs despite a revolving door in net that ended up with the team leaning heavily on Ilya Bryzgalov to win hockey games. With many special young players at both forward and defence, the Wild could be an emerging power.
Where they need to improve: The young core of the team still needs to mature, and Ryan Suter could use some help behind him on defence.
13. Dallas Stars
Why they're here: The addition of Tyler Seguin and an influx of veterans carried the Stars back to the postseason, and the future is rosy with many of the team's key pieces under the age of 25. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the club take a major step forward.
Where they need to improve: Sergei Gonchar was hired last year to log some heavy minutes and add a veteran presence on defence; the results were mixed, and the Stars still need help at the position.
12. New Jersey Devils
Why they're here: With Martin Brodeur finally, blessedly moving on, there's a very good chance that one of the NHL's better two-way teams will finally get the competent goaltending it hasn't received for so many years, which in turn translates to a better shot at a championship than the 2013-14 standings would otherwise indicate.
Where they need to improve: Few teams make more happen with less than New Jersey, but the Devils could use an injection of younger talent to support players like Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias and Marek Zidlicky.
11. Tampa Bay Lightning
Why they're here: After the regular season the Lightning had, they may well have been the team coming out of the East—except that Ben Bishop was injured the eve of the playoffs, leaving the tandem of Anders Lindback and Kristers Gudlevskis employed in net. The results were not pretty.
Where they need to improve: Some veteran depth additions up front to complement Steven Stamkos and his young supporting cast would go a long way.
10. Montreal Canadiens
Why they're here: A deep run in the playoffs showed that Montreal is capable of more than it showed over a middling regular season. With a relatively strong roster and no unstoppable opponents in the East, the Canadiens could make a playoff splash once again.
Where they need to improve: Defence is a concern this summer. P.K. Subban is a restricted free agent, while Andrei Markov is primed to test unrestricted free agency. The Canadiens could also use the offensive game-breaker that they tried to acquire when they traded for Thomas Vanek.
9. Anaheim Ducks
Why they're here: The Ducks have turned their fortunes around since hiring head coach Bruce Boudreau, and this season they came within a point of claiming the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's best regular-season team. Their underlying numbers are somewhat concerning.
Where they need to improve: The defence corps could be improved, and the Ducks will need to find some secondary scoring to offset the departure of Teemu Selanne and expected departure of Saku Koivu.
8. New York Rangers
Why they're here: Any team with Henrik Lundqvist in net can make a splash, and the Rangers have both an excellent roster at present and the wherewithal to improve via free agency and big-money trades over the summer.
Where they need to improve: The forward corps lacks a real offensive leader; Rick Nash was cast in the role but isn't up to carrying the load alone. If Brad Richards is made a compliance buyout over the summer, the centre depth chart will also need some fixing.
7. Detroit Red Wings
Why they're here: As tempting as it is to write off the Wings after a difficult season, the urge needs to be resisted. No team in the league was as beset by injury as Detroit, and when fully healthy the Red Wings have both established veterans who can lead the team and an exciting supporting cast rife with up-and-comers.
Where they need to improve: Niklas Kronwall is an exceptional defenceman, but the depth chart thins out behind him. Detroit needs to find at least one quality top-four option over the summer to bolster the roster.
6. San Jose Sharks
Why they're here: This is a good team regardless of regular-season victories or playoff series won. The Sharks simply haven't been able to string together four consecutive series wins, but that doesn't mean they should be counted out.
Where they need to improve: Shifting Brent Burns back to defence should help a blue-line group in need of the assistance, but that move, the near-certain regression of Joe Pavelski and the probable buyout of Martin Havlat leave the forward corps weaker than it has been in some time.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins
Why they're here: No team with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin should be counted out. The Penguins have been a dominant regular-season team over the last few years but have not converted that dominance into playoff wins. With a mandate for change and fresh eyes overseeing the team, that could change in a hurry.
Where they need to improve: Marc-Andre Fleury has been problem No. 1 for the Pens for years now, but he may have been usurped in that position by the incredibly disappointing performance from Pittsburgh's depth forwards.
4. St. Louis Blues
Why they're here: The Blues have proved to be one of the West's best teams, a dominant two-way club with a balanced depth chart. Once again they will be in the running to win it all.
Where they need to improve: One area of weakness for the Blues in the postseason was a lack of one-shot scorers. It's also fair to wonder whether a goaltending tandem of Brian Elliott and Jake Allen is really good enough for a contender.
3. Los Angeles Kings
Why they're here: 2014's Stanley Cup champions have the requisite pieces to repeat, but that doesn't mean they are necessarily the favourites to do so. Their struggles getting through a very tough Western Conference nicely illustrate the difficulty of orchestrating a repeat, and if not for an incredible scoring run that may not occur again, Los Angeles would have bowed out much earlier.
Where they need to improve: There isn't much that the Kings can do better, but one area of concern is the defence, where some of the depth pieces have been exposed at times over the postseason.
2. Chicago Blackhawks
Why they're here: The 2013 champions came within a goal of making it to the Stanley Cup Final for the second consecutive season but fell to the Kings in what was without question the best series in the 2014 postseason. Still, with two Cup wins in five seasons, it's clear that this team is a contender.
Where they need to improve: The centre depth chart behind Jonathan Toews has been a mess for years now. Late in the playoffs, Andrew Shaw filled the No. 2 slot nicely, but more help would be welcomed.
1. Boston Bruins
Why they're here: The NHL's best regular-season team in 2013-14 has a monstrous advantage over its top rivals: It plays in the East. With a deep and capable forward group, Zdeno Chara on defence and one of the NHL's best in net in Tuukka Rask, the Bruins will be in the thick of things once again.
Where they need to improve: An injection of speed would help, and if Chara starts declining, the blue line could be in some trouble in a hurry.
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