- The NHL and NHLPA are making progress on a potential 24-team playoff format
- The proposal would mean the top-12 teams in both conferences would qualify
- Do the Stanley Cup odds of any of the longshots present value?
The NHL has been adamant about finishing its 2019-20 season throughout its COVID-19 induced hiatus. Well, if reports are true, hockey’s return could be on the horizon.
According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, the NHL and NHLPA have made significant progress on a 24-team playoff format.
The proposal would see the top-12 teams in each conference return to the ice, but wouldn’t immediately being with the postseason. Instead, there would be a round-robin style play-in, with those games plus regular season percentage points used to determine seeding.
In light of the recent news it’s time to take a fresh look at Stanley Cup futures. With eight additional teams now expected to join the playoff party, is there any value to be found on longshots who wouldn’t normally qualify for the big dance?
2020 Stanley Cup Odds
|East Teams||Odds||Conf. Rank||Odds||West Teams|
|Boston Bruins||+500||1st||+650||Vegas Golden Knights|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+600||2nd||+700||Colorado Avalanche|
|Philadelphia Flyers||+900||3rd||+900||St. Louis Blues|
|Washington Capitals||+1200||4th||+1600||Dallas Stars|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||+1400||5th||+2000||Edmonton Oilers|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||+1800||6th||+2000||Nashville Predators|
|Carolina Hurricanes||+3500||7th||+3300||Calgary Flames|
|New York Islanders||+4000||8th||+3300||Vancouver Canucks|
|New York Rangers||+5000||9th||+5500||Arizona Coyotes|
|Florida Panthers||+7500||10th||+5500||Minnesota Wild|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||+10000||11th||+5500||Winnipeg Jets|
|Buffalo Sabres||+75000||12th||+25000||Chicago Blackhawks|
|Montreal Canadiens||+100000||13th||+75000||Anaheim Ducks|
Odds taken May 18.
It should be noted that despite falling outside of the top-12 in the East and West standings, respectively, Buffalo and Anaheim still have odds posted.
Sources indicate the Return To Play Committee has talked throughout the weekend, NHL-NHLPA making progress on a 24-team format. Sources also stressing there's still work to be done, but clearly the weekend has produced some traction. More talks expected over next day or two.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) May 17, 2020
Longshot #1: Winnipeg Jets
The first longshot that may be worth your attention is the Winnipeg Jets. Yes, they were technically inside the top-8 in the West when play was halted, but just barely. Winnipeg occupied the first Wild Card spot, but three teams (Nashville, Vancouver and Minnesota) were all within three points of them, and each had two games in hand.
The Jets are certainly not without flaws, but they also possess characteristics of a contender. They have balanced scoring, with five players who could have threatened the 30-goal mark if play had not been suspended, and one of the top netminders in the league.
Looks like Connor Hellebuyck's earned himself a free dinner after this save. 😅 pic.twitter.com/Wy1VrWhSZd
— NHL (@NHL) November 17, 2019
Connor Hellebuyck was in the midst of a Vezina trophy type campaign before the season was paused, and we’ve seen many times how a hot goaltender can carry a team to a championship. Hellebuyck led the NHL in shutouts (6), was second in wins (31) and seventh in save percentage (.921). He was playing at an extremely high level in late February and March, posting five wins in his final six outings, and allowing two goals or less in five of those contests.
The Jets as a team were prone to hot streaks, which could serve them well in the playoffs. Winnipeg had six separate winning streaks of at least three games during the regular season, and at +5500 they’re very capable of making a deep run.
Longshot #2: New York Islanders
Speaking of streaky teams, look no further than the New York Islanders. The 9th seed in the East when play was halted, the Isles were in the midst of a seven-game losing streak. That miserable run pushed them outside the playoff picture, but this is a team that looked virtually unbeatable at some points during the regular season.
During the Islanders' 16-game point streak, they have the same amount of wins as the Jets, Giants, Knicks and Nets combined (15) pic.twitter.com/FQGQycRdwH
— SNY (@SNYtv) November 22, 2019
During an incredible run from October 12 to November 23, New York accumulated 31 of a possible 32 points. They racked up impressive wins over top-10 2020 Stanley Cup odds contenders, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Philadelphia (twice), Pittsburgh (twice) and Toronto. Their lone loss was to the Penguins in OT and if they can recapture that form, the sky is the limit.
There’s also data to support the Isles have room for improvement in the offensive end. They rank third in high danger scoring chances for, but just 14th in conversion rate. If they can convert a few more of their opportunities they’re more than capable of making noise. Throw in the fact that Stanley Cup champion Barry Trotz is behind the bench and this team looks wildly mispriced at +4000.
Longshot #3: Florida Panthers
Bare with me here. Florida is clearly flawed, but they may have found lightning in a bottle with Chris Driedger. The 26-year-old has significantly outplayed Sergei Bobrovsky this season, and earned the starting nod in the Panthers final three games. He posted a 2-0-1 record over that stretch, allowing just three goals in the process. He beat the defending champion Blues in the team’s final game and lost a 2-1 nail bitter to the Cup favorite Bruins in OT.
First NHL win. First NHL @pepsi shutout.
What an incredible night for Chris Driedger! pic.twitter.com/rpJC1dTybN
— NHL (@NHL) December 1, 2019
He was 7-2-1 in 11 starts this season, and would have earned significantly more playing time if not for a groin issue. His rise is eerily similar to St. Louis’ Jordan Binnington, who just happened to lead his team to the Cup as a 40-1 ‘dog last year. If he can keep the puck out of the net, Florida has proven they have no problem scoring.
Jonathan Huberdeau broke Chris Tanev’s ankles 😱💦… pic.twitter.com/w0dHQ4scAo
— Bar South N Celly™ (@BarSouthNCelly) January 10, 2020
The Panthers scored 231 times in 69 games this season, the fifth-most goals in the league. A team with this much firepower and a potential breakout star in net should not be +7500.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.