OTTAWA, AND THEN? WHERE IS THE VALUE IN THE EAST?
Welcome to Frozen Assets. Every week I offer tips for successful futures wagering and I examine odds in the hockey futures market. This week we will look at the odds for teams in the East to win the Stanley Cup. What has changed since October 11th?
The first month of the NHL season has passed. How much weight should we give teams’ current records when determining whether they have long-term value? Last year, in the East, Ottawa and Pittsburgh both started slow and were close to unbeatable in the second half of the season. Washington showed signs of life in the first half of the season before tanking in the second half. Who will recover from a slow start this year? Who will flounder in the second half? Most importantly, will we buy and sell futures on these teams at the right time?
Futures odds on some teams have changed drastically over the last few weeks, while for other teams the odds remain the same. Last week we examined the Western Conference. Here is a look at the Eastern Conference teams, their current odds, and the odds on those teams to start the season. Ratings for most books can be found here.
1. Ottawa Senators (9-1-0, 18 points) Then (October 11): +900 Now: +700 (5dimes)
Ottawa was the clear favorite to win the East when the season started. Ten games into the season Martin Gerber is finally playing like the goaltender that led Carolina to the playoffs and the Senators are outscoring opponents by an average of 1.5 goals per game. Who cares? In my opinion, no hockey team in today's NHL has value at +700. There are too many upsets in the playoffs, Gerber is not a proven playoff goaltender, and the season is only 10 games old. There is no value in Ottawa. If you must take Ottawa, take them now, as +700 is probably the best price you will find on them this year.
2. Carolina Hurricanes (7-3-3, 17 points) Then: +4300 Now: +2500 (Portlandbet)
Early season odds on Carolina provided a great example of finding value. After a handful of games, one could observe that Carolina was able to get production from multiple lines and Cam Ward was back to his 2005-2006 playoff form. At +4300 they were a steal. At +2500 it is still worthwhile to place a few units on them. They are the favorites to win their division and are one of the premier teams in the East.
3. Philadelphia Flyers (7-3-0, 14 points) Then: +8000 Now: +2500 (Carib)
William Hill how could you offer the Flyers at +8000? Although it is still early in the season, I nominate those odds for the "Best Value of the Year" award. There is no comparison between this year's team and last year's team. The Flyers have started strong and are leading their division. If you are thinking about playing them at +2500, hold off. I like the price, but with Simon Gagne out of the line-up and four games left on Philadelphia's eight-game road trip, wait and see where they are two weeks from now. If Gagne returns shortly and they can get through the last four games of the road trip at .500 or better, take them at +2500. If you miss this opportunity you will not have trouble finding them at +2000 (Betfair).
4. Montreal Canadiens (6-2-3, 15 points) Then: +6900 Now: +4300 (Betfair)
Losing Sheldon Souray was supposed to hurt Montreal's power play, but much of their success can be attributed to Montreal's ability to score on the powerplay 30.2% of the time. It is unlikely they will be able to maintain that pace for the rest of the season. At +4300 I am on the fence as to whether they have value. I would wait to see if their strong powerplay keeps up through November, and also wait to see whether Cristobal Huet or Carey Price can emerge as the clear #1 goaltender.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins (6-4-1, 13 points) Then: +1650 Now: +1600 (Betfair)
Pittsburgh was beaten by Ottawa in every facet of the game in the first round of last year's playoffs. This year they are more experienced, but are they ready for playoff hockey? I don't see the odds on Pittsburgh changing in the next two weeks, but be wary, as the Penguins have the talent to go on an extended winning streak at any time. If they do, take them at Betfair or you will not see them above +1200 for the rest of the season.
6. Toronto Maple Leafs (5-5-3, 13 points) Then: +3900 Now: +4000 (Carib)
Toronto in sixth place? Toronto's position in the standings is a function of games played not winning percentage. The Leafs have looked awful at times this season but do have road victories over Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers. The Leafs have allowed the most goals in the league yet there is a general consensus amongst hockey pundits that Raycroft and Toskala are not at fault. Toronto's inconsistency and horrendous defense should be enough of a warning for you to leave them alone.
7. Boston Bruins (6-4-0, 12 points) Then: +10000 Now: +10000 (Carib)
Boston has played well over the first ten games of the season. Tim Thomas has provided solid goaltending and will be leaned on over the next month while Manny Fernandez recovers from injury. I would play them strictly because they are still +10000, but with Patrice Bergeron out for at least one month, playing Boston at +10000 is not as promising as it was last week.
8. Tampa Bay Lightning (5-5-1, 11 points) Then: +4000 Now: +3700 (Betfair)
Tampa Bay is an enigma thus far: they are 5-0-1 at home and 0-5-0 on the road. They have questions with respect to goaltending, defense, and team depth. I do not see how this team can compete with the top teams in the East; +3700 is not high enough.
9. New York Islanders (5-4-0, 10 points) Then: +7500 Now: +6600 (Canbet)
The Islanders have been a pleasant surprise to start the season. Ted Nolan has a history of being able to get the most out of limited talent, Rick Dipietro has the ability to be one of the best goaltenders in the league, and Bill Guerin is not having trouble adjusting to his new squad. Last year the Islanders were undervalued. This year they will probably continue to be undervalued. There is no rush to invest in the Islanders at +6600, but it is a good price that deserves consideration.
10. Buffalo Sabres (5-5-0, 10 points) Then: +2200 Now: +2800 (Canbet)
Buffalo has looked remarkably average up to this point. I thought the Sabres would exceed expectations this year, largely due to their team depth and Ryan Miller being underrated (without his strong play against the Islanders in the playoffs last year the Sabres would have made an early exit). At +2800 I would like to recommend Buffalo, but they have not been close to the same team they were last year.
11. Washington Capitals (5-6-0, 10 points) Then: +10000 Now: +10000 (Betfair)
After winning their first three games, the Capitals lost 6 of 7 before handily defeating the Maple Leafs 7-1. What can we make of this team? If Kolzig plays well this team has a shot at making the playoffs, but they remain a long shot. If Washington continues to hover around .500 you should consider taking them at +10000, but be aware they are missing too many pieces to seriously contend for Lord Stanley's Cup.
12. Florida Panthers (5-7-0, 12 points) Then: +8400 Now: +8400 (Betfair)
Florida is a team that has the tools to break out and surprise people. Will it be this year? Vokoun gives them credibility in net, and they have a talented young nucleus.
At +8400 you should be keeping an eye on them. If the Panthers can learn to win on the road they will compete for a playoff spot. If they can put together a few road victories, take a chance on them at +8400 or at any other price above +6000.
13. New York Rangers (4-6-1, 9 points) Then: +1500 Now: +1700 (Betfair)
The Rangers were early favorites to win the Stanley Cup. They are off to a slow start, but unfortunately the odds do not reflect that slow start. It is only a matter of time before Tom Renney's squad plays up to their potential. If odds on the Rangers hit +2000 or higher, put a few units down on them. If they go on a winning streak and you can still get them at +1700, put a few units down on them. Otherwise, leave them alone.
14. New Jersey Devils (4-6-1, 9 points) Then: +3100 Now: +3500 (Betfair)
New Jersey is off to a slow start, but keep in mind they opened the season on an eight-game road trip. I would leave them alone at +3500, but I am giving you the green light if the odds climb above +4000.
15. Atlanta Thrashers (4-8-0, 8 points) Then: +4500 Now: +10000
Now might be the right time to put a unit or two on the Thrashers at +10000. They are 4-2-0 under interim coach/general manager Don Waddell without Kari Lehtonen and with a struggling Marian Hossa. It will be difficult to overcome their slow start, but if the Thrashers continue their improved play, consider them at +10000.
That's the Eastern Conference from top to bottom. When it comes to value, I prefer the West, as there are still good odds available on St. Louis, Columbus, and Chicago. Watch out for the Canadiens, Bruins, and Islanders, and wait for the right opportunity to buy futures on the Rangers. If you have any thoughts on the futures market, especially with respect to teams in the Eastern Conference, feel free to post them in the comments section and I will do my best to respond.
For illegal curve, I’m Ari Baum-Cohen.
About the writer: Ari Baum-Cohen’s first sports betting victory came in 1989 when he won his father’s office pool at age 8. Since then, he has been interested in many different types of sports betting. His first major futures win came in November of the 2001-2002 hockey season when he selected “field” (field included Jarome Iginla) at odds of 30/1 to win the National Hockey League goal scoring title.
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