Betting site favours Maple Leafs ahead of Canucks for 2014 Stanley Cup

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.

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33 comments

  1. Nick the Viking
    July 15, 2013

    “The Leafs, on the other hand, took the eventual Stanley Cup champions to Game 7 in the first round and were really the only team other than the Blackhawks that gave the Bruins trouble in the playoffs.”

    *They took the Eastern Conference Champs to game 7, not the SCF champs.

    Good read though, thanks!

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    • Daniel Wagner
      July 15, 2013

      Yep. Re-wrote that paragraph a couple times and ended up with something that wasn’t the least bit true. Whoops. I’m an idiot.

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  2. akidd
    July 15, 2013

    hey, the leafs are an improved team, you gotta give them that. they were absolutely brutal for years and now they are less so. so…that’s pretty good, right?

    but those leafs met a stunno bruins in the first round. the boons were skating around most of that like they had their pajamas on. and then when they decided to move their little finger, down went the leafs in a few very short minutes.

    but they are improved. bolland and clarkson could conceiveably be put out on the ice against anyone. and getting bernier was a pretty smart move. much better goalie than reimer imho and in the opinion of the final 7 minutes of the 3rd period of game 7.

    but the best move of all was finally, finally, finally getting rid of wilson. yikes! holy way overdue!!! has there ever been a coach who kept his job so long with such a dismal record?

    so carlyle brings the defensive game. the good ol boring game that the canucks are going to try to sell tickets for. so the leafs can plug, if lucky,maybe for a round or so but a team without a first line doesn’t really stand much of a chance at any cups, do they?

    and daniel, i’m trying not to bite on the booth comments as we’ve both pretty much said what we need to say on that topic, but you don’t seem to give up. the canucks hired the wrong coach, traded the wrong goalie and bought out the wrong 4 mil salary( i would’ve rather seen ballard play forward.) i see a healthy booth as a step back from a booth on the LTIR. you gotta pay a healthy booth, remember, AND he has to take the occasional shift.

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  3. akidd
    July 15, 2013

    I was just playing with the idea of bolland on the canucks. and while a terrible locker room addition there’s probably not a better checking 3rd-line centre out there.

    and then i had a moment(infarction?)where it came clear what gillis might be doing. or i should say what i hope he might be doing so i don’t have to go with the other much less pleasant interpretation about the acquilinis taking over and gillis losing his mind and the like.

    but maybe gillis has pulled the plug. he knows this core can’t win on its on anymore. so he’s building a new core. one based around horvat, kassian, gaunce, shinkaruk, etc. i mean, it was terrible to lose schneider but that did seem like a precent decent draft for the canucks.

    maybe they don’t expect lou to report. gonna have the rookie ‘tender duo of eriksson and lack. tortorella is going to make life less comfortable for some of the vets to the extent where no-trade clauses get waived (bieksa? sedins?kesler?) and more youth is brought back. the resulting drop in immediate competitiveness should be good enough to ensure some decent draft position for a couple of years. after about 2-3 years torts is fired, the new guy is hired, and we’re good to go.

    it could be a solid team. mature but young d-corps, young forward-corps with a compliment of whichever vets survive tortorella. lack or erikksson coming into prime. not too shabby.

    so ya, maybe the rebuild has already started and it’s beginning of the end of this present edition
    of your vancouver canucks. and maybe it’s not a bad plan. or maybe i need to lay off the cooking wine. it is cheaper but….

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  4. benner
    July 15, 2013

    Akidd, Ballard over Booth, you’ve got to be kidding! Anyways, Daniel, where is the mention that the leafs odds are likely driven up/down by the center of the universe crowd so it’s also a reflection of the hedge Bet365 must make to cover their arses…

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    • akidd
      July 15, 2013

      benner, neither ballard nor booth, preferably. it just fit into the sentence/thought nicely. but if i had to choose, then ballard for sure. at forward. a way smarter player. had his cage rattled good by av but i expect/hope for him to improve considerably with the wild . but neither really….

      but if you read my last post about the ‘draft position’ plans of gillis then booth would fit in nicely indeed. he pretty much single-handedly ensures that secondary that secondary scoring doesn’t get in the way of a top ten pick:)

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    • Daniel Wagner
      July 15, 2013

      I was going to mention that odds are partially driven by the betting crowd, but then I noticed that none of the other oddsmakers had the Leafs that high.

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      • mb13
        July 16, 2013

        “partially driven”? They are totally driven by the betting crowd.

        Either way – the Leafs are probably on par with the Canucks in terms of quality. They finished with 57 points in a division that sent 4 teams to the playoffs. The Canucks had 59 points in a division that had them in the playoffs (along with the Wild – otherwise it would have been 3 consecutive years of Canucks as sole playoff team in division… unprecedented … no precedent!). The leafs won infinitely more playoff games than the Canucks last year.

        What am I missing? Why is the Leafs having similar or better odds laughable? Or was this post supposed to be sarcastic?

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        • Daniel Wagner
          July 16, 2013

          They’re partially driven by the betting crowd: the booksmakers set the initial odds and do have control over how far they allow the bettors to impact those odds.

          What you’re missing is that the Leafs are not a particularly good team who overachieved last season, then made a series of decisions in the off-season that were, at best, lateral moves. They made the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons and still didn’t make it out of the first round. Them having better odds of winning the Cup than the Canucks is absolutely laughable and every single other bookmaker agrees.

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          • Mb13
            July 16, 2013

            I’m not missing that fact at all – overachieving is a subjective term. They are what they are. A team that had 2 points less than the Canucks and had the Stanley Cup runners-up 2 minutes away from going out in the 1st round.

            “lateral moves?” They added Clarkson, Bolland and Bernier. I’m not sure what they moved off of their roster other than Komisarek, Scrivens and Grabovski. If you consider those moves lateral, maybe your defending of Gillis is making more and more sense. Nevermind that most of their roster isn’t even 30 years old yet – so they are getting better. The Canucks, they have an aging roster with unproven young talent. Canucks downgraded goaltending and have a massive question mark at coach.

            What am I missing?

            FYI – bookmakers don’t laugh. They set odds to make money without emotion.

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            • Daniel Wagner
              July 16, 2013

              They added Clarkson, Bolland, and Bernier. They lost MacArthur, Grabovski, and Scrivens.

              Clarkson is an upgrade on MacArthur, certainly. Bolland is a downgrade from Grabovski, who was grossly misused under Carlyle. Bernier is an upgrade over Scrivens, but a completely unnecessary one. As we’ve seen here in Vancouver, only one goalie can play at any given moment. Overall, I would say that the Leafs upgraded slightly (saying lateral moves was an overstatement), but overpaid Clarkson significantly to do so and unnecessarily created a difficult situation in goal. Meanwhile, they still have a number one centre that is a boat anchor for their best player and they still have massive question marks on defence.

              They massively overachieved last season. They were the most out-shot team in the league. This isn’t even getting into any advanced stats or anything like that. Teams that are out-shot that badly tend to lose a lot of games. The Leafs were extremely fortunate that they didn’t.

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              • MB13
                July 16, 2013

                But again – we are talking about the upcoming year. I would put the Leafs in a tier just below the Canucks if I was grouping the teams in the league – I’m not even sure who I’d group the Canucks with… Detroit, San Jose, St. Louis I guess.

                But saying it’s laughable is extreme. The Canucks aren’t the President’s Trophy winning team anymore. And the Leafs are trending in the right direction.

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              • Daniel Wagner
                July 16, 2013

                Fair enough. “Laughable” probably was a bit far. I disagree that the Leafs are trending in the right direction, but we’ll see in the coming season.

                I would agree with grouping the Canucks with Detroit, San Jose, and St. Louis. Throw in the Rangers from the East and maybe the Capitals.

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              • akid
                July 16, 2013

                i too, think the leafs massively overachieved last season. they’re in a weak conference and played a sleepwalking bruins in the playoffs. but i don’t mind the moves they made so far this off-season. reimer is a stop-gap so getting a legit goalie in bernier who’s only a backup because the starter is conn smythe calibre was a pretty good move, imo. i don’t think there will be much controversy as bernier will easily earn the starter job on the leafs.

                and while grabovski is a serviceable 2nd-liner he had the terrible disadvantage of playing for the losing wilson leafs for his whole pro career. learned some bad habits there i’m sure. meanwhile, bolland, as ratty as he is, could be the best 3rd-line centre in the league. he’s won two cups playing against the best competition in the league(i’m sure his quality of competition stats are through the roof) under the brightest lights. dude is battle-tested. definitely not a lateral move.

                i don’t know much about clarkson but i don’t doubt that he is overpaid. still, i’m guessing that he is an upgrade in quality on the ice, even if his contract is not an upgrade.

                but bozak? ya, that’s a gaffe. the leafs won’t be truly competitive until they get a proper first line together. paying a guy first-line money doesn’t mean he’s a first-liner. not that the leafs had a lot of options. coulda offered him a 2-year contract at about a mil per less i suppose.

                overall, the leafs will be better next year. they play in the loosey-goosey east with a tough western conference defensive coach. bernier gets hot and they might get a playoff spot again. not much more without a miracle though.

                how the canucks do, otoh, is anybody’s guess. like i said previously it might be a pretty different look this year with lots of kids learning on the job. it could be a good thing, an ‘on the right track’ thing, but the fruits of this transition might not be ripe for a couple of years. AV tried to win every game by playing his vets and sitting his kids. if torts knows what’s good for him he’s going to give the kids some ice-time.

                if the leafs finish with more points next season than the canucks it wouldn’t surprise me. the leafs won’t be winning any cups though. not this year nor in the forseeable future. there’s no first line and none on the way. whereas, the canucks may just end up being pretty darn competitive in a couple of years or less, or more, if some of these new kids pan out and the sedins stay fit and interested. that last draft might have been a game-changer.

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  5. Sean Z
    July 15, 2013

    It’s all really a matter of opinion. My opinion is that the Leafs have more of a shot than the Canucks do, at higher odds than what Bet365 is saying. I think Nonis did well at free agency. But I am giving Bolland and Clarkson more of a shake than most are.

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    • Neil B
      July 15, 2013

      I’m really not sure that the Leafs have improved, Sean Z. And I’m not basing that on a Grabbo vs Clarkson comparison (since the one was bought out for the other), or even a Grabbo vs Bolland comparison (Bolland is clearly made for Toronto’s new playing style; Grabbo is not, even though he is a better player by a wide margin).

      I look at the new division and see MTL, BOS, DET, OTT ahead of the Leafs in their division. Who do the Leafs bump to make the playoffs?

      I look at the new Pacific division and see LA (maybe; how much do they miss Scuderi?) ahead of Vancouver, with ANA, SJS, and VAN all in a pack together. Honestly, I can see Vancouver possibly winning the division if Lou comes back committed to the team and we get 77+ games from Booth & Kesler (each, not combined).

      I like the Leafs. I spent several years in Toronto, so I know how much the fanbase really wants to believe in these guys. But honestly, realistically–I just can’t see this season doing anything but blow up in their faces. I’m sorry.

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  6. Dan
    July 15, 2013

    I don’t know man, you might have jinxed it with this.

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  7. PB
    July 15, 2013

    Interesting that this one betting site (based in Britain which as we all know, follows hockey voraciously ever since Tom Sestito made his mark in the Elite Hockey League during the lockout) and some on this site are giving the Leafs such good odds. Their own blogs are full of gloom and despair at them following the same model that has failed them so miserably for so many years. A glimmer of success followed by management trading away young players, signing aging semi-stars to bloated contracts, and sticking with a coach who’s stuck in his ways (ok, I admit, all of that could sound suspiciously like the Canucks except that we actually win most of the time).

    There was a time when Leafs management thought lavishing huge deals on Jeff Finger, Mike Komisarek, Jason Blake, etc was just as awesome as Clarkson, when they thought acquiring John-Michael Liles was just as great as getting Bolland, when Vesa Toskala was the backup who hadn’t had a chance just like Bernier. They do this stuff over and over and it gets them nowhere.

    In a division that has Boston, Detroit, Tampa Bay and Montreal, are the Leafs really going to be competitive enough — on the basis of their pretty shaky season — to win a cup? That seems ludicrous to me. I don’t know that the Canucks have it in them but I have a hard time imagining that the Leafs are even going to make the playoffs.

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  8. Popeye
    July 15, 2013

    Leafs upside is youth.

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  9. Sportsfanatic111
    July 15, 2013

    My first reaction was that the ratings were ridiculous, but after some thought I realized the main reason the Canucks fall apart in the playoff is they get out-muscled and their skilled players become non-factors. What the Leafs have done is added toughness big time in Clarkson and Bolland and the leafs already were a very physical team. They may not have the same degree of skilled players as the Canucks,but they will be much tougher – in fact I bet they won’t get out-muscled by any other team. That is a winning formula in the playoffs, if the Leafs can make it that far. That is what Gillis has totally missed (and why he should have been fired instead of Vigneault).

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  10. PB
    July 16, 2013

    The Leafs (especially their core) is younger, but with the exception of Kessel I don’t think they’re anywhere near the calibre of the Sedins, Luongo, or Kesler. Phaneuf’s sort of like Edler, big, some offense, no leadership, some serious defensive miscues. And I have a hard time seeing them as being that much tougher. Their core skill players are smurfs and the two who are big and strong JVR and Lupul have injury problems. Clarkson is hugely overrated and as Daniel points out in the original article Bolland didn’t exactly thrive with fantastic linemates (at least offensively).

    The Leafs are not on the upswing. This is the same old story. The Canucks may well be on the way down but the Leafs have a long way to go to catch them even in that. So they pushed the Bruins to a seventh game — that’s the nature of the playoffs and the fact that the Bruins had some pretty awful off games, not because the Leafs are that much improved. I actually think if they had a different coach than Carlyle and stayed with some of their roster from last year (not getting rid of Frattin or Grabovski, not resigning Orr etc) they would’ve been better off. Bolland and Clarkson are good additions still but not as good as their being made out to be.

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    • Matt
      July 16, 2013

      I’ll take Phaneuf over Edler any day. He played the most and the hardest minutes of any defenseman in the league last year with AHL plugs on his right side and still managed to hold his own. He is head-and-shoulders above the other defensemen on the Leafs and one of the best Ds in the league.

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      • akidd
        July 16, 2013

        “I’ll take Phaneuf over Edler any day”

        you need to make a t-shirt out of that. How about “he’ll/she’ll take phaneuf over edler any day” with an arrow pointing to the guy/gal who’s supposed to be standing next to you?

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  11. Josh
    July 16, 2013

    I’m just gonna hedge my bets and say neither team is winning the Stanley Cup next year.

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  12. Andre
    July 16, 2013

    I wonder if the “downgrade” reflects the change in coaching staff? Personally, I think that we’re ahead with Torts if he can bring out the potential that we know exists in players such as Edler.

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  13. MBDF
    July 16, 2013

    Sedin Sedin Kassian
    Burrows Kesler Higgins
    Santorelli Richardson Booth
    Hansen Horvat Jensen
    Weise

    Edler Webber
    Hamhuis Bieksa
    Garrison Tanev
    Corrado

    Luongo
    Lack

    Not bad :)

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  14. Nikolai_Avenger`
    July 17, 2013

    Holy heck, dudes. Don’t take this all so personally. What do Bet365 know about hockey? No way have they considered all the things pointed out in this post before offering the odds. As mentioned, it’s simply an arse-covering exercise to ensure they don’t lose too much money. I imagine the Leafs are always a popular bet, no matter how crap they may be. Remember, before you get your titties in a twist, this is just Bet365′s opionion, not an actual prophecy from, like, a real God or something.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      July 17, 2013

      I’m not taking it personally. I just found it funny and decided to write about it.

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  15. Fu King
    July 17, 2013

    You do know that Odd’s are established from money put down on teams right? And have nothing to do with strength of team, do you realize this right? Wouldn’t want you to look like a fool, oh wait….

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    • Daniel Wagner
      July 17, 2013

      *sigh*

      That’s not how it works. The odds are set beforehand, then are adjusted over time as people bet. Do you think that the bookmakers give every team 10/1 odds to win the Stanley Cup to begin with? If you actually believe that, then I’m not the one that looks like a fool.

      And again, every single other bookmaker has the Canucks well ahead of the Leafs in their odds.

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      • MB13
        July 18, 2013

        But the odds are also set NOT based on a teams chance of winning the Cup. It is based on the anticipated action a book expects on a bet which for the most part is based on a team’s chance of winning the Cup. Other factors come into play though. History being a big one – if a book has a history of receiving too much action on a team, they will build the price into the opening odds of that team. I suspect that’s what happened with the Leafs here.

        Different bookmakers probably have different risk tolerances and different algorithms to get them to their maximum profit. I suspect that Bet365 had the Leafs and Canucks (rightly or wrongly – beaten to death above) in a similar tier and then adjusted for expected action received on both teams based on previous years. It might even be possible that Bet365 had the Canucks ahead of the Leafs but the adjustment caused the Leafs to leapfrog the Canucks.

        Flyers at 28-1. Probably the most interesting of the bunch. Not exactly to win the cup but get some money on them now and you’ve set yourself up for a nice hedge later in the year.

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  16. Ad79
    July 19, 2013

    The problem with Bet365′s odds is not that the Canucks aren’t high enough in the odds, but primarily that the Leafs are ranked ahead of them! Only in Vancouver – love it! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

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  17. Marspekei
    July 19, 2013

    Hockey blogger needs hits, must write about the leafs!! Recipe for success~

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