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NHL 2017 Stanley Cup Champion Odds Favor Central Division

By Colin Likas
Mar 22, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) is pursued by Dallas Stars defenseman Johnny Oduya (47) during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) is pursued by Dallas Stars defenseman Johnny Oduya (47) during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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It’s never too early to predict who’s going to win the NHL’s Stanley Cup

Even though we’re not entirely sure how every NHL team is going to look in the 2016-17 season, that doesn’t stop betting services from coming up with championship odds for each group.

Bodog earlier this week released its rankings for all 30 teams. And they’re very kind to the Central Division, with four teams boasting odds of 16 to 1 or better. None of the other three divisions can offer that kind of expectation.

The Chicago Blackhawks lead the pack, along with the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, at 9 to 1. That might be a bit surprising to Blackhawks fans, as there are quite a few questions in the forwards department.

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But the Blackhawks always seem to be in the hunt as long as coach Joel Quenneville has been around. So 9 to 1 odds don’t seem totally crazy. There’s a fair chance, however, the odds won’t stay that favorable for the team throughout the regular season.

After the Penguins, who made few moves in the offseason, justifying their strong odds of repeating, we have the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals at 10-1. This shows an interesting shift in the league, as the Western Conference had been the stronger of the two in recent years. Three of the top-odds teams being in the East, however, is a change.

The Central Division’s strong presence is felt early on the list

But after that, however, the Western Conference is back in charge. Six of the next seven teams on the odds list are in either the Central Division or Pacific Division, and the former of those two dominates the field.

The Dallas Stars are listed at 12 to 1 to win the Stanley Cup, St. Louis comes in at 14 to 1 and Nashville checks in at 16 to 1. Also in the group that’s better than 20 to 1: San Jose (14 to 1), Anaheim (16 to 1), Florida (16 to 1) and Los Angeles (16 to 1).

But the real story here is the Central Division. The Blackhawks are going to be highly rated until they prove they don’t deserve it, but the rest of the division is getting its due as well.

Dallas has one of the league’s best offenses, if not the outright best. The defense isn’t lackluster, either. The goaltending is an obvious problem, though, and that’s probably why the Stars aren’t listed in the top three for 2017 Stanley Cup odds.

St. Louis is in an odd spot, transitioning between two coaches and losing its captain in the offseason. But the team has a lot of talent at all positions and is pretty balanced, so it could see its odds become better as the regular season goes on.

Nashville is the most interesting case after adding P.K. Subban in the offseason. The Preds have a recent history of early playoff exits, and goaltender Pekka Rinne is coming off a tough year. So their odds seem fair right now.

What about the rest of the field?

The above group shows the best of the best heading into this season, as no other team has better than 25 to 1 odds. That number was given to Boston, Detroit, Minnesota (another Central team), Montreal and both New York outfits — Islanders and Rangers.

Montreal receiving odds that strong is very odd to me. Even if Carey Price comes back at 100 percent in goal, the Habs’ offseason moves actively hurt the team. They dumped Subban, and adding Andrew Shaw and the troublesome Alexander Radulov at forward is hardly upgrading. I can’t imagine their odds will stay this strong for long.

Edmonton and Philadelphia are listed at 33 to 1. That’s a nice boost for the Oilers, who are perennial strugglers in recent years. Dropping off at 50 to 1 are Buffalo, Calgary, Colorado, New Jersey, Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg, the last of those being the final Central Division team.

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Those remaining are Arizona, Carolina, Columbus and Vancouver at 66 to 1. I think the Coyotes might be a little closer to a playoff spot this year than the three teams they’re paired with.

The one big takeaway from these early-season Stanley Cup odds is that the Central Division has a great chance to take the silver chalice back in 2017.

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