NHL Western Conference Teams Getting Stronger During Offseason
By: Matty Simo
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
It's been nearly three weeks since the Los Angeles Kings
won their second Stanley Cup in three years with a thrilling 3-2
double-overtime victory against the New York Rangers in Game 5. Earlier this
week, the free-agency period started, and the rich appear to be getting richer -
except for the Kings, who did re-sign key acquisition Marian Gaborik and are
8/1 to hoist the Cup for the third time in four seasons around this time next
year according to the LVH SuperBook in Las Vegas.
The Western Conference teams were clearly more dominant
than their Eastern Conference counterparts in this year's NHL playoffs, and LA's
main competition next season looks to be getting even stronger. Count the
Anaheim Ducks (10/1), St. Louis Blues (10/1), Colorado Avalanche (16/1), Minnesota
Wild (20/1) and Dallas Stars (30/1) as teams that have improved and should
challenge the Kings for their NHL crown next season in addition to the Chicago Blackhawks,
who lost Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals to LA as defending champs but
are 7/1 co-favorites along with the Boston Bruins in 2015.
Last season, the Ducks finished with the best overall
record in the West and also won the Pacific Division. Anaheim will be without
all-time leading scorer Teemu Selanne next year after he retired following a
Game 7 loss to the Kings in the conference semifinals, but the team was able to
pry center Ryan Kesler away from the Vancouver Canucks in a trade before the
NHL draft. The Ducks also have a promising young goalie in John Gibson, who
should take over full-time now after Jonas Hiller inked a deal with the Calgary
Meanwhile, the Wild added forward Thomas Vanek, the Stars
traded for C Jason Spezza, and the Blues signed C Paul Stastny away from the
Avalanche, who in turn landed veterans in winger Jarome Iginla and defenseman Brad
Stuart. Chicago even improved by landing second-line C Brad Richards, leaving
the Blackhawks to focus mainly on re-signing stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick
Kane to long-term contracts at nearly twice the cost of their current ones that
expire at the end of next season.
"I think the Stars were absolutely players and thought
they took a big step in the right direction last year," Sportsbook Radio host and NHL betting expert Brian Blessing said. "The Stars drastically improved themselves.
"(But) Minnesota to me still remains the value play to
win the Stanley Cup. There's no doubt the Western Conference is much better
than the East. And Thomas Vanek going back to Minnesota gives them a power-play
presence to go along with the solid roster of two-way players they already
Despite all of the early player movement, the SuperBook
has not adjusted any prices on Stanley Cup future odds since Monday. And it
would likely take players like Toews AND Kane being dealt away to make a
significant impact on the betting board.
"The NHL has become a crapshoot," LVH
SuperBook oddsmaker Ed Salmons said. "There's no one player that could change
teams and change another team's chances to win the Cup that much.
"It's nothing compared to the NBA, where if LeBron
(James) were to change teams, the odds of the team he goes to would probably
become the favorite to win the title."