NHL Betting: An Early Look to the 2015 Playoff Contenders
To NHL betting fans who ascribe title contention and hockey betting success to roster construction rather than fluky randomness, we come to you bearing a ton of goodies from the tumultuous offseason. A lot of trades and roster changes have taken place since the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup on June 15th, and the upcoming NHL season looks appealing with a good number of teams already appearing like solid playoff contenders. So without having to waste time on a lengthy intro and all, let’s get to it and find out these improved teams you should be watching out for in the 2015-16 NHL betting lines to reach the playoffs.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Major Additions: Brandon Saad, Gregory Campbell
After being projected as one of the hottest teams to watch out for in the 2014-15 NHL season, the Blue Jackets had a year decimated by injuries to several key players. Still, the Blue Jackets finished the season with a respectable 42 wins. Barring any major injuries in the upcoming season, Columbus should be a playoff-bound team. Besides the returning group of healthy players, the Blue Jackets have made two major additions to their roster, snagging Brandon Saad from the defending Stanley Cup champs Chicago and an experienced fourth-line center in Gregory Campbell.
As a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Blackhawks that is entering his peak, the 22-year-old Saad is a two-way forwards that brings a lot of skill and speed to his team, which should make him a formidable top-line combination with center Ryan Johansen. With their feared physical style of play, immense skill and new-found depth, the Jackets are likely to be the most improved team in the NHL, causing sleepless nights to teams in the East.
Major Additions: Patrick Sharp, Stephen Johns, Johnny Oduya and Antti Niemi
Snatching two key pieces from the Blackhawks, goal-scoring specialist Patrick Sharp and up-and-coming defense prospect Stephen Johns, was quite a statement from the Stars about their ambitions in the new season. And as a replacement for offensive defenseman Trevor Daley, Dallas traded in Johnny Oduya, a big-minute player that could impact the team greatly. Not to mention, the Stars now have formidable goaltending coach in Jeff Reese, a key reason behind the resurrection of Steve Mason’s career with the Flyers last season. Reese’s leadership to newcomer Antti Niemi—a former Blackhawk—and incumbent Kari Lehtonen should be able to solve some of the team’s goaltending issues. Added to the fact that the Star were already a good-enough unit in the 2014-15 season (finished 41-31) and they completed the year on a strong run (going 14-6 after the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline), Dallas should almost certainly be back in contention for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
San Jose Sharks
Major Additions: Paul Martin, Joel Ward, Martin Jones
The Sharks found themselves swimming in unchartered territories in 2014, missing out on the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. In response, they first replaced coach Todd McLellan (currently in Edmonton) with Peter DeBoer. And then, to replace goaltender Antti Niemi who joined the Dallas Stars, the Sharks signed Martin Jones, while Paul Martin and Joel Ward were brought to the team to add more depth.
Besides being an experienced player, Martin is a versatile athlete that can multi-task all over the ice. The expectation is that Martin will be playing together with Brent Burns, allowing Marc-Edouard Vlasic to team up with either Justin Braun or Brenden Dillon in a talent-laden lineup. Meanwhile, Ward was a first-liner with the venerated superstar duo of Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, meaning he is well-experienced in playing at the highest levels of competition. Whichever line he is selected to play in, Ward should be a tough matchup for his opponents, as he boasts of strong physical qualities and great hockey skills.
With such improvements, and bearing in mind the Sharks narrowly missed out on the playoffs after collecting 40 wins in the 2014-15 season, the team should be ready and strong enough to make a comeback for a playoff berth in the Western Conference.