The 2014 NHL season is only a couple of weeks away and there’s no better time to get in on some future bets than now when the lines pack the most value. Lines are only going to drop once the games begin and teams begin to show their true colors. Of course, with these future articles I always look to get the most bang for my buck and only pick dark horses to hopefully make for a sweet payday at the end of the year. Right now, the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks are the top favorites, so let’s throw them off the card and look elsewhere at teams that could surprise this season.
Florida Panthers - Let’s start this thing off with a bang and back the Florida Panthers, who are paying out +12500. Anybody remember the Colorado Avalanche of last season, a team that finished last in 2012 and ended up winning Central division last season? I’m not saying the Florida Panthers have that much potential, but they did make some big signings, added some youth and are clearly on a mission to start winning as soon as possible. The Panthers have their goalie in Roberto Luongo, added a top winger in Jussi Jokinen and padded their center depth with the addition of Dave Bolland. To go along with the experience is some intriguing youth with features Jonathan Huberdeau and Aaron Ekblad. The Panthers are a team that has the potential to surprise this season and sneak into one of the final playoff spots in the East. These odds are too good to pass up even if imagining Florida winning the Stanley Cup seems hard to believe. At the very least, the Panthers sneak into the playoffs and provide you with a ton of hedging room.
New York Rangers - Most would be afraid of a Stanley Cup hangover, but I think losing in the final has an opposite impact on the New York Rangers, as this is now a team that knows it can win and should be hungry to get back to the big stage. Besides, when you have a goalie such as Henrik Lundqvist, you always have a shot. The Rangers did a nice job in keeping their main core intact and added a solid defenseman in Dan Boyle, who will add a little more depth and experience to the blueline. The New York Rangers proved to be a close bunch in the playoffs and with solid players at pretty much every position, there’s no reason why they can’t hold their own against any team in the East. Getting the Rangers at +1600 to win the cup is a must bet.
Tampa Bay Lightning - The Tampa Bay Lightning finished with the third best record in the East last season and that was with missing Steven Stamkos for half the year, trading away the best player in franchise history in Martin St. Louis and losing goalie Ben Bishop right before the playoffs. Now, Stamkos and Bishop are healthy and ready to go, all while youngsters Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat picked up some much needed experience heading into another season. The Tampa Bay Lightning are one of the more balanced teams in the league and are pretty much a lock to once again make the playoffs as long as everybody remains healthy. Considering the Lightning can go toe-to-toe with the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, getting them at odds of +1400 is pretty valuable in my book.
Detroit Red Wings - Although the Detroit Red Wings didn’t make any key moves during the offseason and struck out in free agency, this is a franchise that has made the playoffs in 23 straight seasons. No matter who you like when looking at futures, the first step in hitting it is the team making the playoffs, and that’s pretty much guaranteed with the Red Wings given their history. The Red Wings have a lot of youth to go along with their experience and a lot of guys such as Gustav Nyquist and Riley Sheahan picked up valuable time due to injuries. This could also be the season that Tomas Jurco and Jimmy Howard have a breakout season. There may not be a ton of upside with the Red Wings, but they should never be counted out come playoff time, which provides value to odds of +2500.