Odds to Win NHL Pacific Division 2012

Written by:
Carrie Stroup
Published on:
Oct/06/2011
Odds to Win NHL Pacific Division 2012

Gambling911.com has your latest odds to win the NHL Pacific Division for 2012.  Get future bets here at Sportsbook.com.

 

SAN JOSE SHARKS

2010-11 record: 48-25-9, 105 points, 2nd place in Western Conference

Odds to Win 2012 Western Conference: 9-to-2

Odds to Win 2012 Stanley Cup: 10-to-1

 

It wasn’t too long ago that the San Jose Sharks were the butt-end of many jokes in the hockey world for their postseason failures. Superb in the regular season, choke artists in the playoffs. That was their M.O.

After two consecutive trips to the Western Conference Finals, the early-round jitters have been quelled. But still, despite posting at least 105 regular-season points in each of the past five seasons, San Jose has yet to make a Stanley Cup Finals appearance.

General Manager Doug Wilson knows the pressure is on to get this squad over the hump. And his hectic offseason proves he’s not afraid to take some risks to shake up the Sharks’ lineup.

On offense, Wilson shipped top line RW Dany Heatley (29 goals)—whose scoring production dropped significantly from his 39 goals the previous season—to Minnesota for speedy RW Martin Havlat (62 points). This is a sneakily strong move by Wilson, who sold high on Heatley after an off-year. Havlat might not have the upside of a sniper like Heatley, but he’s extremely consistent and will surely post big numbers playing alongside elite C Joe Thornton (70 points).

The rest of their top six—one of the deepest in the league—features LW Patrick Marleau (team-high 73 points), C Joe Pavelski (66 points), LW Ryan Clowe (62 points) and Calder Trophy finalist C Logan Couture (56 points). The combination of size, speed and skill on this unit gives the offense a ton of versatility.

If Thornton can bounce back from a poor statistical season—his first with fewer than 86 points since 2003-04—and the young Couture can build off a terrific rookie season, the Sharks offense will become even harder to stop, which seems hard to believe given this unit’s stellar reputation.

Wilson also made a huge move to improve the defense—sending RW Devin Setoguchi (41 points) to the Wild for hulking d-man Brent Burns (46 points, 133 hits). The move adds tremendous depth to a unit that clearly lacked some in the Western Conference Finals, when the Canucks forwards had their way with the Sharks in a breezy five games.

Burns joins big-time point producer Dan Boyle (50 points, T-7th in NHL among defensemen) to form a dynamite one-two punch on the blueline. The rest of the defense features the ferocious Douglas Murray (203 hits, 7th in NHL), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (147 blocked shots)and promising youngster Jason Demers (24 points).

And in goal, Antti Niemi (2.38 GAA, .920 SV Pct.) returns for his second year with the Black and Teal after winning the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009-10 and, predictably, his numbers took a bit of a dive. With the litany talented forwards in the West, Niemi will have to play better for the Sharks to win their fifth consecutive division title.

It seems like every October we ask the same question about the Sharks: is this the year? Sort of like the Capitals in the East, the talent on the Sharks’ roster is second-to-none, but they’ve just never been able to break through to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.

And even though the Sharks addressed a key weakness—teams in the West have caught up to them. Three years ago, it was essentially a three-team race between San Jose, Detroit and Chicago. But now, you have to throw Vancouver and Los Angeles into the mix of true contenders, giving the Western Conference its most ruthless compilation of teams in recent memory.

The teams at the top of the West are so close that, in the postseason, it could very well come down to the bottom-six forwards. The Sharks lost some key role players like Ben Eager (17 points) and Jamal Mayers (14 points, 105 hits). While these types of players may not light up the scoresheet in the regular season, they almost always make a difference come playoff time, and the Sharks’ group is not as strong as it needs to be.

Also, even with the addition of Burns, the Sharks defense is still predicated on puck movement. Granted, both Burns and Murray will throw their weight around at will, but they can also be caught out of position as a result. The other contenders in the West simply have deeper defenses.

The fact is, the Sharks definitely have the talent to piece together a magical postseason, but if you’re going to lay money down on a 10-to-1 team to win the Cup, Detroit gives you more value than the Sharks do.

 

LOS ANGELES KINGS

 

2010-11 record: 46-30-6, 98 points, 7th place in Western Conference

Odds to Win 2012 Western Conference: 5-to-1

Odds to Win 2012 Stanley Cup: 10-to-1

 

If the Kings expected to spend another offseason with the “sleeper” label attached to their name, General Manager Dean Lombardi squashed that sentiment with authority. In the most shocking trade of the summer, the Kings acquired one of the best two-way centers in the game—Mike Richards (66 points)—from Philadelphia in exchange for 23-year-old power forward Wayne Simmonds (30 points), top prospect C Brayden Schenn, and a second-round draft pick.

For the Kings, the trade itself wasn’t as surprising as the player they ended up acquiring. For the better part of the past two years, it’s been no secret that Lombardi has coveted an elite scoring forward. But Richards was not only the team captain and—we thought—a strong locker-room presence for the Flyers, but he’s also signed through 2020.

Richards will slip into the second-line pivot spot behind top C Anze Kopitar (73 points). The Kings season took a disastrous turn when Kopitar broke his ankle just two weeks before the start of the postseason. Without him, the Kings fell in the first round to division rival San Jose in six games.

The rest of the offense features dynamic RW—and team captain—Dustin Brown (57 points), RW Justin Williams (57 points)—who also missed the playoffs with an injury—and free-agent pickup LW Simon Gagne (40 points). If Gagne can stay healthy, he’ll provide some much needed depth to an otherwise shallow group of wingers.

On defense, the Drew Doughty contract soap opera finally came to a close at the end of September after he signed a monstrous eight-year deal worth $56 million. The 22-year-old Doughty (40 points, 137 hits) may be young, but he’s quickly becoming one of the most dominant d-men in the NHL and is, without a doubt, the cornerstone of this blue line.

The rest of the back line features Jack Johnson (42 points, 133 blocked shots)—who would likely be a number one guy on another team—and stay-at-home types Rob Scuderi (122 blocked shots) and Matt Greene (243 hits, 2nd among NHL defensemen).

In goal, Jonathan Quick (2.24 GAA, .918 SV Pct.) remains the starter, but the young Jonathan Bernier (.913 SV Pct. in 25 games) should also get 20-to-25 starts this season. With both Quick (25) and Bernier (23) so young, expect one to be dangled as trade bait at some point in the near future.

A year ago, L.A. was a trendy sleeper pick to win the Pacific Division. Although the Kings finished fourth, it’s a bit misleading since they finished just one point behind Phoenix and Anaheim—who tied for second.

This division, once again, looks to be dominant. We don’t think it will put four teams into the playoffs again, but the Kings will definitely be playing in late April again this year. As far as young talent goes, no team has a more exciting roster than Los Angeles.

The addition of Richards gives the team an incredible trio of centers, with Jarret Stoll (43 points) being the third. The defense, which allowed the fifth-fewest goals in the league last year (198), has the perfect mix of young puck movers with gritty veterans. The biggest question mark is whether Jonathan Quick can step up his game in the postseason. It would be unfair to pin either of the last two early playoff exits on Quick—especially considering how young this roster is—but if the Kings hope to advance deep into the postseason, they will need Quick to be great, not just good.

The Kings are a fun team to root for because they play the game with such youthful exuberance. But with their odds set at 10-to-1, Vegas has completely sucked the value out of any potential futures bet.

The fact that L.A. has the same odds as San Jose—a veteran squad with two consecutive trips to the final four—tells you how much an impact they think Mike Richards will have. But don’t fall for that trap—the NHL is not like the NBA where one player can win a championship. The truth is, this core of players has yet to win a playoff series.

 

ANAHEIM DUCKS

 

2010-11 record: 47-30-5, 99 points, 4th place in Western Conference

Odds to Win 2012 Western Conference: 15-to-1

Odds to Win 2012 Stanley Cup: 30-to-1

 

The NHL has grown accustomed to seeing familiar names hitting the 50-goal mark. You know, the household names. Ovechkin. Crosby. Stamkos. So, you’ll have to forgive Corey Perry for crashing the party last year.

The Anaheim RW exploded for 50 goals last season—the only NHL player to hit the mark— destroying his career-high of 32 from 2008-09. Perry scored 19 goals in the final 16 games of the season to help lead the Ducks from ninth place in the West all the way to fourth by season’s end—earning him the Hart Trophy for league MVP.

Despite falling to the upstart Nashville Predators in six games in the first round of the playoffs, the emergence of Perry (6-foot-3, 209 pounds) as one of the NHL’s premier power forwards was certainly a welcome sight for fans in Anaheim.

Perry’s success is a direct byproduct of playing on the most proficient offensive line in the NHL, alongside hulking C Ryan Getzlaf (76 points in 67 games) and sniper LW Bobby Ryan (71 points). The three combined for 245 points—an astounding 37.6 percent of Anaheim’s total team output.

The second line’s not too shabby either, featuring C Saku Koivu (45 points) and future Hall of Famer RW Teemu Selanne (80 points). Usually by the time players hit age 40, they are spending their time on the golf course. But not Selanne—whose 31 goals and 49 assists bring new meaning to the word rejuvenation.

The defense also a has a point leader of their own in Lubomir Visnovsky, whose 50 assists and 68 points were tops amongst NHL defensemen in both categories. His partner—stay-at-home d-man Toni Lydman (+32, 178 blocked shots) gives Visnovsky plenty of room to move the puck.

The second pairing of impressive rookie Cam Fowler (40 points) and trade deadline acquisition Francois Beauchemin (182 blocked shots) rounds out a solid top-four. A full season with Beauchemin in the mix should improve on the 233 goals allowed last year, which ranked a mediocre 19th in the league.

Between the pipes, Jonas Hiller (.924 SV Pct., 4th in NHL) was on fire before suffering from symptoms of vertigo last February—a big reason for the Ducks’ brief slip from playoff contention. The team says he’s symptom-free now, and a repeat of last season’s numbers will make Anaheim a very dangerous bunch.

Have we mentioned how deep the Western Conference is? Well, considering the ridiculous talent in the top-six on this team, you might be shocked to know that the Ducks are actually a bubble playoff team—and their Stanley Cup odds reflect that.

The bottom-six forwards, quite frankly, contribute next to nothing offensively for this team, and that just won’t cut it in the playoffs. The defense is good, but not great, especially compared to their rivals in the West. The key for postseason success is Hiller. If he stays healthy, he has the talent and athleticism to steal a series in the postseason.

- Carrie Stroup, Gambling911.com Senior Reporter

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