Eastern Conference NHL Picks: Teams to Fade & Teams to Shade

David Lawrence

Thursday, August 6, 2015 6:54 PM GMT

The dust has settled on the 2015 NHL offseason, so now is an excellent time to start evaluating futures. Here’s our rundown of who’ll underperform & overperform in the East. 

Before we look ahead, let’s look back for a minute. At this time last season, here is what the Eastern Conference futures looked like:

 2014 Preseason OddsTo Win East
 (courtesy of The Greek)

 Current NHL Odds To Win West

Boston Bruins 11/4

Pittsburgh Penguins 5/1

Detroit Red Wings 8/1

New York Rangers 8/1

Montreal Canadiens 8/1

Tampa Bay Lightning 11/1

Columbus Blue Jackets16/1

Philadelphia Flyers 16/1

Washington Capitals 22/1

Ottawa Senators 28/1

Toronto Maple Leafs 28/1

Florida Panthers 33/1

New York Islanders 33/1

New Jersey Devils 33/1

Carolina Hurricanes 33/1

Buffalo Sabres 50/1

 

Tampa Bay Lightning 11/4

New York Rangers 19/4

Montreal Canadiens 6/1

Pittsburgh Penguins 6/1

New York Islanders 7/1

Washington Capitals 15/2

Columbus Blue Jackets 12/1

Detroit Red Wings 12/1

Boston Bruins 15/1

Ottawa Senators 18/1

Florida Panthers 23/1

Buffalo Sabres 45/1

Carolina Hurricanes 45/1

New Jersey Devils 45/1

Philadelphia Flyers 45/1

Toronto Maple Leafs 90/1

 

This shows that there was ample parity in the Eastern Conference as the top three teams on the odds weren’t really a factor while the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning each offered better value and delivered better results. This year, those three teams are atop the odds, so let’s see if we can find value NHL picks elsewhere.

 

Outperform: Columbus Blue Jackets
This was a team on the rise two seasons ago when the pushed the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs. However, last season, they fell off the map because they were ravaged by injuries. You’d be hard-pressed to find a team that suffered more than they did. I love how they ended the season as they won 14 of their last 15 games. In the offseason, they added Brandon Saad and Greg Campbell to not only add a quality scorer but also an important roleplayer. The Eastern Conference is the weaker of the two conferences and Columbus can definitely take advantage. They should outperform their 12/1 odds and while they might not win the conference, you might want to bet the over on their regular season points.

 

Outperform: Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres are posted with odds of 45/1 but I think this team is going to look very different next season. They were very proactive in the offseason and this team should no longer be a cellar-dweller. They have a solid rotation up front with Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane, Matt Moulson, Tyler Ennis, Brian Gionta, Jack Eichel and David Legwand. On the blue line, they aren’t great but a rotation with Zach Bogosian, Josh Gorges, Mike Weber and Carlo Colaiacovo is better than what they’ve had in previous seasons. And there’s the hope that Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson upgrade the goaltending position somewhat. Most importantly, I like Dan Bylsma as their head coach as I felt he got a raw deal in Pittsburgh. This team will fight for him and won’t be a nightly doormat. Don’t be surprised if Buffalo pushes to make the playoffs.

 

Underperform: Florida Panthers
This team is slated to finish in the middle of the pack according to the odds but they could end up being much worse. Their lineup is just such a non-cohesive mixed bag. Dave Bolland is their highest paid forward. I would expect this team to play a number of unders next season in terms of on a night-to-night basis and I would also look to play them under on their regular season points.

Be sure to read Dave's Early Leans Based on NHL Odds to Win Western Conference

Underperform: Pittsburgh Penguins
I find it hard to roll with the Penguins at 6/1 here. First off, we know they’ve had playoff issues the last few seasons and nobody wants those 6/1 odds with Marc-Andre Fleury as the playoff backstop. Yes, they picked up Phil Kessel and the offense should be downright scary but the blue line is a concern. When you’ve got Rob Scuderi, Ian Cole, Derrick Pouliot and Ben Lovejoy soaking up big minutes, that could be a problem. This Penguins team doesn’t seem to get charged up for their head coach and there have been rumors that they might move Evgeni Malkin. While that seems hard to believe, that goes to show you that not everything is right in Pittsburgh. They were 18th in scoring last season, which is hard to believe considering the talent and they were 25th in goals scored (2.25) after the All-Star break. If you’re taking the 6/1, you’re getting ripped off because you’re paying for the brand names. This team isn’t worth the price.