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NHL Central Division Odds: Will Nashville Come Out On Top Again?

Roman Josi
Roman Josi and the Predators look as fierce as ever this season. Photo by Michael Miller (Wikimedia Commons) [CC License]
  • Online sportsbooks have released odds on the prospective winner of the NHL’s Central Division 
  • After winning both the President’s Trophy and the Central Division last year, Nashville is the de facto favorite 
  • Despite having the best player in the NHL in Connor McDavid, the Oilers have the third longest odds to win the Pacific 

With the 2018-19  season only 12 days away, Bovada has posted odds to win each NHL division. Oddsmakers and pundits alike are anticipating a hard-fought battle between two elite teams in the Predators (+150) and the Jets (+160), but the fight for the division isn’t as cut and dry as you might imagine at first blush.

The Central Division is one of the most perennially competitive divisions in the NHL, and this year is no different. The roster composition of Stars, Blues, and Avalanche is such that if these teams reach their full potential, they’ll challenge both the Predators and the Jets for the division crown.

Read on to learn about each team’s odds and outlook less than two weeks away from the start of the season.

2018-19 Central Division Odds

Team Bovada Odds (9/18/2018) to Win the Central Division 2017-2018 Pts O/U 2018-2019 Points
Nashville Predators +150 117 104.5
Winnipeg Jets +160 114 104.5
Dallas Stars +850 92 94.5
St. Louis Blues +850 94 97.5
Minnesota Wild +850 101 94.5
Colorado Avalanche +1800 95 86.5
Chicago Blackhawks +2000 76 86.5

Nashville Predators

While Erik Karlsson’s San Jose Sharks might have usurped the Predators’ claim to best d-corps in the NHL, Nashville’s defense is still their strong point. A top-4 that consists of PK Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Elkholm gives the Predators two pairings that can both shut down opposing teams top lines and move the puck quickly and efficiently.

Additionally, the Predators added to their impressive depth by dispensing with the aging Alexei Emelin, replacing him on the third pair with their former 1st round draft pick Dan Hamhuis. Even at 35, Hamhuis still provides silky smooth skating and mobility.

Even with Johansen and Turris having down years as Nashville’s 1-2 pivots, the Predators still put up a whopping 117 points last season.

The Predators won’t struggle to score this season either. Nashville is deep on the wings (Filip Forsberg, Kevin Fiala, Arvidsson, and rookie phenom Eeli Tolvanen all look to put up huge numbers this year), and Ryan Johansen, Kyle Turris, and Nick Bonino are all solid centers in their own right. Johansen (15 goals, 54 points) and Turris (16 goals, 51 points) are both good candidates to rebound from a disappointing 2017-18 campaign, by their standards. Even with Johansen and Turris having down years as Nashville’s 1-2 pivots, the Predators still put up a whopping 117 points last season. Nashville is scary good, with no discernible weaknesses on their roster.

If we were to nitpick, we’d raise questions around Nashville’s goaltending. Sure, the ever-mercurial Pekka Rinne won the Vezina last season, but he’s turning 36 this season, and he’s shown several salient signs of decline over the last few years. He had a terrible Stanley Cup finals against the Penguins in 2016-17, and his game seven meltdown cost the Predators a playoff series against the Jets in the 2018 postseason. However, even if Rinne isn’t able to carry the load throughout the regular season, Jusse Saros has shown that he has #1 potential.

Nashville Predators Key Additions/Departures

Predators’ Key 2018 Additions Predators’ Key 2018 Departures
Dan Hamhuis (D) Alexei Emelin (D)
Mike Fisher (C)
Scott Hartnell (W)

Winnipeg Jets

If anyone is going to challenge the Preds this year, it’s the Jets. After all, it was the Jets who dispatched the Predators in Game seven in the 2018 postseason, earning their first conference finals berth in franchise history.

However, the Jets have more uncertainty trailing them than the Preds do. Yes, the Jets have some of the best young players in the entire league, with Patrick Laine a sure bet for 40+ (50+ is possible, health permitting), Nicolas Ehlers, and Jacob Trouba, not to mention one of the most underrated forwards in the league, Mark Scheifele.

But, will Blake Wheeler be able to replicate his 92 point season? Will Connor Hellybuck be able to put up Vezina like numbers again? Without both of these players dominating again, it’ll be tough for the Jets to replicate last season’s success. It should also be noted that Winnipeg found another gear when they acquired Paul Stastny at the trade deadline, as he was the perfect pivot to place between Ehlers and Laine. Despite a professed desire to stay with the Jets, they ultimately couldn’t find the cap space to keep Stastny, and he’s now a member of the Golden Knights.

Will 2015 first round draft pick Jack Roslovic or veteran Bryan Little be able to replace Stastny’s production on the third line? It’s eminently possible. A lot of Jets faithful think Roslovic, in particular, has all the tools to build on his 14 points in 31 games last season, but there’s nothing tougher for a young player than to breaking into the league playing center. Stastny’s departure no doubt hurts the Jets.

The Jets are an elite team, no doubt, and they’ll be in contention for the division title likely until the very end of the season. That being said, their odds are longer than the Predators’, and for good reasons.

Winnipeg Jets Key Additions/Departures

Jets’ Key 2018 Additions Jets’ Key 2018 Departures
Jack Roslovic (C, Rookie) Paul Statsny (C)
Steve Mason (G)
Joel Armia (W)
Tobias Enstrom (D)

Dallas Stars

The Stars are a bit of an enigma. After a wildly successful 2015-16 campaign, they fell flat on their face in 2016-17, missing the playoffs by a large margin due to the league’s worst goaltending duo, Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen. Enter the 2017-18 season, Niemi is gone and prized free-agent Ben Bishop is in. Playoffs no problem, right? Wrong! The mystifying Stars, comfortably in a playoff spot all season long, proceeded to lose 16 out of their final 21 games, including dropping 10 out of 11 games when they only needed a paltry amount of points to clinch a playoff spot.

However, coach masquerading as fossil Ken Hitchcock is out, and Jim Montgomery is in; this change alone will play to the strengths of Dallas’ lineup, specifically the speed and skill on the wings and their back end. Dallas has high-end talent up and down the lineup, and Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and John Klingberg are three of the most dynamic players in the Western Conference, much less the division. Dallas is a team that has played worse than the sum of the parts for several seasons, and they look to bump that trend in 2017-18.

Dallas has high-end talent up and down the lineup, and Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and John Klingberg are three of the most dynamic players in the Western Conference.

We wouldn’t bet on this up and down, bizarre team to win the division, simply by virtue of their capricious nature. But, if everything goes right for the Stars, we wouldn’t be shocked to see Dallas exceed 100 points this year.

Dallas Stars’ Key Additions/Departures

Stars’ Key 2018 Additions Stars’ Key 2018 Departures
Anton Khudobin (G) Antoine Rousell (W)
Erik Condra (W) Greg Pateryn (D)
Valeri Nichuskin (W) Dan Hamhuis (D)
Kari Lehtonen (G)

St. Louis Blues

Here at SportsBettingDime we’re big fans of the latent potential of the St. Louis Blues, and think they continue to be criminally underrated for how much on-paper potential they’ve got. St. Louis looked terrific in the early going of last season (they were 17-7-1 to end November of 2017) mainly on the back of Brayden Schenn’s breakout season as a legitimate top-line center. However, injuries to key players (Steen, Schwartz, Bouwmeester, Fabbri, amongst others) combined with lackluster goaltending resulted in the Blues missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2010-11 season.

The feeling around the Blues’ organization was that their team had gotten stale, and Doug Armstrong proceeded to demonstrate his managerial acuity this offseason by shedding three long-tenured depth players in Vladimir Sobotka, Patrick Berglund, and Kyle Brodziak and replacing them with some fresh faces. In are former leaf Tyler Bozak and former Sabre Ryan O’Reilly, who alongside Brayden Schenn will form one of the best center ice trios in the Western Conference.

Armstrong didn’t stop there, as he also bolstered the Blues’ scoring depth on the wing with the acquisition of former Blue David Perron (66 points in 70 games last year) and 40 point winger Patrick Maroon. The Blues’ have depth in all forward positions, and any defense corps that features on of either Alex Pietrangelo or Colton Parayko on a top-4 pairing is in the upper echelon of the league.

If St. Louis can get solid goaltending from their Allen/Johnson tandem, they’re an excellent bet to contend for a division title.

St. Louis Blues Key Additions/Departures

Blues’ Key 2018 Additions Blues’ Key 2018 Departures
David Perron (W) Kyle Brodziak (C)
Chad Johnson (G) Carter Hutton (G)
Tyler Bozak (C) Patrick Berglund (C)
Ryan O’Reilly (C) Vladimir Sobotka (W)
Robby Fabbri (W, Missed All Of 2017-18) Tage Thompson (W)
Patrick Maroon (W)

Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild are by no means a bad team, but they’re also by no means a good team. The Wild tied the fate of their franchise to homegrown talent Ryan Suter and Zach Parise back in 2012, inking them to matching 13-year, $98 million contracts. Suter has proved to be the dynamic #1 defenseman that Minnesota hoped for, but Parise’s tenure with the Wild has been marred by injury and underperformance. As a result of these two players and their contracts, its been very difficult to either bottom out and rebuild via the draft, and it’s been equally hard to build a contending team. The result is that Minnesota is perpetually mired in mediocrity.

The Wild have discovered some diamonds in the rough over the last few years, Mostly notably, Minnesota signed Eric Staal in July 2017,  who despite looking destined for retirement in his short stint with the Rangers, scored 42 goals and 76 points last season. They also traded a third-round draft pick for Devan Dubnyk early into the 2014-15 season, who’s been an All-Star ever since.

Bet on the Wild to make the playoffs this season, but don’t expect them to win a division championship with their current roster construction. The Wild don’t have a high enough ceiling to contend in an extremely competitive division.

Minnesota Wild Key Additions/Departures

Wild’s Key 2018 Additions Wild’s Key 2018 Departures
J.T. Brown (W) Matt Cullen (C)
Eric Fehr (C) Daniel Winnik (W)

Colorado Avalanche

In one of the wildest single-season improvements in NHL history, the Colorado Avalanche went from 48 points in 2016-17 to 95 points and a playoff spot in 2017-18. They improved by 47 points, meaning that they were one point shy of doubling their point total in one season. Everything that could have gone wrong for the Avalanche did in 2016-17, and (basically) everything that could have gone right for them did in 2017-18.

Many are predicting the Avalanche to place somewhere in between 47 and 95 points this coming season, but we’d wager on them making the playoffs again. A healthy Erik Johnson and Semyon Varlamov (not to mention newly acquired tender Phillipe Grubauer) should provide some much-needed stability and depth and help them keep the puck out of their net. Additionally, there’s no logical reason to believe that either MacKinnon or PPG linemate Mikko Rantanen is going to regress, and together with Gabriel Landeskog, they form what is indisputably one of the most dangerous first lines in the entire league.

Many are predicting the Avalanche to place somewhere in between 47 and 95 points this coming season, but we’d wager on them making the playoffs again.

However, the Avalanche are still a very young team, and they’re likely to have their ups and downs as they experience their growing pains. The Avalanche probably have longer odds than they deserve at +1800, but they’re still not a great pick to win the division. If futures bets for the 2019-20 central division champs were out, the Avalanche would be a great pick, but they aren’t quite ready to be legitimate contenders yet.

Colorado Avalanche Key Additions/Departures

Avalanche’s Key 2018 Additions Avalanche’s Key 2018 Departures
Ian Cole (D) Blake Comeau (W)
Phillipe Grubauer (G) Jonathan Bernier (G)
Matt Calvert (W) Nail Yakupov (W)

Chicago Blackhawks

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. After being one of the league’s most dominant teams since 2009, the Blackhawks missed the playoffs for the first time in 9 years in 2017-18, finishing last in the Central Division with 76 points.

How did they fall so far? The answer is easy: disappointing performances from the same core that led them to three Stanley Cups. Marian Hossa missed the entire season with a skin infection; Jonathan Toews continued to decline and had his worst season as a pro with only 52 points; Duncan Kieth looked like a shell of his former shelf; Patrick Sharp’s age caught up with him; Brent Seabrook looked like a #5-6 defenseman instead of the #1-2 he’s being paid to be. Compounding matters are Corey Crawford’s concussion issues, still so severe his career in jeopardy. The sole reason for optimism in the Windy City is Patrick Kane, who is still as dominant as ever. 

Chicago has been in cap hell since 2010, but they always seemed to find a way to stay on top regardless. However, they seem to have run out of luck, mostly as a result of misguided trades and gambles that didn’t pay off. The Panarin-Saad swap (done for cap relief) hasn’t worked out for Chicago, and neither has the Hjalmarsson-Murphy deal. Both of these trades, combined with shaky goaltending, have accelerated Chicago’s decline.

Given how wedded they are to an aging and rapidly declining core, we don’t see Chicago coming anywhere near a playoff spot this year, much less the division title.

Chicago Blackhawks Key Additions/Departures

Blackhawks’ Key 2018 Additions Blackhawks’ Key 2018 Departures
Chris Kunitz (W) Anthony Duclair (W)
Cam Ward (G) Vinnie Hinostroza (W)
Brandon Manning (D) Jordan Oesterle (D)
Marcus Kruger (C) Patrick Sharp (W/C)

Which Team Offers to Most Value to Bettors?

This is easy: St. Louis. Outside of Tarasenko and Pietrangelo, they aren’t that slick looking of a team on paper, they don’t play in a massive market, and they’re coming off a stale, unexciting season. It’s the perfect storm to be underrated by not only hockey media but also by bookmakers.

The Blues have a stead of exciting young players, and they’ve significantly bolstered their scoring depth, albeit in not the flashiest of ways. If their goaltending can hold up, which we think it can, at +850 the Blues offer bettors great value.

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