While the chances of NHL teams winning back-to-back Stanley Cups are quite rare, the Pittsburgh Penguins have showed us in the last two years that anything is possible. While the Penguins are going for their third consecutive Stanley Cup, other NHL teams are gunning for them. Although the Penguins are the favourites to win the Stanley Cup at +900 – a pretty massive payout – the remaining 29 teams in the NHL may also represent good betting options as their payouts are all greater than +1000. In order to obtain value in picking the 2017–2018 Stanley Cup winner, here is a look at how to handicap Stanley Cup futures in the NHL offseason.
Free Agency Transactions
Often times, a team on the cusp of breaking through and winning the Stanley Cup depends on their ability to sign big-name free agents during the offseason. Similar to the Penguins’ pickup of Phil Kessel during their Stanley Cup win in the 2015–2016 season, other teams would be wise to do the same. The signing of one or more star free agents can change the entire dynamic of a team. These transactions can often turnaround a team mired in mediocrity to a team with newfound championship aspirations. A splashy free agent signing or two can signal to current team members that the team is serious about winning now. As a result, this will provide a huge morale boost for a team heading into the new season along with a deeper roster.
In addition to adding key pieces to a team with championship aspirations, the right coach could also mean the difference between winning and losing. Whether the coach provides a team with tactical advantage or creates a better aura and feel in a team’s locker room, the person at the helm must be the right fit. At times, a particular coach is simply unable to take a team to the next level. As a result, it is important that this individual is replaced with a new coach in order to bring a better style of play or change the mindset of a team. Although a coach does not provide contributions on the ice, he will have a substantial influence on the players of a team behind the scenes.
The training camps of NHL teams must also be closely monitored due to potentially new developments (e.g. a relatively unknown player shows brilliant flashes of potential) or unexpected player injuries. These occurrences may have a significant impact on the regular season outlook for a team. The rapid development of new and young players may provide a team with key pieces that the team was previously searching for. Additionally, unexpected injuries may affect the team in a negative way, especially if the injured player has been a key contributor in previous years. While the training camps of many teams will remain relatively uneventful and quiet, when things do happen, they will usually have an impact on how a team performs during the regular season.
Monitor The Draft
In the NHL, rookies on teams may end up with surprising contributions over the course of a season. While these players are often viewed as development projects, some rookies in particular may experience a rapid increase in playing time, due to other player injuries or unexpected stellar performances. As a result, rookies taken by teams in the NHL draft may end up forming a significant piece of the puzzle for their respective team and could go a long way especially if their team is challenging for the Stanley Cup.