Early Odds for Every NHL Team to Win the 2016 Stanley Cup
Watching the Chicago Blackhawks win a well-deserved third championship in six years, it was hard not to wonder if, even as the club established itself as a true NHL dynasty, it was enjoying its last hurrah.
In his postgame interview with Sportsnet's Scott Oake, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville referenced his team being blown up after the 2010 Stanley Cup win. Looking at Chicago's salary-cap situation, it seems inevitable that the same process will occur once again.
General manager Stan Bowman may find a way to keep the team a true contender, to force a repeat and a fourth championship since 2010, but the salary cap opens a window for another club to rise and knock off the defending champions.
Which franchises are the early favourites? Which have virtually no chance whatsoever? Read on to see every club's early odds of winning the 2016 Stanley Cup.
Working in their favour: The Coyotes have a franchise defenceman in Oliver Ekman-Larsson and some very good prospects on the way. The franchise can count on general manager Don Maloney to build the roster in an intelligent fashion, stretching every dollar, and head coach Dave Tippett is among the best in the business at getting value out of his players.
Working against them: Outside of Ekman-Larsson, the defence is a mess; the team's No. 2 rearguard as of this writing is Michael Stone, who could probably pass through a lineup made entirely of hockey fans without being recognized. The forward corps isn't much better, and the long-term starting goalie, Mike Smith, is 33 years old and coming off a wretched season. This is also a budget team with a small number of fans that has been in a state of high off-ice drama for close to a decade now.
Working in their favour: Buffalo has a lot of young talent on the way. That includes, in all likelihood, top prospect Jack Eichel, who is expected to be the team's No. 2 overall selection at this summer's draft. There's so much youth that exponential growth from the team is a possibility. New winger Evander Kane, 23, will also give the Sabres a young NHL veteran to lead the way offensively.
Working against them: The Sabres were the worst team in the NHL this year and face a massive uphill climb. Most of Buffalo's young talent is still years away from their primes, and the current slate of veterans is iffy. The starting goaltender is still to be determined. It's not an encouraging list as far as the Sabres' immediate Stanley Cup hopes go.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Working in their favour: The Leafs have a new management team, a brilliant head coach in Mike Babcock and seemingly a licence to print money. There is some significant talent on the team, a legitimate star in Phil Kessel and both depth and quality in net.
Working against them: Toronto has a pile of bad contracts, though the team has made moves (notably the David Clarkson trade) to ease its salary-cap pressure. The forward corps is a bit of a mess, with centre a position of real weakness. Defence is uncertain and will get worse if pricey rearguard Dion Phaneuf is sent down the line. The roster as-is is not competitive.
Working in their favour: On paper at least, the potential exists for a high-end offensive team. The Staal brothers (Eric and Jordan) give the Hurricanes strength down the middle, Alex Semin and Jeff Skinner are extremely talented despite coming off poor years and the team has some exciting young players. Add in Justin Faulk on defence—a very good player who doesn't get the attention he deserves—and there's a lot to work with.
Working against them: Carolina had all of those names last year and still wound up near the bottom of the NHL standings. After Faulk, the defence thins out in a hurry, the goaltending is questionable, and injury and inconsistency have plagued the forward corps in recent years.
New Jersey Devils
Working in their favour: Cory Schneider gives the Devils a chance to win every night; he's been highly effective since he entered the league with Vancouver and emerged as one of the NHL's best starters in New Jersey. An impressive group of young defenceman protects Schneider, with 20-year-old Damon Severson and an emerging Adam Larsson, 22, particularly worthy of notice.
Working against them: New Jersey has one of the worst forward corps in the game. And given the average age of the players, it's only going to get worse without substantial renovation. Old, slow and impotent, the Devils can't hope to match the scoring of most NHL teams. And the prospect cupboard doesn't offer much hope that it will change anytime soon.
Working in their favour: High-flying talents Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek lead the forward group. Behind them is an impressive checking unit featuring the tandem of Sean Couturier and Matt Read, while Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds offer the intriguing possibility of a reliable second scoring line. Steve Mason has been fantastic in net since coming over from Columbus, and another reclamation project, Michael Del Zotto, worked out brilliantly on the blue line.
Working against them: For the most part, the defence is a disaster; it wasn't nearly good enough last year and likely cost the club a playoff position. Worst of all, though, general manager Ron Hextall has virtually no room to maneuver because his predecessor in the post, Paul Holmgren, signed a number of older veterans to expensive long-term contracts. And those veterans have since declined to the point where they are all but untradable.
Working in their favour: Colorado has an impressive array of young forwards, with the quartet of Matt Duchene (24), Gabriel Landeskog (22), Nathan MacKinnon (19) and Ryan O'Reilly (24) all offering hope for substantial immediate improvement, whether through maturation or even trade. Semyon Varlamov had a second consecutive impressive year, and Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie are solid defencemen.
Working against them: The Avs are a team in need of an infusion of competent depth players. Outside the team's top-six forwards, only John Mitchell (26 points) finished the year in Colorado and managed more than 12 points. A 35-year-old Brad Stuart holds one top-four job on the blue line; soon-to-be 37-year-old (and pending free agent) Jan Hejda held another.
Working in their favour: An impressive cadre of skilled young forwards is likely to be joined by generational talent Connor McDavid at the draft. There's no shortage of star power up front, and the arrival of an experienced general manager (Peter Chiarelli) and head coach (Todd McLellan) offers hope that the Oilers will be more competently run from top to bottom this coming year. Additionally, youngsters Darnell Nurse, 20, and Oscar Klefbom, 21, could change the team's defensive situation in a short period of time.
Working against them: The blue line was an utter disaster, and it got worse when Edmonton sent Jeff Petry to the Montreal Canadiens at the deadline in March, costing the club its best defenceman. The goaltending is a comparable mess; incumbent starter Ben Scrivens had a disastrous year and must be replaced. Further, despite the wealth of talent, the Oilers have had a curiously difficult time scoring in recent years.
Working in their favour: Roberto Luongo brought an end to years of uncertainty in Florida's net; he gives the team above-average goaltending moving forward. There's a reasonably impressive group of young forwards up front and on the blue line. Calder finalist Aaron Ekblad, 19, is only the latest addition to a group that already included Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and others. There are also some useful veterans rounding out the group.
Working against them: Much of the roster simply hasn't realized its potential yet. The Panthers have struggled offensively for years and had just two 20-goal men in 2014-15 (one, Brandon Pirri, managed the unique feat of scoring 22 times while only adding two assists). For a budget team, adding offence via free agency is difficult, so Florida may simply have to wait until its youth matures.
San Jose Sharks
Working in their favour: It's easy to forget now, but the Sharks managed 111 points just one season ago and held a 3-0 series lead on the eventual Stanley Cup champion. For the most part, the key pieces of that group are still in place both up front and on the back end, meaning that San Jose still has the backbone of a very capable team.
Working against them: Last summer, after losing the next four games in that series against Los Angeles, it appeared that team management lost faith in this group's ability to win. Never a terribly deep team, the Sharks got more top heavy in the chaos that followed. Goaltending is a question mark with Antti Niemi not expected back, per CSN Bay Area's Kevin Kurz, and new head coach Peter DeBoer has a tough act to follow as he attempts to improve on what Todd McLellan did with the roster.
Working in their favour: Vancouver is an older club but still has formidable talent at all positions. The Sedin twins (Henrik and Daniel) remain remarkable players and enjoyed good chemistry with new winger Radim Vrbata in 2014-15. The defensive corps is still reasonably deep and capable, and the Canucks also have depth in net (at least for the time being).
Working against them: It's worth wondering if the Sedins are still capable of being tent-pole players on a contender the way they were in their primes; they've seen their production decline with age (they're 34) and so have many of the team's supporting-cast members. The loss of veterans—most recently Ryan Kesler and Jason Garrison—has also hurt, as they have gone on to help other teams on deep runs. If this older group wasn't good enough last year, how will it get the job done with another season under its belt?
Working in their favour: Calgary's blue line is exceptional. Mark Giordano was the front-runner for the Norris Trophy prior to tearing his biceps; T.J. Brodie was the club's best player in the postseason; and Dennis Wideman put up 56 points. Up front, Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett are all exciting young players who should contribute more next season.
Working against them: Goaltending isn't a weakness exactly, but Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman recently reported the team may want to upgrade there. Jonas Hiller was just OK, and Karri Ramo is bound for free agency. The forwards are a smallish bunch and, outside of the top line, not really a threat to score. Many of the team's key young players are also still developing.
Working in their favour: The Senators have not one, not two, but three very capable goalies and can trade one to improve now and still retain a quality starter and real depth. Erik Karlsson is a superstar; he may be the league's best pure offensive defenceman. And partially as a consequence he has an underrated defensive game. Up front, the club has four lines capable of producing.
Working against them: Ottawa is a small-market team and consequently operates on a lower budget than most of its competitors; the Sens just don't have the ability to pay for high-end talent the way other clubs do. That's noticeable up front, where the team has depth but lacks top-flight scorers. Another weakness is on the back end, where the quality of the defence tapers off quickly after Karlsson.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Working in their favour: Sergei Bobrovsky is the best goalie in franchise history, and it really isn't close. The Jackets have both top-end talent and depth up front, particularly at centre, where an abundance of riches has forced players like Boone Jenner to the wing. There are also some emerging players on the back end, notably David Savard and (if he can stay healthy) Ryan Murray.
Working against them: The defence will get some help from up-and-comers, but even so it's a group that the team could stand to improve upon. Columbus has to be careful with its money and has significant dollars tied up in people such as David Clarkson and Rene Bourque, which will hurt the team's ability to compete next year. A lot of the the Blue Jackets' best young players are still a few years away from their primes.
Working in their favour: Winnipeg's defensive cast is pretty impressive, and Tyler Myers' strong debut made an already-good group even better. The team as a whole embraces speed and physical play, and most of the club's returning forwards provide a little of both. Head coach Paul Maurice has the Jets playing an extremely effective style at five-on-five.
Working against them: Goaltending is a question mark. Ondrej Pavelec had a great year, but past seasons have not been so good. And he struggled in the playoffs. Special teams were a bit of an issue all year, and the Ducks exposed them again in the postseason. Seven regulars are bound for free agency, which gives Winnipeg flexibility but also means a budget team could take a step back.
Working in their favour: Offence isn't easy to find, and the Stars have it in spades. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are the top end of a deep, capable forward group, one which, assuming good health, should have a better year than it did in 2014-15. The arrival of John Klingberg was a major gain on the back end, and there's some quality youth back there.
Working against them: Kari Lehtonen had a tough year in net, and he didn't get much help from his blue line; it probably isn't a coincidence that outside of the starter every other goaltender in Dallas spontaneously combusted. The Stars need a significant infusion of quality on the back end, certainly on defence and quite possibly in net, too.
Detroit Red Wings
Working in their favour: It's worth remembering that the Red Wings took the Tampa Bay Lightning to seven games in the first round, and it wouldn't have taken much for that series to have gone the other way. Veteran forwards Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk remain two-way stars capable of anchoring an offensive group. The Red Wings also have a nice mix of young supporting players. The defence is deep, and goaltenders Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek offer Detroit two potential starters.
Working against them: Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall are all on the downside of their respective career arcs and will be one year older. Highly respected coach Mike Babcock is now in Toronto. The defence arguably lacks a legitimate top pairing and has been short on right-handed shots for ages. And while the Red Wings may have two capable goalies, at times last year they didn't have a reliable starter.
Working in their favour: The core group of a championship is team still in place in Boston. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci anchor two quality lines and have a reasonable supporting cast, which includes superlative rookie David Pastrnak. Zdeno Chara, 38, remains formidable, even late in his career. Dougie Hamilton is a good player now and may be a great one in a few years. And Tuukka Rask remains a top 'tender. The retention of Claude Julien gives the team experience behind the bench.
Working against them: Age and injury have been issues for the Bruins, and Chara in particular is in danger of falling off a cliff performance-wise any day now. The salary cap is a constant pressure, necessitating the sacrifice of Johnny Boychuk last year. Once again Boston faces tough decisions and will struggle to improve the roster with limited dollars.
Working in their favour: Pittsburgh still has two of the best half-dozen hockey players on the planet in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The supporting cast is better than it looked last year, when Chris Kunitz was lousy, Pascal Dupuis was hurt (blood clot) and David Perron struggled to adjust following his January trade. Marc-Andre Fleury had a banner year, while Kris Letang anchors a promising young group of defencemen.
Working against them: Veteran defencemen Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff are both bound for free agency, and it's possible that neither returns, weakening the blue line. Injury is getting to be a pretty constant thing in Pittsburgh, so good health may be hard to come by. It also isn't clear how much confidence the team has in head coach Mike Johnston after a disappointing campaign.
Working in their favour: There is a solid assortment of veteran talent flanked by quality youth at pretty much every position in Minnesota. Up front, that means four capable scoring lines. The Wild have the kind of forward depth that creates matchup nightmares for opposition coaches. The defence is led by the excellent Ryan Suter and has a decent supporting cast. When this team got goaltending in the back half of the year, it was scary-good.
Working against them: Goaltending will be a question mark until such a time as the Wild manage to re-sign Devan Dubnyk. That may be tough to do. The club has a lot of salary committed to other players, and Niklas Backstrom's contract in particular hurts its flexibility. The team also has a history of leaning heavily on Suter, arguably hurting his performance in the regular season and leaving him short on gas in the playoffs.
Working in their favour: This is a team built from the goal out, and with good reason. Carey Price is a franchise 'tender and the likely Hart Trophy winner June 24. P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov and deadline revelation Jeff Petry are the key cogs on a deep, capable blue line. The Habs have decent depth up front and a general manager in Marc Bergevin who's adept at adding maximum value for minimum expenditure.
Working against them: The forward group is mostly undersized, which can be a problem at times; though for the most part the club has compensated with speed. The lack of a first-rate centre is a real weakness. So far the Canadiens have addressed that problem by committee, but that just may not cut it long term. Head coach Michel Therrien remains a polarizing figure behind the bench.
Working in their favour: Washington, a team known for its offence, improved dramatically in its own end last season. Many different factors contributed, including a career year from goalie Braden Holtby, the addition of veteran talent on the blue line and the hiring of former Predators coach Barry Trotz. All of those factors make the Caps a much-improved team, and with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin up front, this is still a club with scoring punch. John Carlson has always been good, but in 2014-15 he emerged as a top-end No. 1 defenceman.
Working against them: With the reluctance to call penalties in the postseason, power plays are less influential on outcomes, which is a real problem for a team that leans heavily on the NHL's best power-play weapon. The Capitals have depth, but with Backstrom and Ovechkin on the same line, generally they lack the ability to wreak havoc the way the Chicago Blackhawks do with a separated Jonathan Toews/Patrick Kane or the way Tampa Bay does with the Triplets/Steven Stamkos on two different lines.
New York Islanders
Working in their favour: This is a team with a lot going for it. The additions of Jaroslav Halak, Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk stabilized a perpetually weak back end, dramatically reducing New York's biggest weakness. That allowed the Islanders' incredible stable of skilled young forwards to take over games. John Tavares gives them a legitimate franchise cornerstone.
Working against them: Boychuk and Leddy help, but the Isles still lack an elite No. 1 defenceman, a player like Duncan Keith or Victor Hedman. Head coach Jack Capuano may or may not be the right man to get the full potential out of a talented roster.
Working in their favour: Nashville's defence has been the team's primary strength since its first year in the NHL, 1998-99, and nothing's changed. Shea Weber and Roman Josi may be the game's best top pairing, and the second and third tandems are awfully good, too. Pekka Rinne is finally healthy and once again playing strong hockey in net. The forward corps is deep, and Filip Forsberg gives it an emerging top weapon.
Working against them: The Predators still lack offensive stars. A 20-year-old Forsberg and reclamation project Mike Ribeiro were the only players to crack the 60-point plateau. Rinne had a great year, but two difficult campaigns preceded that. We'll have to wait and see if he really is back to being the top 'tender he once was.
St. Louis Blues
Working in their favour: On paper this team looks great. The forward group, for the most part, is massive and plays the kind of physical, two-way hockey that the West is known for. Vladimir Tarasenko gives the club a real game-breaker, and he's just entering the prime years of his career. The defence is deep and headlined by a two-way pillar in Alex Pietrangelo and an offensive wizard in Kevin Shattenkirk. The whole group is coached by a well-regarded Cup-winner in Ken Hitchcock.
Working against them: The Blues haven't won a playoff round in three consecutive seasons. There's a real risk that management comes to believe that this core group just doesn't have what it takes and dismantles it. Goaltending is a little uncertain. Brian Elliott doesn't inspire absolute confidence, and youngster Jake Allen, 24, struggled both during the regular season and in the playoffs when thrust into the No. 1 role.
Working in their favour: Anaheim is big, mean and talented up front. The duo of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf is a nasty one to try to defend against, and the addition of Ryan Kesler (who had great chemistry with Jakob Silfverberg) gives the Ducks an excellent top six. The defence is deep—so deep that trade-deadline addition James Wisniewski couldn't find his way into a playoff contest. Frederik Andersen, 25, and John Gibson, 21, give the Ducks ridiculous young talent between the pipes.
Working against them: The blue line is deep, but the top hand is still 35-year-old Francois Beauchemin, whose contract expires this summer. It's not clear who will lead the group, and while there are several candidates, this is an uncertain position for the Ducks. The net is also a bit of a question mark. Neither Andersen nor Gibson really excelled this year, and someone needs to firmly grab the No. 1 position.
Working in their favour: The Blackhawks are the defending champions and have won exactly half of the last six NHL championships. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are formidable building blocks up front and are flanked by a marvelous supporting cast. Duncan Keith is the leading man on a blue line which features some stunning talents. This is a brilliant team.
Working against them: The salary cap. General manager Stan Bowman will be implementing austerity measures this summer and will be forced to cut hard into the team's supporting cast. There have even been suggestions that core member Brent Seabrook (a year away from free agency) may be sacrificed to the economic realities of the NHL. It's going to be a very tough summer.
New York Rangers
Working in their favour: Any discussion has to start with franchise goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who has been the best in the business for years and is still a top-flight goaltender. He's well-supported by a very strong defence, one headlined by team captain Ryan McDonagh and that boasts quality all the way down to the third pair. At its best, the forward corps has both high-end talent and quality depth. Alain Vigneault is one of the NHL's better coaches.
Working against them: Every year, key players in New York get older, and despite some good young players, the team's window to win won't stay open indefinitely. Offence has been an issue in the playoffs; Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis both struggled badly this year, and it's anyone's guess if St. Louis even returns. The Rangers also have to be awfully careful because they're close to the NHL salary cap.
Los Angeles Kings
Working in their favour: The core of the team that won the 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cups is still in place at all positions. Anze Kopitar is one of the game's best two-way centres, Drew Doughty remains a franchise defenceman and goalie Jonathan Quick is one of the most respected clutch performers in hockey. This is a big, tough team that plays a dominant possession game and will contend again in 2015-16.
Working against them: They just missed the playoffs, and thanks to cap pressure, the team may be worse next season. Offence is a real issue for the Kings, and the club is going to be hard-pressed to retain unrestricted free agent Justin Williams, who was so useful on the road to the 2014 Cup.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Working in their favour: This loss in the Final is going to sting for a while, but there's no question the experience should make the Lightning a better team. This is a very young club which for the most part should still be on the upswing. Steven Stamkos just turned 25 in February, and 13 of the club's playoff participants are younger than he is, including Victor Hedman and the entirety of the "Triplets" line.
Working against them: There are some salary-cap issues on the horizon. Steven Stamkos is about to enter the final year of his contract and will command a raise from his current cap hit of $7.5 million. If he opts for unrestricted free agency, he would be highly sought-after and would open up a significant hole.
Contract information courtesy of Spotrac.