Of course there are two prominent winter/spring sports in the United States and those are the NBA and the NHL. While the length of the seasons are similar in the two sports, winning a championship in each couldn’t be much different. It’s very easy to repeat as the NBA champion because one superstar can carry a club. But NHL teams just don’t repeat in the salary-cap era. The last to do to was the Detroit Red Wings in 1998. Can the Pittsburgh Penguins end that drought? They are +700 co-favorites on NHL odds to again hoist the Stanley Cup next June. The regular season begins next week.
2017 Stanley Cup Betting Predictions
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) September 30, 2016
Pittsburgh was really struggling last season before firing Coach Mike Johnston in mid-December. The Penguins fired Johnston and assistant Gary Agnew with the club at 15-10- 3 and languishing in the middle of the pack in the Metropolitan Division. Mike Sullivan, who was head coach of the Boston Bruins from 2003-06 and had been serving as the coach of the Penguins’ affiliate in the American Hockey League, replaced Johnston. It turned out to be a genius move as the Pens were the NHL’s best team in once the calendar flipped to 2016.
Six months to the day later of the firing of Johnston, the Penguins won a championship by defeating the San Jose Sharks, the team Sullivan began his NHL playing career with back in 1991. When he first arrived in Pittsburgh, Sullivan held a team meeting with all of his players, and then met separately with the leadership core, including captain Sidney Crosby, and explained to them what he expected. Crosby, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy, said that Sullivan’s straightforward message resonated in the dressing room with veterans and rookies.
The Penguins only faced elimination once in the playoffs, a Game 6 at Tampa Bay. But the Pens won that game 5-2 and then ousted the Lightning 2-1 in Game 7 back in Pittsburgh to reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2009. And in the Finals, the Penguins beat the Sharks in six games, the fourth Cup title in franchise history and second for Crosby.
Among teams to debut since the NHL’s first expansion in 1967-68, the only team with more Stanley Cup titles is the Oilers with five, all between 1984 and 1990. The Penguins’ four titles are tied with the Red Wings for the most since 1991, the year of the Penguins’ first championship. The Penguins are 4-0 in games in which they had a chance to clinch the Cup on the road. The Penguins will look nearly identical to the group that won the Cup in June. With veteran forward Matt Cullen returning for a 19th NHL season, Pittsburgh’s four lines are intact.
The Washington Capitals, the team the Penguins ousted in the conference semifinals, are also at +700. The Chicago Blackhawks, who have won three Stanley Cups this decade, are +800. They lost in the first round of last year’s playoffs to the St. Louis Blues.
The long shots to win the Stanley Cup on NHL odds? The Vancouver Canucks at +6500. The Canucks finished 28th in the NHL standings last season. Top-four defenseman Erik Gudbranson was acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers, and 31-year- old free agent Loui Eriksson was signed.
Is this the year a Canadian team wins the Cup? Not a single club from Canada made the playoffs last year and no club from north of the border has won the Cup since 1993.