The deadline of NHL trade has come and gone, meaning that it’s time to once again check in on the updated Stanley Cup odds. Firstly, a quick summary to bring you up to date. Shortly after Toronto, back in the summer, had signed John Tavares, the betting public was plunking down its money on the Maple Leafs to win it all. By mid-season, though, Tampa Bay had broken from the pack and the Lightning had become the odds-on favorite. And the Bolts were still riding high as the best bet to win it all at our last check-in a month ago.
One more thing to keep in consideration before we dive into the latest Stanley Cup odds (courtesy of internet bookmaker BetOnline.ag): these odds don’t essentially represent a power ranking of the NHL’s best-to-worst teams; rather, they showcase who people are betting the most money on. For the major part, it’s close, but a team like, say, the Maple Leafs might have lower odds than they actually deserve as more money is being bet on them than is being placed on teams which are higher in the standings.
At the trade deadline, the Lightning didn’t do anything because they didn’t have to. Tampa Bay has been resting comfortably atop the league standings virtually all season, and at this stage, they’re just putting in time until things get serious in the playoffs. We could continue about why the Bolts are the team to beat, the star power, the depth, the culture, the core, the motivation of several recent deep playoff runs which came up just short — but why bother?
Right off the bat, let’s get this out of the way: there’s no way Toronto should be tied with Winnipeg for the second-best Cup odds. First of all, they’re not the second-best team in the league. According to the standings, Heck, they’re not even the second-best team in their division. Boston is the one. This brings us to the next point: the Leafs reside in the similar division as the Lightning and the Bruins, so they’re going to face some stiff competition in the early going in the post-season. The most likely scenario notices Toronto take on Boston in the first round and Tampa Bay in the second, with the Bruins and the Lightning holding home-ice benefit. You could argue the Leafs would be wise to fall behind Montreal and enter the playoffs as the first wild-card, and thereby cross over into the Metropolitan Division bracket. They might even draw the New York Islanders in the first round and wouldn’t that be fun.