If it comes to the odds where NHL team will win the Central Division in the 2018-19 campaign, it is strictly a two-team race in sportsbooks.
The Nashville Predators are the slight +150 favorites to claim the bragging rights at BetOnline, with the Winnipeg Jets directly behind them in +160. Even the St. Louis Blues (+850), Dallas Stars (+850), Minnesota Wild (+850), Colorado Avalanche (+1800) and Chicago Blackhawks (+2000) around things out at the store.
Who has the advantage: Jets or Preds?
While the Predators have been a perennial contender in the Central for quite some time, the Jets burst onto the scene in a big way in 2017-18 by posting a 52-20-10 record — a significant leap from their 40-35-7 showing two decades ago. The emergence of goaltender Connor Hellebuyck supplied Winnipeg with all the franchise netminder it has been missing since the team arrived in Manitoba in 2011. As a result, the Jets signed up the Vezina Trophy runner-up into some six-year, $37-million deal in the offseason.
It is hard to find many weak spots on the Jets roster, and a run to the Western Conference finals that resulted in a loss to the Vegas Golden Knights has convinced even the biggest non-believers that Winnipeg will be the actual deal. While the Predators remain an elite team, longtime goaltender Pekka Rinne is beginning to show his age at 35, and I think Winnipeg is the greater choice here in order to win the Central.
Blues spent the summer making motions The Blues, who missed the playoffs with one point in 2017-18, have been in need of a shakeup, and general manager Doug Armstrong did precisely that in a dramatic roster overhaul which has his team poised to greatly improve on its 44-32-6 record.
Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron, Patrick Maroon and Tyler Bozak were brought into jump-start a crime that boasted Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko. The goaltending stays a bit of a question mark, but when Jake Allen can return to form for the entire season, expect St. Louis to get back to the postseason next spring.
What happened to the Blackhawks?
Considering that the Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups since 2010, their fall from grace is difficult to think, however the +2000 cost on them to acquire the Central speaks volumes. Last season was a nightmare for the’Hawks, as an injury to starting goaltender Corey Crawford in December effectively ended any hope Chicago fans had of the group being competitive. What followed was a 33-39-10 document and a last-place revealing from the Central.
It’s no secret Chicago has had its own fair share of salary cap problems, yet general manager Stan Bowman has started to make some moves to free up some space that is badly needed. Barring a miracle, the Blackhawks won’t be in the conversation of Central contenders for the foreseeable future.
For a complete breakdown of Stanley Cup chances, click here. OddsShark’s NHL page has all of the betting information you’ll need to put some extra cash in your pocket to the ice this season.
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