The West has surpassed the East for the title of top conference in the NHL by winning four of the last five Stanley Cups. Will that trend continue? Here’s a look at the 2014-15 NHL odds as training camps approach.
Boston Bruins are favored in the East at +320, and outside of losing Jarome Iginla, they basically have the same team back and that spells trouble for the rest of the conference. They will need someone to take Iginla’s spot on a line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic, but they still have Zdeno Chara leading a very good defense and Tuukka Rask in goal. They will also be inspired by their exit at the hands of their rivals from Montreal Canadiens in the postseason.
Then you have Pittsburgh Penguins at +400, but this is a team in transition with a new head coach in Mike Johnston, and they traded James Neal to Nashville Predators. They still have the duo of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin leading the way, but the Pens also lost a lot on defense.
Last season’s conference finalists, Montreal and the New York Rangers, are both rated at +700, but they might have caught lightning in a bottle and rode hot goalies to that spot. Tampa Bay is next at +750, but Steven Stamkos needs a little more help. Watch out for Washington at +1600; they offer some value, but they could be either great or awful, with no middle ground.
The Blackhawks are the West favorites at +370, and they will certainly be motivated after losing to the Los Angeles Kings, who are rated at +450. The two have met in each of the last three seasons in the Western finals and the winner has gone on to win the Stanley Cup, so you’re going to need your best effort to even crack the top two in the West. The Blackhawks showed they were in it for the long haul by signing Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to massive extensions, and it’s tough to think of a reason why they wouldn’t be in the conference finals once again. The same goes for the Kings, who might have the trump card in goalie Jonathan Quick.
Then you have St. Louis Blues at +450, and they picked up the biggest free agent of the summer in Paul Statsny, but if they don’t get past the second round, people are going to look in goal, where they let Ryan Miller go to Vancouver. Anaheim Ducks and San Jose are rated at +500 and +550, respectively, and the Ducks traded for Ryan Kesler to add to their powerful front line, but they’re young in goal. Meanwhile, the Sharks are coming off arguably their toughest collapse in a long line of collapses, and they could be on the way down.
Colorado Avalanche at +800 is a very good deal with their young lineup that added some veteran leadership with Iginla, and don’t sleep on Dallas Stars from +1100. Picking up Jason Spezza was huge, and Jamie Benn is going to be a star this season.