Islanders Better Bet To Win Metro Over Washington Capitals?
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If there has been one early buying opportunity based on the initial odds for an NHL division title, I’d say it exists in the Metropolitan Division.
The Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018 and followed that up with a Metropolitan title in 2019. There would be no follow-up Cup, however. Nonetheless, Washington enters this coming season as a strong favorite to win the Metro again, at +260 at 888Sport. Pittsburgh is second at +460.
The real bargain opportunity for hockey bettors rests not with either of those teams, though. It’s with the New York Islanders, who finished only one point back of the Capitals last year and advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals before losing out to Carolina.
The Islanders are, somewhat shockingly, rated only as the fifth-best favorite to win the Metropolitan Division, at +650. I would hop on those odds right now before they go down. Why?
Because the Islanders got better over the summer, even after amassing 103 points. They re-signed potential unrestricted free agent forward Brock Nelson and signed veteran goalie Semyon Varlamov to a four-year deal.
NHL Metropolitan Odds 2019-2020
|New Jersey Devils||+550|
|New York Islanders||+650|
|New York Rangers||+1000|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||+1400|
The Islanders have the game’s best defensive coach, Barry Trotz, and have more stability in the front office, with plans for a new arena finalized. Their second-round flameout to the Hurricanes was definitely a bit of a shock, but that’s what happens very often to teams that have to wait around too long between rounds. The Islanders got stale waiting around for their next opponent. They’ll have learned from that and be hungrier and smarter this time around.
Stay Away From Penguins
Why the Pittsburgh Penguins are rated so highly is a bit of a mystery. They’re getting older (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are now on the other side of 30) and there wasn’t a whole lot to get excited about over the summer. GM Jim Rutherford’s biggest move was in dealing Phil Kessel to Arizona in something of a salary dump.
This is a team on the decline, not on the ascent. Stay away from them, at those odds of +460. Maybe this will be a story I’ll want to be deleted next spring by the bosses, but everything about the Penguins says: the best days are behind them, not ahead.
Devils Are Better, But...
It’s a bit strange to see the New Jersey Devils better favored to win the Metropolitan Division at +550 over the Islanders as well. No question the Devils look like a team on the rise, with a fun off-season that included the drafting of Jack Hughes at No. 1 overall and the acquisition of P.K. Subban from the Predators. Plus, former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall is healthy again.
P.K. Subban to the Devils is the perfect move for New Jersey. It will do wonders for the market to have a player of his caliber and magnetic personality. He will make a huge difference on the ice and he can make an enormous difference off the ice in Newark and surrounding areas.— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) June 22, 2019
But are the Devils seriously a better bet to win the division than the Islanders? Not in my book. Not yet anyway. There are still too many questions with the Devils’ depth on both sides of the puck. In a couple more years, with more drafting and development, this should be a true Cup threat. But not until then.
Hurricanes An Attractive Thought
For a team that made it to the Eastern Conference finals, it’s a bit surprising to see the Carolina Hurricanes ranked only third in the odds to win the Metropolitan. Carolina seemingly got better over the summer too, with the retention of the top forward Sebastian Aho and a core of developing young, talented forwards and defense.
Got to Raleigh.— Carolina Hurricanes (@CanesNHL) July 21, 2019
Got to work. pic.twitter.com/J1DIMgkBWB
I’d hop on Carolina at +500 as a good side bet to win the division, over the Capitals, Penguins or Devils. Carolina’s young, mobile defensive corps might have the most talent not only in the division but the whole conference.