Alex Edler, Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, and Daniel Sedin find that idea endlessly amusing.
For the past several seasons, the Canucks have been a popular pick by pundits to win the Stanley Cup. World-class goaltending, Art Ross and Selke winners, Presidents’ Trophies, and a trip to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final tends to have that effect.
Getting knocked out in the first round of the playoffs in consecutive seasons, however, dampens the enthusiasm a fair bit and it’s a good bet that very few people will be picking the Canucks to go all the way in the 2013-14 season. Ironically, that might make the Canucks a good bet — literally — as they’ll potentially be underrated by oddsmakers, meaning you could possibly get some good value.
Sure enough, British bookmakers Bet365.com severely underrated the Canucks. Or maybe they’ve severely overrated the Maple Leafs. Whichever one is the case, they somehow have the Leafs ahead of the Canucks in their 2014 Stanley Cup odds. And that’s ridiculous.
These are Bet365′s money line odds for the 2014 Stanley Cup, with the Penguins the favourites at +500 and the Panthers as the extreme longshots at +20000. This means that a $100 bet for the Penguins pays out at $500 if they win the Cup, while the same bet for the Panthers pays out at $20,000.
The Canucks are tied for seventh on the list at +1600, same as the Red Wings. That’s ahead of the team that just swept them in the playoffs, the San Jose Sharks, who are at +2000.
It isn’t, however, ahead of the Maple Leafs, who squeak in ahead of them at +1500.
Before laughing uproariously at the how ludicrous that is, let’s first take a look at how it actually does make a bit of sense.
After all, the Canucks did get swept in the first round, then fired their coach, traded away their starting goaltender, and have made no significant additions in free agency. In many ways, the Canucks look like a team heading in the wrong direction.
The Leafs, on the other hand, took the eventual Eastern Conference champions to Game 7 in the first round and were really the only team other than the Cup-winning Blackhawks that gave the Bruins trouble in the playoffs. They then went out and acquired the biggest name in free agency, retained their number one centre, and traded for one of the most highly-hyped young goaltenders in the league to create a strong goaltending platoon.
They bought out their overpaid third line centre to make room for those deals and traded for a proven Stanley Cup winner to fill the hole left behind. Clearly, the Leafs re-positioned themselves in the off-season to become a legitimate contender, right? The oddsmakers at Bet365 certainly seem to think so.
Of course, that “biggest name in free agency” was David Clarkson, a fine player, certainly, but one whose career high in points is 46 and who the Leafs signed for seven years at $5.25 million per year. Considering Clarkson’s very physical style of play, seven years is a big risk.
The number one centre the Leafs retained? Tyler Bozak, who has a career high of 47 points despite playing with Phil Kessel, one of the best wingers in hockey. Bozak is only a number one centre because he plays on the first line. In fact, there’s evidence that Bozak is actively dragging down Kessel and making him worse. This isn’t about advanced statistics: even Don Cherry thinks that Bozak is a “plugger” who can’t even score 20 goals while playing with Kessel. And yet, he got re-signed for five years at $4.2 million per year.
Last season, the Leafs got some of the best goaltending in the league out of James Reimer, who posted a .924 save percentage, tied for seventh in the NHL. Reimer has given every indication in his career, barring a short period after suffering a concussion, that he is a legitimate number one goaltender in the NHL. So, of course, Dave Nonis traded for Jonathan Bernier, losing assets in order to potentially create a goaltending controversy in Toronto.
The overpaid third line centre that they bought out was Mikhail Grabovski, who was only considered overpaid because he was miscast as a third line centre by Randy Carlyle. Grabovski went from scoring 58 and 51 points in 2010-11 and 2011-12 to scoring just 16 points in 48 games in 2012-13, as he played minimal minutes, mainly in the defensive zone. Frustrated, Grabovski tore into Carlyle after getting bought out, an understandable reaction.
The Stanley Cup winner they traded for was Dave Bolland, which wasn’t a terrible move by any means. After all, Bolland could certainly succeed in Toronto as a defensive centreman. Nonis seems to think, however, that he’ll get more opportunities in Toronto than he did in Chicago, despite playing most of last season with Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp. It’s misguided and seems emblematic of Nonis’s managing style. Remember Jan Bulis, surefire top-six forward?
These moves have Leafs’ fans asking if a potato would do a better job managing the Leafs than Dave Nonis. The potato came out ahead in their assessment.
Let’s keep in mind, the Leafs made the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons. That’s despite them being the most badly outshot team in the league, giving up 32.3 shots against per game and tallying just 26.3 shots for per game. They made the playoffs thanks to some outstanding goaltending by Reimer, a goaltender that they seem desperate to replace as quickly as possible.
The Canucks, on the other hand, have made the playoffs in five straight seasons, winning their division all five times and the Presidents’ Trophy twice. Even taking into consideration the weak Northwest Division, the Canucks have done better than the Leafs, who, y’know, missed the playoffs in seven straight seasons.
Have the Canucks improved this off-season? Well, no, unless you consider removing the distraction of the goaltending controversy an improvement. The Canucks’ lineup next season will bear a strong similarity to the lineup we saw all of last season, with the addition of a (hopefully) healthy David Booth and Ryan Kesler, as well as the promotion of a prospect or two. But the Leafs arguably made themselves worse in the off-season and they were already fortunate to have even made the playoffs last season.
Whatever you might think of the Canucks and their chances to win the Stanley Cup next year, you have to admit that their chances are better than the Leafs’. Sure enough, other betting sites agree. Bodog has the Canucks at 16/1 to win the Cup and the Leafs at 20/1. William Hill also has the Canucks at 16/1, but places the Leafs all the way down at 33/1. Belmont puts the Canucks at 14/1 and the Leafs at 30/1.
In fact, Bet365 is the only bookmaker that has the Leafs ahead of the Canucks in their Stanley Cup odds.
s/t to Guts McTavish.Tags: Maple Leafs, odds