Although the Colorado Avalanche are the clear betting favorites to win the Stanley Cup, the 2022-23 NHL season feels wide open. Every division is deeper than it was in 2021-22, and it feels like there could be a couple of Stanley Cup favorites that are at risk of being pushed out of the playoff picture by some emerging teams.
Which teams are vulnerable to miss the playoffs? Let’s take a look at one from each conference:
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2022 NHL futures odds and picks to target
Minnesota Wild to miss the playoffs (+300, Caesars)
The betting market has been quite high on the Minnesota Wild for a while now, and that love paid off last season as the Wild put up a team-record of 113 points in the regular season. Minnesota eventually lost in Round 1 of the postseason to the St. Louis Blues, but that early exit and the fact that the team will be playing with $12.7 million in dead cap thanks to the buyouts of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise doesn’t seem to be worrying bettors.
Minnesota is the second-favorite to win the Central Division, has an Over/Under of 101.5 points, and is -500 to make the postseason. Those odds are a bit flattering.
The Wild were a great 5-on-5 team last season, finishing sixth in expected goals (xG) rate, second in expected goals against, and second in high-danger scoring chances conceded, but there are a couple of areas of concern as we head into October.
For one, the offensive success we saw last season is probably not sustainable. Minnesota had the second-best 5-on-5 goal differential in 2021-22, and only Florida scored more goals at 5-on-5 than the Wild did last season, but Minnesota’s 2.45 xG per 60 minutes lagged behind its 3.23 G/60 by quite a bit.
The Wild’s offense should regress, especially since they had to trade away 33-goal and 85-point man Kevin Fiala to the Kings. Twenty-eight of Fiala’s 33 tallies came at 5-on-5, which is a lot of production to replace.
Minnesota will lean on youngsters Matt Boldy and Marco Rossi to pick up the slack, but development in the NHL is not always linear, even if Boldy was terrific in his 47-game stint in the NHL last season.
The star of the show for the Wild remains Kirill Kaprizov, who followed up his Calder campaign by notching 108 points (47 goals, 61 assists) in 81 games. Minnesota will need a similar output from the Russian star in 2022-23.
Minnesota’s defense has been terrific for a number of seasons now, but that won’t matter if the team’s goaltending doesn’t hold up. And the Wild are taking a bit of an under-the-radar gamble in the blue paint this season by leaning heavily on 37-year-old Marc-Andre Fleury.
Even though he’s just one season removed from winning the Vezina Trophy, the projected workload for Fleury this season does seem a bit ambitious, especially since he’s posted some inconsistent results over the past few seasons.
After skating to a .912 save percentage (SV%) and +6.75 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) in 61 games for Vegas in 2018-19, Fleury dipped to a .904 SV% and -14 GSAx in 49 games in 2019-20. The next season he won the Vezina with a .927 SV% and +19.9 GSAx. But he wasn’t able to back up that performance, either, as he posted a .908 SV% and -12.6 in 56 appearances with Chicago and Minnesota.
It’s been a real roller coaster for Fleury since leaving Pittsburgh, and if he struggles, it could be an issue since his deputy is the unheralded Filip Gustavsson, who has played 27 NHL games and has skated to a .905 SV% and -4.35 GSAx in his career.
Minnesota is likely a strong team in 2022-23, but there are some potential pitfalls for a team with very lofty expectations. In a division that features the Stanley Cup favorite, there’s already a limited amount of seats at the table and teams like St. Louis, Nashville, Dallas and Winnipeg are all capable of pushing the Wild out of the dance.
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Pittsburgh Penguins to miss the playoffs (+360, bet365)
The band is back together in Pittsburgh, which makes for a good story but also a decent betting opportunity if you’re skeptical that Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, and Evgeni Malkin can stay healthy enough to have as significant an impact as they’re going to need to have for this team to reach the expectations that oddsmakers have set for them in 2022-23.
After those three and Jake Guentzel, things fall of pretty precipitously for Pittsburgh. Crosby, Malkin, Letang, and Guentzel can drive the bus, but a supporting cast of Bryan Rust, Jason Zucker, Kasperi Kapanen, Danton Heinen, Rickard Rakell, and 37-year-old Jeff Carter feels like it could struggle to provide the secondary scoring that’s going to be needed for this team to be a contender.
Worries over age and health are nothing new for Mike Sullivan. He guided the Penguins to 103 points last season and had them playing to a 54.2% expected goals rate (sixth-best in the NHL) and a +27 goal differential at 5-on-5 last season (ninth overall).
If the Penguins can find a way to repeat those numbers, they should be fine, but a lot of their 5-on-5 success was due to a stout defense that ended up fifth in the NHL in expected goals allowed.
The Pens re-tooled their blueline in the offseason, trading the steady but limited John Marino to New Jersey for Ty Smith, who is a high-risk, high-reward offensive defenseman. Smith will join fellow newcomers Jeff Petry (acquired for smooth-skating rearguard Mike Matheson) and former Lightning Jan Rutta on a defense corps that features five players over the age of 30.
It’s also fair to ask questions about the goaltending, as this new-look defense will play in front of Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith, who both return for another season in Steel City.
Jarry’s overall numbers look terrific in 2021-22. The 27-year-old posted a .918 SV% and +6.58 GSAx in 58 games and played a huge role in stabilizing the Penguins while they dealt with all their injuries. But it was really a tale of two halves with Jarry, as he posted a .909 SV% and -4.01 GSAx in his last 34 appearances before getting hurt at the end of the regular season.
Jarry also was below-average in 2020-21, so it’s really anybody’s guess if he plays more like the standout goaltender we saw from October until January or the below-average one who we saw after New Year’s Day, but if it is the latter, the Penguins could find themselves in hot water.
A core that features Crosby, Malkin, Letang and Guentzel is always going to be dangerous, especially with a coach like Sullivan, but this team was +2500 on Opening Night last season and it’s up for debate whether or not they got better since then.
Bookmakers are pricing the Penguins at their ceiling and in a Metropolitan Division that features six teams with Over/Unders above 90 points, Pittsburgh could be in for a hard fight to just get into the playoffs in 2022-23.