The NHL season will start next week, so it's time for our Stanley Cup futures wager. Last season, we cashed the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7-1 odds, which continued our jaw-dropping success on our futures selections. Over the last few years, we have cashed: 2020 - Lightning (7-1), Dodgers (4-1); 2019 - Nationals (18-1), Virginia (22-1); 2018 - Warriors (-160); 2017 - Astros (10-1); 2016 - Warriors (5-1); 2014 - Spurs (14-1). We also have three futures selections ongoing: Baylor (12-1) in NCAA Basketball, Milwaukee Bucks (+650) in NBA Basketball, and the New Orleans Saints (10-0) in NFL Football.
Let's now turn our attention to this upcoming NHL season. Our futures selection to win the 2021 Stanley Cup is the Colorado Avalanche, currently at +700 odds.
The season that the NHL is about embark on will look quite a bit different than those in the past. There will be a shortened schedule of 56 games and the teams have been realigned into four new divisions, including an all-Canada group (the North Division). The Avalanche are an improving team, having gone from 90 points (in a regular 82-game schedule) in 2018-2019, to 92 points in just 70 games last year, which projects to about 108 points in a full season.
The Avs finished second in the Central Division to the Blues, but they had by far the largest point differential in the Western Conference at +46. This, despite a shortened season that included several stretches where the Avs were shorthanded due to injuries to key players. Already the most potent offense in the West, the Avs acquired winger Brandon Saad from Chicago over the off-season and the 27-year-old will likely debut on the Avs' second line, making this team even scarier to defenses than it already is.
Perhaps most important to their chances at a high seed and a deep playoff run is the fact that teams will only play within their division this season and the Avs were a combined 4-2 against the Blues and Golden Knights last season. Those two clubs figure to be Colorado's main competition in the months ahead. The Avs won't have to worry about the Stars -- who knocked them out last Fall -- as Dallas has moved to a new division. If they were a little soft on the blue line last season the Avs could very well have plugged that hole with the acquisition of young D-man Devon Toews from the New York Islanders. They will also likely be debuting #1 pick (2019) Bowen Byram, considered to be one of the best young defensive prospects in the game. If the goalie tandem of Francouz and Grubauer can stay healthy and get hot in the post-season, the Avs could very well hoist the Cup for the third time in their history. Take Colorado at +700 odds. As always, good luck...Al McMordie.