While the talking heads on TSN, ESPN, and Sportsnet know way more about hockey than the average oddsmaker, when it comes to predicting who will compete for the Stanley Cup, I would trust the oddsmakers.
I have averaged the Stanley Cup odds from 13 different sportsbooks and grouped all 30 teams into tiers based on the average odds on each team to win the Cup.
Tier 1: The Favorites
1. Detroit 2. Pittsburgh 3. San Jose 4. Chicago 5. Boston
No surprises here as the top group consists of the Stanley Cup winner, runner-up, conference semi-finalists, and two regular season powerhouses that struggled in the post-season.
Tier 1b: The Almost Favorite
Though the Caps have the firepower to compete with the top tier of teams, question marks in net have the odds on the Caps slightly higher than these five teams but lower than any teams below them in the rankings.
Tier 2: The Contenders
7. Philadelphia 8. New Jersey 9. Calgary 10. Vancouver 11. Anaheim
These teams are all expected to make the playoffs and are one or two players short of being a top tier team.
Tier 3: The Darkhorses
12. Carolina 13. New York Rangers 14. Montreal
Carolina had a very strong close to the 2008-2009 season and New York and Montreal made some major changes in the offseason.
Tier 4: Playoff Bound?
15. St. Louis 16. Dallas 17. Ottawa 18. Buffalo 19. Edmonton 20. Minnesota 21. Columbus
3 of these 7 teams will probably make the playoffs and 1 will become a legitimate contender. Your job is to tell me which one.
Tier 5: On the Cusp of Mediocrity
22. Nashville 23. Florida 24. Los Angeles
These clubs have young, exciting cores and may be a few years away from making a legitimate run.
Tier 6: Duking it out for Draft Picks
25. Toronto 26. Tampa Bay 27. Colorado 28. Phoenix 29. Atlanta
These teams are longshots to even make the playoffs, nevermind contend for the Stanley Cup. One of these teams may make the playoffs. My guess is Tampa Bay.
Tier 7: A League of Their Own
30. New York Islanders
With odds to win the Stanley Cup of 1.5X higher than their closest competitor the Islanders are primed for a repeat as the worst team in the league.