Stanley Cup odds (as of Sept. 12):
Toronto Maple Leafs: 8.50
Tampa Bay Lightning: 8.50
Washington Capitals: 8.50
Nashville Predators: 9.50
Pittsburgh Penguins: 9.50
Vegas Golden Knights: 10.00
Some hockey fans will hate the contents of the headline. Others will love it. Typical, whenever the Toronto Maple Leafs are part of the discussion.
All across the National Hockey League, training camps open this week, with the Maple Leafs listed as co-favourites to win the Stanley Cup. (Ugh, you can just visualize the obnoxious chest thumping that is going to take place in The Six when the regular season begins next month.)
We'll break down the top Stanley Cup contenders from Canada, the Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets, while also expanding on the outright odds of the Vancouver Canucks, as well as the defending champion Washington Capitals and runner-up Vegas Golden Knights.
NHL Betting Breakdown:
Toronto Maple Leafs
Stanley Cup odds: 8.50
The Toronto Maple Leafs have a great young core group of players. They're fast, skilled, high-scoring and entertaining.
Getting the first overall pick that turned into Auston Matthews has accelerated their rebuild to the point where in such a short time, the Maple Leafs can contend for the Stanley Cup after finishing dead last in the standings in 2015-16.
Then they landed prized free agent centre John Tavares this summer, and the one-two punch of Matthews and Tavares up the middle has turned the Maple Leafs from a likely contender to a Stanley Cup co-favourite entering training camp.
Their odds to win the Stanley Cup sit at 8.50 on PlayNow.com, which puts them alongside the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals.
Toronto was the fourth highest scoring team in the NHL last season. Tavares scored 37 goals and 84 points last season, and has 621 points in 669 games with the New York Islanders, the team he started his career with.
At the age of 27, Tavares has made it to the playoffs on three occasions, going only as far as the second round in 2015-16. The Islanders never built a true Cup contender in the years with Tavares as their centrepiece.
He joins a Maple Leafs team that, as entertaining as it has been in the last two years, will face far more pressure to go well beyond the first round of the playoffs next spring.
Stanley Cup odds: 12.00
The Winnipeg Jets have become an example around the NHL of patience paying off.
They've drafted well - true, much like Toronto getting Matthews, the Jets also scored in the lottery by getting the No. 2 pick and taking sniper Patrik Laine - and their young nucleus has developed into a strong team in the NHL Central Division, battling it out with the Nashville Predators as the Chicago Blackhawks have fallen off after years as a perennial contender.
The Jets became the lone hope last spring for a Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup, but ultimately fell short after losing to Vegas in the third round.
They enter the season with odds at PlayNow.com of 12.00 to win the Stanley Cup. Much like the Leafs, their young roster is loaded with talent and that was evident with the second highest goals-for-per-game rating (3.33) last season.
Can they take the next step in 2018-19? It's a long season and many things can happen. (Did anyone really see the Capitals winning it all last season?) But the notion of an all-Canadian Stanley Cup Final doesn't seem so crazy these days.
Stanley Cup odds: 55.00
The Canucks are, for obvious reasons, among the long shots to win the Stanley Cup this season.
True, this management group has actually done a nice job of building the prospect pool through the draft and, heck, even with a couple of trades. But it's likely the Canucks aren't able to turn the corner this season and go from basement dweller to playoff contender - at least not right now, anyway.
That's not to say it's been a dull summer for Canucks fans.
Trevor Linden and the team parted ways - how bizarre was that whole situation? There were rumours that, with Linden no longer in the picture, the Canucks were kicking the tires on Senators star defenceman Erik Karlsson.
The bigger questions surrounding the Canucks focus more on whether or not Brock Boeser will re-discover the magic he displayed last season as a rookie before his season was ended by an injury. Or, if super prospect Elias Pettersson will a) crack the lineup; and b) how productive will he be if he does make the team out of camp.
Vegas Golden Knights
Stanley Cup odds: 10.00
When the 2017-18 NHL season began, the expansion Vegas Golden Knights had odds of 90.00 to win the Stanley Cup. Yes, they were long shots, as one would expect for a first-year team built mostly through an expansion draft.
True, the rules for this expansion draft were favourable to giving the Golden Knights a more competitive team right off the bat. But the playoffs? The Stanley Cup Final? No. No one, anywhere, realistically thought that team would advance that far in its first season.
Following a hard-fought series loss to the Washington Capitals in June, the Golden Knights emerge for their second season with odds of 10.00 to win the Stanley Cup, which puts them right among the favourites.
On Monday, the Golden Knights made another bold move prior to the start of camp, acquiring 29-year-old forward and five-time 30-goal scorer Max Pacioretty from the Montreal Canadiens.
Stanley Cup odds: 8.50
Finally, Alex Ovechkin lifted the Stanley Cup. The party quickly ensued.
The Capitals need only look to their rivals from Pittsburgh to see that winning back-to-back championships is certainly difficult but certainly not impossible.
One of the biggest changes for the Capitals this offseason came behind the bench. Within the span of about two weeks, Barry Trotz went from behind the Washington bench when his team finally broke through to win the Stanley Cup, to resigning from his position after the two sides couldn't agree on a dollar figure for a contract extension, to being named head coach of the Islanders.
The Capitals are back as Stanley Cup co-favourites.
The Islanders? Not so much.