Future betting odds for the 2014-2015 campaign have already been posted by several major sports-books. I would like to share with you my personal early Eastern Conference power rankings, and the corresponding early betting odds for each team’s chances to advance the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals.
1. Boston Bruins (5-2)
The Bruins accumulated the most points during this past NHL regular season. Their season came to an unexpected early end when they fell in 7-games during the Eastern Conference Semifinals versus the Montreal Canadiens. The Bruins management has done a great job of keeping the majority of this roster intact over the last 4 seasons. This is the same core group of players that won the Stanley Cup in 2011, advanced to the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals, and captured the President’s Trophy this past regular season. They will be once again be a major force to be reckoned with in the upcoming season.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins (9-2)
There’s no question about the talent this club possesses up and down their roster. Last season’s head coach Dan Bylsma was recently just given the axe after his club fell short of expectations in the last 2 postseasons. I look for the Penguins to obtain a top-of-the-line goaltender either through free agency, or via trade during the offseason. It’s quite apparent that Marc Andre-Fleury isn’t the answer after displaying erratic play the past two postseasons.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning (9-1)
The Lightning emerged as a huge surprise team this past season. Goaltender Ben Bishop’s injury that prevented him from playing during the playoffs really hindered their chances of advancing further. Having Steven Stamkos back for a full season will also be a huge plus. The Lightning star forward was only able to play in 40 regular season games this past season due to injury.
4. New York Rangers (7-1)
Although I have “The Broadway Blue Shirts” ranked 4th in my conference power rankings, they may be my best future betting odds value on the board. Head coach Alain Vigneault did a terrific job in his first season behind the Rangers bench in guiding them to the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals. This is an organization not afraid to spend money to get even better, and with Vigneault’s system now firmly in place, the Rangers will prove that last season wasn’t a fluke.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets (14-1)
If you want a sleeper in the Eastern Conference for the upcoming season, then Columbus is a team to keep an eye on. They made the playoffs a season ago, and gave Pittsburgh all they can handle before being eliminated in 6-games during their opening round series.
6. Montreal Canadiens (7-1)
The Canadiens Stanley Cup hopes were derailed after star goaltender Carey Price was injured in the opening game of the Eastern Conference Finals versus the Rangers. The most scrutinized head coaching job in the NHL belongs to the bench boss in Montreal. Michel Therrien was given a 5-year contract extension at the conclusion of the season which certainly exhibits a huge vote of confidence from the organizational heads.
7. Detroit Red Wings (7-1)
The Red Wings may be a bit overvalued here, just because of the consistency in the organization from year to year. They have an aging group of core players, many of which had a difficult time staying healthy a season ago. The Bruins made short work of them in a first round series by eliminating them in 5-games. My early projection is this will be a club that will be hard pressed to make the playoffs in the upcoming season.
8. Philadelphia Flyers (14-1)
Craig Berube did a tremendous job of righting the ship after taking over the head coaching duties early last season. They extended the eventual Eastern Conference champion New York Rangers to 7-games before being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. If they ever get their goaltending situation in order, then I will take them more seriously going forward.
9. Washington Capitals (20-1)
The classic underachieving team on an annual basis. Alexander Ovechkin continues to fill seats and bring excitement. The rest of the cast need to fill their roles in a more efficient manner.
10. Carolina Hurricane (30-1)
The Hurricanes showed signs of being on the cusp of being in the upper tier of the Eastern Conference a season ago. With a few tweaks to the roster they could very well be a playoff team in the upcoming season.
11. Ottawa Senators (25-1)
A very good young nucleus of young talent that overachieved 2 years ago, and then went backwards in their development this past season. Craig Anderson needs to return to the form he showed during the 2012-2013 campaign if the Senators have any hope of contending for a playoff position.
12. Toronto Maple Leafs (25-1)
A great start to last season was wiped out by a horrible 2nd half of the season. There’s a lot of work to do to get this proud franchise back to elite status.
13. New York Islanders (30-1)
There’s enough offensive firepower still on this club to make them a formidable opponent on a nightly basis. How well newly acquired goaltender Jaroslav Halak performs will go a long way in measuring their progress.
14. New Jersey Devils (30-1)
The Devils franchise will have seen much better days than the season they will endure ahead. Fortunately, there are plenty of other teams on which to place your hockey picks with.
15. Florida Panthers (30-1)
This organization is all over the map when it comes to the direction they want to head. It’s very difficult to improve, or be consistent on an annual basis, the way things are being run in the front office.
16. Buffalo Sabres (50-1)
New General Manager Tim Murray was left a mess created by the former regime. They have a plethora of high draft picks over the next two years, and it will take at least a couple of seasons to rebuild in Western New York.