The San Jose Sharks are defending Western Conference champions. That makes it puzzling that bookmakers like Top Bet place their odds of winning the 2017 Stanley Cup at plus-1600.
Odds are a reflection of the betting public, not a prediction. They are designed to balance the wagers on both sides.
That means the Sharks are seen as barely among the top-10 Stanley Cup contenders. This is unexpected given their roster stability from their most successful season ever. Some of the other teams they share the top-third status in the league with are particularly odd.
The Minnesota Wild are also plus-1600 despite having never won a game after the second round in their 15 NHL seasons. Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu are their two best centers and their blue-line play is too reliant on Ryan Suter to make a deep run at the 2017 Stanley Cup.
The Anaheim Ducks are perhaps understandable at plus-1500 as the four-time Pacific Division champions. However, they were knocked out in a Game 7 on home ice after all four titles. Twice that happened in the first round and only once did they reach the Western Conference finals.
Likewise, no one is going to blame gamblers for backing the three-time Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Still, they are terrible favorite (plus-800) after a net loss of talent from a roster that fell in the first round this April.
Another plus-800 favorite makes more sense—after all, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat San Jose for the Stanley Cup. However, the third favorite is the Washington Capitals—a team that has not won more than seven games in any postseason this millennium.
The Tampa Bay Lightning might actually be underrated at plus-1200. They are returning almost the entire roster that was a goal away from consecutive Eastern Conference championships. They should have an easier time getting to the Stanley Cup finals than the Sharks.
The Dallas Stars are also understandable at plus-1200. They were the top seed in the Western Conference and nearly reached its finals. They have suffered a net blue-line loss but could make up for that with a personnel or performance upgrade in net.
Having the Los Angeles Kings at plus-1200 seem a bit high. San Jose trounced them in the first round last season, they may have an unhappy ex-captain and they lost more than they gained this offseason. That being said, there are worse bets than a team led by Selke Trophy-winning Anze Kopitar and Norris Trophy-winning Drew Doughty with one of the three best goalies in the world behind them in Jonathan Quick.
However, the St. Louis Blues are a less-sensible choice at plus-1200. They lost too much of the team that finally got over one hump and are in the last season under coach Ken Hitchcock. Oh, and they lost pretty decisively to the Sharks in May.
Meanwhile, San Jose looks loaded up. Every player lost was from the bottom of the position’s depth chart, signing Mikkel Boedker and David Schlemko should ensure the skating units are upgraded and the young talent is developing.
The only weakness the Sharks have is at the backup goalie position, and it is far better than what they started with last season in Alex Stalock. There will only be 11 back-to-back games that must be manned by Aaron Dell or Troy Grosenick before the trade deadline and nine before Feb. 11. Picking up a solid backup for a few games down the stretch may not work out as well as it did in the 2015-16 NHL season, but it should be easy and early enough to make to consider them better contenders for the 2017 Stanley Cup.