by OddsShark (@OddsShark)
The way the Winnipeg Jets’ season unfolded might illustrate the argument for being cautious about teams with high expectations.
After a 2017/18 season where they came within three wins of the city’s first Stanley Cup final, the Jets were high up on the 2019 Cup champion futures at +1200 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The sharps also saw the Central Division race as an either/or between the Nashville Predators (+150) and the Jets (+160). Winnipeg’s OVER/UNDER on its point total was a lofty 106.5, in the range with the 114 points they piled up in 2017/18.
As it turned out, the Jets showed that the NHL seems designed in a way that brings everyone back to the pack. They were -625 to make the playoffs and +425 not to make the postseason and realized the former with ease, and were still among the league’s higher-scoring teams thanks in large part to right wing Blake Wheeler and center Mark Scheifele.
However, a tougher Central Division – three of the four teams still alive in the Western Conference half of the playoff field are from the Central, and none of them are the Jets or Predators – led to the UNDER hitting on the Jets’ point total. They finished with a 47-30-5 record for 99 points. Three three-game losing skids in February and March also opened the door for Nashville to take the Central Division title with 100 points. The Predators wrested top spot by winning their final three games in the first week of April while the Jets went 1-1-1.
Winnipeg ended up being in the throng of strong regular-season teams bounced in the first round of the playoffs, losing in six games to the St. Louis Blues. As a matter of fact, only one team in the NHL’s last eight, the Boston Bruins (+1200), had less than 20-1 odds in Stanley Cup futures before the start of the regular season in October.
Connor Hellebuyck (+500) was posited as a co-second favourite for the Vezina Trophy, which is presented to the NHL’s outstanding goalie, with the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Sergei Bobrovsky (+450) rated as a slim favourite with the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy (+500). In another instance of how difficult it is to project ahead in hockey, Vasilevskiy is indeed a Vezina nominee, but odds were not even available in October on the other two finalists, the Dallas Stars’ Ben Bishop and New York Islanders’ Robin Lehner.
Both Scheifele (+1500) and Wheeler (+5000) were listed in Hart Trophy futures on the NHL betting lines, but did not end up being finalists for the NHL’s most valuable player award.