Top Contenders and Underachievers: A Comprehensive NHL Mid-Season Review

The 2023-24 NHL season has reached its halfway point. In the conclusion to this two part piece, we look at how the Stanley Cup odds have shifted from the start of the season, and which teams have fallen off.

As there are risers, there must also be those who fall. This is the second part of the NHL Stanley Cup Odds midseason update story . In that piece, we tackled those teams who have seen their stock rise throughout the season. This piece looks at some surprising falls that we’ve seen to this point, as well as exploring the mundanity of maintaining expectations.


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Free Fallin’

On the other side of this trend comes the teams that are, in one way or another, underperforming preseason expectations. This section is going to be broken into two parts, the young & expected and the old guard.

Young & Expected

The Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators have an incredibly young core of good (and some elite) players. For whatever reason they are still outside of their perceived championship window.

The odds for the Sabres have dropped from +4000 to +25000 and the Senators have nearly mirrored that arc, with a slightly less-disappointing  change from +4000 to +20000. Both teams have the capability to become great, even dynasties in the next 3-5 years, but the player development and a couple of veteran acquisitions are needed before that can properly come to fruition.

The New Jersey Devils also come to mind in this group, as their odds have dropped from +1000 to +2200. However, with the signing of Timo Meier to a long-term deal as well as several top 10 picks in the last five years, they are finally beginning to open their window for greatness.

Old Guard

On the other hand, the old guard teams that have kept their championship dynasty teams together and have some of the oldest average lineups in the league are beginning to flounder. Teams that you’ve gotten used to hearing at the top of the league like the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Washington Capitals, and the Tampa Bay Lightning have been more disappointing this season.

The Lightning are the outlier in that group, still sitting at +3300 after starting the season at +1700. They sit in third place in the Atlantic, but aren’t inspiring confidence with their play. Making a push lately hasn’t convinced the sportsbooks that they’re worthy of the pick. They’ll have to do more to make it to the cup finals later this year.

The Penguins have also dropped, from +2200 to +3300, but they are in a dead heat with the Capitals (+7000 to +15000) near the bottom of the Metro division. These are two teams that should consider trading some of the veterans on their lineup to start a proper rebuilding phase, one that will last much less time depending on when they decide to make it happen.


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The Streaky

The streaky teams, as I’m sure anyone who paid attention to the start of the season would know, does include the defending Stanley Cup Champion Vegas Golden Knights. They started the season with a miraculous string of twelve straight games without a regulation loss, the best start for any defending champion in the history of the league. They followed it up with an unfortunate string of losses that brought expectations back down to earth. Their play lately suggests that they have begun to come out of that slump. That is just in time for the wild card break where they can get some rest. But with their odds moving from +1300 to +1400, oddsmakers seem to think they are getting exactly what they paid for. The other team in this category is on the exact opposite trajectory.

The Edmonton Oilers started with an uninspired string of games to start the season. Oilers fans seemed to lament as another wasted season from their historically great MVP in Connor McDavid. That all changed right before Christmas with a win against the Devils on 12/21. That was the first in a string of an awe-inspiring 16 wins in a row. They have catapulted up the standings, jumping up to third without signs of slowing down. Their odds have moved from +1300 to +900, driven largely by this streak they’ve been on. They could have easily been in the Trending Up section, but I’m always cautious of streaky teams, especially one that starts to peak so far out from the playoffs.

These two teams play each other after the all-star break. It’s a game that could see Edmonton take the record for most wins in a row. In this fight of two juggernauts, it’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top. Does Edmonton has it in them to continue with their winning form?


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