Let’s clear all the necessary caveats up front: I am not a gambling “expert,” which I believe in proper parlance would be a “sharp,” or perhaps a “tout” if I sold my picks. I am none of those things. What I am though, is a brand ambassador for Coolbet, because I already liked to bet on sports well before it was government sanctioned, and I particularly like their site. Oh, and also they give me a little money to tweet about that hobby. But the whole “ambassador” thing isn’t why we’re here today, at least not solely.
We’re here because however the bookmakers set lines before an NHL season, it spurs on some fascinating actual-hockey conversations. It’s one thing to do the super vague thing we all do before the year starts with our friends. You know the bit “Yeah I think the Sens are going to be way better this year,” “I don’t know man, I think this is finally the year the Bruins go backwards,” etc. etc.
So for example...You think the Sens are going to be better? Well, this is the step we often skip in those chats: how much better, specifically? They had 73 points last season, finishing 27 points out of a playoff spot. When you say you think they'll do better, are you saying they’ll get 75 points? Or all the way to the playoffs, with maybe 97 or 98 this next season? How much better, exactly?
The books have Ottawa's season point over/under line set at 87.5, somewhere around 14 or 15 points improved, which is still likely 10 shy of the playoffs … if you agree with the books. So what say you, will the Sens pile up more or less than that total?
I personally won’t be touching that line, as I think it’s one of the more accurate ones out there. I think they’re going to be considerably better with Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux and Cam Talbot and internal improvement. But unfortunately, the Lightning and Panthers and Leafs and Bruins all still exist, and Detroit and Buffalo should be better (and Montreal might be too), so the row ahead is still a tough one to hoe.
There are some other lines I see differently than the books though. Let’s look at some of those, shall we? (Just FYI, most of these bets pay in the range of -110 or -115, were you interested in actually betting them, rather than just discussing them.)
One other note: I can’t stand betting unders on stuff like player points. This is supposed to be fun, this whole betting thing. I’m not making a living at it, it just spices up dull games. So you won’t find me betting unders on players points. There’s nothing to cheer there. Moving on.
I think I’m most fascinated by this line, what say you: Jack Eichel, over/under 71.5 points?
I’m fascinated by it, because it’s almost a bet not on his output, but his health. Surely a healthy Jack Eichel as the number one centre and a guy on the number one power play unit of the Vegas Golden Knights would decimate 71.5 points, no? The other guys with lines around the same on Coolbet right now are like, Roope Hintz and Tomas Hertl. Last year that point total fell between Jesper Bratt and Tage Thompson. These are all good players, but isn’t a healthy Eichel supposed to be in a tier well above that?
Kasperi Kapanen, over/under 13.5 goals?
Kapanen scored 20 for the Leafs a few years ago. He’s coming off a rocky couple COVID seasons, but has surely had a proper summer to prepare for a full normal season. He’s got a two-year contract to make hay and earn one big NHL contract before things go the other way on him, and he’s 26-years-old. I may be biased here after working with him a bit in the minors, but he’s just too talented for this line.
Patrik Laine, over/under 33.5 goals?
The guy scored 26 in 56 last year (a 38-goal pace), and still showed those “nobody scores that goal but Laine” moments. Prior to last season he’s generally been a healthy player. He has a unique scoring ability, and he’ll be joined by Johnny Gaudreau this year, who’ll be the best set-up linemate he’s ever had. I actually think this is a no-brainer if he plays even 70 games. Laine might get 50 this year.
One potential under pick: Alex Ovechkin over/under 45.5 goals?
Ovi had another casual 50 last season, but my god: it has to slow down at some point, doesn’t it? I feel like the guy betting red on roulette after 15 straight black numbers, IF I KEEP PREDICTING THIS I HAVE TO BE RIGHT EVENTUALLY: I think Ovi will finally slow down a breath, and merely score like 42 this season.
I know there are some stats people out there who like New Jersey and Anaheim to surprise, and their respective over/under lines for points are 89.5 and 80.5. I’m not touching either, even though I like both to go over those totals a bit.
Another bias-tinged pick: I like the New York Islanders over 91.5 points.
The Islanders' three season point totals (pro-rated to 82 games) prior to last year: 103, 96.5, 104. This is a team that went to two conference finals before last season’s disastrous beginning, with the long road trip (while UBS Arena was finished) followed by a COVID breakout which essentially turfed the season. They got a lot better in the second half, and I just don’t believe they’re the team we saw for large swaths of last season.
The Red Wings line is 82.5 points. And they’re a whole new team.
They added David Perron and Andrew Copp, who are both tough to play with some scoring touch. They added Ben Chiarot, and Olli Maata, and Dominik Kubalik, and a goalie in Ville Husso. They’ll have like seven or eight new players -- good players -- added to their 74-point team last year. I like them to clear 82.5.
A couple potential unders? The Bruins line is 95.5, and they start without Brad Marchand for a few months, and same with Charlie MacAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk. Those are massive losses, and they’re in a tough division. Oh, and the Leafs line is a whopping 109.5 points. They open the season without John Tavares and Timothy Liljegren, all the bottom teams in their division got better, and they swapped out Jack Campbell for Matt Murray/Ilya Samsonov. Betting over on that would be, boy, BOLD.
As for bigger picture bets for teams, the Rangers are third in odds to win the Metro, behind Carolina and Pittsburgh. A Rangers division win would pay you +325, and I’m pretty bullish on NYR. On the other hand, you can bet any team to miss or make the playoffs, and the books believe in the Dallas Stars. They’re -172 to make the playoffs, and +145 to miss the playoffs. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn aren’t getting younger, and I’m not sure the “supporting cast” can match last season’s output. Colorado, Minnesota, St. Louis, Nashville, Winnipeg … they’re in a tough division. I’d consider that “miss” bet.
Now we come to a section I can’t personally bet on, as an awards voter. But a couple ideas that make sense to me in pre-season: Owen Power is not the Calder Trophy favourite, but if you look at the guys around him, he might be the best bet at +500.
He plays in the hottest media market of the five guys listed above, so there will be eyeballs on the guy, and he’s already been great everywhere he’s played. He’s a known name before the puck drops on game one, and that stuff helps. For the Norris, Cale Makar is the runaway favourite. But if you bet on all three of Victor Hedman/Roman Josi/Adam Fox, you might be in a decent place value-wise if Makar gets hurt or stumbles out of the gate or something:
And finally, there’s two things I’ll leave you with before you go dig through all the fun pre-season bets, and they’re both pieces of advice:
1. If you’re going to bet on a team to win the Stanley Cup, make it a long shot. The odds you get on favourites isn’t much different now than it will be in April, so your best bet is to look at teams in this window if you think they’ll come out of the gates hot (causing their payout to drop). I’ve cut this right after the two Albertan teams, which are both +1500:
The Avalanche are +425. Do not place that bet, it’ll be there for you in April.
2. The obvious: know your limit, play within it. This stuff is fun just to talk about with buddies if you don’t want to play.
Best of luck on your 2022-23 predictions – the only one I know I’ll get right for sure is that it should be a whole lot of fun.