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NHL Futures: Betting season points can be tricky
NHL Futures: Betting season points can be tricky
Betting season points can be tricky
By: RON RAYMOND
Though in place for a couple of seasons now, the change in scoring for shootout losses makes handicapping season point totals a bit trickier with some teams playing for ties.
What happened to the days where you either won or lost the game? Why do we reward a loss in hockey and give teams one point for an overtime defeat? I’ve heard all sorts of reasoning on why the NHL has adopted their current system and I’m a strong believer of rewarding skill. Some people don’t like the NHL shootouts, but the concept of sports is about scoring and players who have honed their talents should be rewarded in many facets.
If a team cannot win during a 60-minute game, then don’t blame the five-minute overtime or the shootout for the spoiler. Overtime and shootouts are now part of the game and the last time I checked, fans weren’t leaving the building during the shootout and people still cheer an overtime winner.
Furthermore, handicapping NHL season wins Over/Unders has become even more complicated since the lockout, as you now have to consider overtime loses and basically follow a team’s style of play. For instance, the New York Rangers were involved in 13 overtime games last season, therefore, this tells me Tom Renney plays more for the tie than the win in the third period. In fact, there are 12 teams that played 10 or more overtime games last season and when you look at the NHL standings, the Islanders were not 35-38-9, they were 35-47 SU.
Here are NHL season points Overs/Unders for the 2008/2009 campaign.
Anaheim Ducks - Total Regular Season Points - O/U 100½
The Ducks are a funny team; they have some good veteran players who don’t know if they should continue to play or retire. Giguere is one of the top money goalies in the league, he’s the Martin Brodeur of the Western Conference. The Ducks play intimidating hockey but they play in a division that has Phoenix and Los Angeles. Play Under 100½ (3* Best Bet).
Atlanta Thrashers - O/U 79½
John Anderson won four AHL championships in eight seasons with the Chicago Wolves and might be the right person to get Kovalchuk going on a nightly basis. The Thrasher’s biggest problem has been goaltending and 79½ points is a tough line to cap. I would pass on this team.
Boston Bruins - O/U 91½
Claude Julien is one of the most underrated NHL coaches in hockey and he’s won at every level. Tim Thomas is a journeyman goaltender for the Bruins and Chara is the rock on defense. Every good hockey teams starts with sound defense and the Bruins are average when it comes to team defense. I’m looking for Milan Lucic to have a breakout year for the Bruins and I’m forecasting he will be the next Cam Neely in Beantown. The Bruins finished with 94 points last season, but I look for the other division teams to have better season and 91½ is too many points in my view. Play the Under.
Buffalo Sabres O/U 91½
The Buffalo Sabres remind me of the Oakland A’s of baseball. They don’t carry the big name players anymore, but they have enough average players that play hard and with an above average goaltender like Miller, they have a shot every night to steal a point. Sabres are caught in a tough division and Under 91½ is the play here.
Calgary Flames - O/U 94½
The Flames will be one of the most intimidating hockey teams in the NHL as they have Phaneuf, Iginla, Roy, Bertuzzi, Sarich and Vandermeer who can make you pay the price on a daily basis. Not to mention some of their AHL goons who will be brought up to meet the big heavyweights. I’m telling you now, the Flames will lead the league in penalties this season, but Anaheim will be very close. The Flames will make the playoffs, but I see them more as a 6-, 7- or 8-seed and 94½ is just about right on the number. Pass on the season number.
Carolina Hurricanes - O/U 89½
The Hurricanes have a Stanley Cup goaltender in Cam Ward, they have a great franchise player in Eric Staal, and the play in the Southeast division, so 89½ points is not that hard of a number for the 'Canes to achieve though they will have more competition from the Capitals and Lightning this season. I still like them to get over 89½ points, more like 92 points.
Chicago Blackhawks - O/U 94½
Love what the new owner in Chicago is doing. Bill Wirtz is reviving hockey in that town and they have great young talent with Toews and Kane that will bring new fans into the building. Huet is a funny goalie; he can be brilliant but when he’s off his game, he’s really off. Why else would Washington and Montreal get rid of him? Bob Gainey is a smart hockey person and he got rid of Huet for a reason. Chicago earned 88 points last season and I don’t think they get more then 90 points this season. Play Under 94½.
Colorado Avalanche - O/U 91½
The Colorado Avalanche finished the 2007/2008 campaign with 95 points and they’ve made some interesting moves in the offseason. Peter Budaj will be their starting goaltender and look for the Avs to be a bit grittier with Darcy Tucker in the lineup. Paul Stastny will be the team's leading scorer this season and look for a player like Wojtek Wolski to be the team's next 20 goals a season man! Pass on the season wins total.
Columbus Blue Jackets - O/U 83½
The Blue Jackets have one of the best X’s and O’s coaches in Ken Hitchcock, and Pascal Leclaire turned a few heads last season with his 24-17-6 record and 2.25 goals against average. The Blue Jackets brought in R.J. Umberger in the offseason, but he’s still a question mark and don’t put too much stock in his great playoff performance last season with the Flyers. Who’s going to score after Nash? That 83½ mark is a small enough number, pass.
Dallas Stars - O/U 99½
Here’s the thing with the Dallas Stars: They went out and got Brad Richards at the trade deadline last season. Richards was the Stanley Cup MVP in 2004, played second fiddle behind LeCavalier and St.Louis in Tampa Bay for a few years, and will have a guy like Sean Avery watching his back in Dallas. If Richards can reach 85 points this season, the Stars will be a tough team to beat next spring. Still, 99½ is a tough number and I’m going to pass.
Detroit Red Wings - O/U 109½
Talk about a team that is deep in talent. In fact, talent is not even an issue on this Red Wings unit; it’s the team’s health and fatigue factor which I question come March and April. Furthermore, the Red Wings play in a weak division and I don’t see any team giving them a real challenge for the division. However, anytime you have a season points total over 100 points, you cannot over look the stretch run, as history says teams that went to the Cup finals the season before don’t normally finish strong the next. Therefore, consider the Under for the team's total.
Edmonton Oilers - O/U 93½
The Oilers' X-factor is their two-headed goalie system with Garon and Roloson. They have some exciting young talent up front with Hemsky and Gagner, but this is more of a playoff team than a regular season finesse team. Each game will be a 1-or 2-goal battle and that’s why they played the least amount of overtime games (6) along with Carolina last season. Gun to my head type pick, Under 93½, but they will make the playoffs as an eight seed.
Florida Panthers - O/U 82½
The Panthers went out and got the hottest young coach in the market place in Peter DeBoer, but unfortunately he’s got nobody to score goals for his club. Thomas Vokoun will be seeing over 40 shots per game, unless DeBoer installs a bullet proof defensive system to limit the number of shots against per game. The Panthers will in the 75 to 80 point range in my view, therefore, take the Under 82½.
Los Angeles Kings - O/U 77½
Ask any hockey fan who the goalie is for the LA Kings and I’m predicting just two out of 10 will give you the right answer. Jason Labarbera and Jonathan Bernier should get most of the workload in Los Angeles. Terry Murray returns behind the bench for the Kings and he’s in a rebuilding year, therefore, play Under 77½ points this season.
Minnesota Wild - O/U 92½
Whenever you have a head coach like Jacques Lemaire behind the bench, you have a chance every game and they have a nice team in Minnesota with a great fan base. The Wild finished with 98 points last season and the bookmakers have them at 25-1 to win the Stanley Cup in ’08. They play in a tough division and each team with the exception of Vancouver has gotten stronger in my view. Play Under 92½.
Montreal Canadiens - O/U 99½
The Montreal Canadiens come into the 2008 season with momentum to win the Cup this season, as they have the next best goalie with Carey Price and have depth on every line. If there’s a line for future James Norris trophy winners, take Andrei Markov as I predict he will have one of the best seasons of all of the Canadiens players. Markov will be the key to the Habs power play this season and look for Kovalev and Plekanec to reach the 30 goal club this season. Kovalev scored 35 in '08. Play Over 99½ (5*).
Nashville Predators - O/U 83½
The Nashville Predators are a strange team to handicap. They are stuck in the Deep South and don’t get much hockey exposure due to their market place. Barry Trotz has been their head coach since 1998; only Lindy Ruff has been coaching with one team the longest, as Ruff has been the Sabres' bench boss since ’97. Nevertheless, the Predators finished with 91 points in 2007 and they play in a weak Central Division, with the exception of the Red Wings. The books are forecasting a less-than-stellar season, as they’ve placed their points total at 83½ points, which is second biggest difference from their finish last season behind Tampa Bay. Trotz seems to know what he’s doing in Nashville and I would bet on the Over 83½ points.
New Jersey Devils - O/U 97½
Seems the Devils are going back into the past, as they brought back Brian Rolston and Bobby Holik in the offseason. Brent Sutter overachieved last season and he lacked scorers up front, and they still managed with 99 points. It’s going to be interesting to see how many games Sutter will give the veteran Brodeur this season and I expect the Devils to be around the 99-point mark again this season. Play Over 97½.
New York Islanders - O/U 74½
On paper, it looks like it’s going to be another long year for the Islanders and I’m not sure GM Garth Snow is rebuilding this team in the right direction. Why would they lock in a non-proven goaltender like DiPietro for 10 years and who did they get in the offseason to score goals this season? Mike Comrie and Bill Guerin were their only 20-goal scorers last season, but I do like the addition of Mark Streit. The Islanders finished with 79 points last season and the bookmakers have insulted them with a 74½. Pass.
New York Rangers - O/U 94½
The Rangers finished with 97 points last season, but the fact Tom Renney played for 13 overtime games last season has me leaning more towards the Over. The Rangers never seemed to gel as a unit, but with Jagr, Avery and Shanahan gone, it gives the younger players a chance to step up and adding quality new players like Naslund, Zherdev and Fritsche also give the Rangers a bit of more depth.
Ottawa Senators - O/U 94½
The Senators started the 2007 season on a 13-1 SU run, but team chemistry and the fact they played in the Stanley Cup the year before played a major role in their collapse in the second half. The Senators should eclipse the 100-point mark this season. Furthermore, new head coach Craig Hartsburg didn’t want to reunite the big line of Heatley, Spezza and Alfredsson, but it’s just too strong of a combination to leave out of the combination.
Philadelphia Flyers - O/U 94½
If there are two moves the Flyers made in the offseason that I feel will bite them in the butt this season, allowing Jason Smith to sign with Ottawa was a huge mistake and letting R.J. Umberger sign with Columbus will be a question mark answered in December. Smith was the veteran leadership in the locker room and on the ice they desperately needed and now they will see how valuable he was. The Flyers are stacked with a lot of young talent, but none have taken the leadership role to the next level. Under 94½ is the call here.
Phoenix Coyotes - O/U 82½
Wayne Gretzky needs to find another way to scratch his competitive itch. Trust me, I’m Canadian and love what Gretzky has done for Canadian hockey, but he’s not doing the Coyotes franchise any favors by allowing himself to coach this team. Here’s an analogy I like to use in this regards: Gretzky reminds me of the person in court who wants to represent himself at his own trial. If you don’t have the coaching experience, then remove yourself or do your time in the lower levels like the OHL, WHL, QMJHL or the AHL. The Coyotes will fall way short of the 82½ points; take the Under.
Pittsburgh Penguins - O/U 98½
The Penguins are going to learn the hard way that when you trade a player like George Laracques, it’s going to have a psychological effect on your team’s style of play and other teams will be running your talented players. As seen in the preseason, the Lightning’s Koci took a run at Gonchar and now Gonchar is gone for four to six. Who’s going to protect Crosby and Malkin now? The under 98½ is a 5* best bet play.
San Jose Sharks - O/U 102½
The San Jose Sharks remind me of the Tampa Bay Lightning as they seem to put on a good face in front of the media about their coach, but the results on the ice state a whole different story. Ron Wilson had some good seasons with the Sharks, but wasn’t able to push the right buttons in the playoffs to get Thornton and Cheechoo to the next level. Todd McLellan was an assistant coach with the Red Wings and I’m not a big fan of assistant coaches thrown to the wolves and expected to lead without experience. In order to be a head coach, you must have been a leader in your prior job, not the yes man behind another leader. Play Under 102½ (5*)
St. Louis Blues - O/U 78½
The Blues are in a rebuilding phase and from all accounts are heading into the right direction. They have some interesting forwards who can help this team compete for the 7- or 8-seed, but will need stellar goaltending from Manny Legacy. Everything will depend on Kariya, Boyes and Brewer staying healthy. If these players can stay in the lineup, the Blues could achieve between 79 and 81 points. Play Over 78½.
Tampa Bay Lightning - O/U 91½
I feel like I woke up in the 90’s and Barry Melrose was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Oh wait, it’s true! Just like the stock markets overreact to headlines, the bookmakers are overreacting to trades and free agent signings in Tampa Bay. How many times have we’ve seen baseball and football teams stock up on free agent signings and it affects the team chemistry in the dressing room? I don’t see the Lightning getting more then 85 points this season; play the Under 91½ (5*).
Toronto Maple Leafs - O/U 76½
The Maple Leafs are playing in the biggest hockey market in the world and now they have a proven head coach who can win games. But can he win in the playoffs? Toronto has a good goaltender in Toskala and they were able to rebuild the dressing room and there seems to be more chemistry in the room. The Leafs don’t have the high profile names on this team, but they have speed and speed kills. Over 76½ is one of my top plays (5*).
Vancouver Canucks - O/U 85½
The Canucks are going to be rebuilding this season and the sportsbooks agree, as they’ve put their season mark at 85½. Vancouver finished with 88 points last season and finished in last place in the Northwest Division. The Canucks are lacking leadership, as Linden and Naslund are gone and Luongo is their only shinning light. Play the Under 85½ (5*).
Washington Capitals - O/U 93½
Here’s a funny line; the Caps finished with 94 points in 2007/2008 and have the most electric player in the NHL in Alexander Ovechkin. Washington picked up a proven goalie in Jose Theodore over the summer and Nicklas Backstrom is coming off a great rookie season. Defense is my only question mark on this team, but with the offensive firepower on this team, they could afford shootout nights. Over 93½ looks like an easy number for the Capitals.