Maple Leafs a Value Play?

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by OddsShark (@OddsShark) – Sponsored Post

Their lack of recent playoff success notwithstanding, the Toronto Maple Leafs are a value play on the 2021 Stanley Cup betting futures.

The Maple Leafs sit at +1800 on the early 2021 Stanley Cup odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The reigning champion Tampa Bay Lightning (+750) are the favorite, followed by the Colorado Avalanche (+800), Vegas Golden Knights (+800) and Boston Bruins (+1200). The Leafs are in the next cluster on the board at online betting sites alongside the Pittsburgh Penguins (+1800) and Washington Capitals (+1800).

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Toronto finished 13th overall in the NHL last season with a 36-25-9 record, and bowed out of the playoffs with a five-game qualifying series defeat against the Columbus Blue Jackets in August. The Maple Leafs, led by Auston Matthews and John Tavares, were the league’s third-highest scoring team behind only the Lightning and Capitals, both franchises that have won the Cup recently.

Also, the last 10 Stanley Cup champions have had an average prior-season finish of 8.8, or ninth overall, in the overall standings. The Maple Leafs were within that range despite the instability of a coaching change from Mike Babcock to Sheldon Keefe in November and injuries to defensemen Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin. Both should be healthy by the time the 2020-21 season starts, and the defense group has also been upgraded with the additions of T.J. Brodie and Zach Bogoisan and the departures of Tyson Barrie (to Edmonton) and Cody Ceci (free agency).

The NHL has had only one repeat champion since it became a cap league in 2005. That might explain why the Lightning’s price is now lower, when in reality Tampa Bay has a strong chance to repeat thanks to having their top two forward lines, star defenseman Victor Hedman and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy all in place for a run at a repeat.

Colorado, led by centre Nathan MacKinnon, went into this offseason with ample cap room after successive Game 7 defeats in second-round series in 2019 and 2020. The Avalanche would appear to have a huge upside. The Vegas Golden Knights could also be a formidable playoff team after adding Alex Pietrangelo, who helped the St. Louis Blues win the 2019 Stanley Cup, to their blue line.

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Recent Cup champions have usually been competitive for some time. Six of the NHL’s last eight champions finished at least 10th overall the previous season, and only the 2019 Blues (18th in 2017-18) finished lower than 15th. Boston, Pittsburgh and Washington may seem to be past their peaks, but still finished high up in the standings and cannot be faded completely at this point.

The Philadelphia Flyers (+2000) and Carolina Hurricanes (+2800), sitting a rung down on those NHL odds, are two teams that have had a taste of success over the past two seasons and have lineups that profile as young. While winning the Eastern Conference is a gauntlet, either team could hit its stride in 2020-21.

Check out OddsShark on Twitter and Instagram or head to YouTube for analysis on this week’s top games. As well, the OddsShark Computer serves up daily NHL picks for bettors.

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