Since betting odds are set based upon betting action, we can see how little reasoning goes behind the average gambler by the line offered by Bovada for the Chicago Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup. The disconnect is apparent while comparing the rosters of the two finalists when the defending champions are visited by the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday, Oct. 24.
Only the Montreal Canadiens pay out lower on bets, and they are in a weaker conference with an unbeaten record so far on the 2015-16 NHL season compared to 4-3-0 Chicago. Betting on a team because it has won the Stanley Cup more than any other team in the decade is like signing Trent Dilfer over Dan Marino and Barry Switzer over Jeff Fisher because they won more Super Bowls. There are too many variables to draw the correlation.
This 2015-16 NHL season, Chicago has lost Patrick Sharp, Brad Richards, Brandon Saad, Antoine Vermette, Johnny Oduya, Kris Versteeg and Kimmo Timonen from those that skated in more than half its 2015 Stanley Cup-playoff games. The idea that a team would have the same results with such a different cast is naive.
In addition, Chicago is dealing with the distraction of the Patrick Kane rape allegations (they are right to let him play given the uncertainty of guilt is high) that could become more and now has to overcome the extended loss of Duncan Keith. Injuries can always derail a team but one that relies so heavily on its core to get it through a transition faces higher risk.
The reality is that could derail Chicago’s 2015-16 NHL season. The Western Conference is deep enough to make earning a Stanley Cup-playoff berth difficult enough with Keith healthy and no distractions.
The San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers all got better from among the Western Conference teams that did not make the Stanley Cup playoffs last April. Only the Vancouver Canucks probably took a step back from among those that made it for the 2015-16 NHL season.
The leaves what is left of Chicago to battle to hold its spot against at least a couple teams breaking down the playoff doors. That makes every point more important and those players know it even if gamblers do not. That makes them especially dangerous early, and Tampa Bay will likely be without starting goalie Ben Bishop because he has played its previous eight games of the 2015-16 NHL season.
Earning a point or managing a win in this game could well make the difference for Chicago reaching the playoffs, but probably means less for its guests. Bet on the defending Stanley Cup champions in this game not for what they were but what they are—a team desperate for every point that knows how to make plays it has to.