When it comes to making predictions, oddsmakers have a vested interest in getting them right. After all, if their predictions are too far off, the sportsbooks could lose a lot of money. That’s a lot of incentive to set the right money line.
Last season, the oddsmakers slightly underrated the Canucks, perhaps because they didn’t anticipate the immediate impact Elias Pettersson would have on the lineup. Bodog set the line at 77.5, as did Westgate Sportsbook; the Canucks made the over at 81 points.
Still, the oddsmakers weren’t that far off overall when it came to the Canucks. The prediction that came closest to the Canucks’ actual point totals came from sports betting writer Andy MacNeil, who projected 79.1 points for the 2018-19 Canucks.
Generally speaking, that means the betting odds are a decent place to start when trying to predict the upcoming NHL season. Fortunately for those of us starving for hockey news in the dog days of summer, some sportsbooks are getting a head start on setting odds for 2019-20.
The oddsmakers expect the Canucks to take a big step forward, setting the line at 90.5 points, a significant improvement from their 81 points last season. Of the teams projected to improve, the Canucks are expected to make the third-biggest step forward, behind only the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers, and tied with the New York Rangers.
Unfortunately, that improvement is projected to still see the Canucks fall just short of the playoffs.
I arranged the BetOnline over/under moneylines by conference and division to see where each team is projected to finish. The Canucks’ line sees them third in the Western Conference Wild Card race, tied with the Arizona Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks, five points back of the Winnipeg Jets.
Their moneyline is, however, just three points back of the San Jose Sharks in the Pacific Division. In other words, oddsmakers see the Canucks taking a step forward, within striking distance of the playoffs, but still behind the best teams in the Pacific Division and the powerhouse Central Division.
You can see why the teams projected to improve would be ranked the way they are.
The Devils are not only adding the first-overall pick Jack Hughes, but also top-pairing defenceman P.K. Subban, KHL superstar Nikita Gusev, and hopefully more than 33 games from Taylor Hall. If they can get any goaltending at all, whether from former Canuck Cory Schneider or rookie Mackenzie Blackwood, they could be on the playoff bubble.
The Panthers, meanwhile, made a significant upgrade in net, signing Sergei Bobrovsky in free agency, along with veteran defenceman Anton Stralman. Assuming Bobrovsky can play like a Vezina candidate in Florida, that alone could explain the projected 10.5-point improvement. After all, the Panthers’ two primary starters, Roberto Luongo and James Reimer, had .899 and .900 save percentages, respectively.
Then there’s the New York Rangers, who made myriad improvements in the off-season. Picking second in the draft, they got one heck of a consolation prize in Kaapo Kakko. They added Jacob Trouba on defence and shockingly signed the biggest name in free agency, Artemi Panarin. Combine that with some of their other high-end prospects expected to push to make the team, like Adam Fox, Vitali Kravtsov, and K’Andre Miller, it’s understandable that the oddsmakers see a big improvement in their future.
Finally, there’s the Canucks. Do their improvements — adding J.T. Miller, Tyler Myers, Micheal Ferland, Jordie Benn, and Quinn Hughes — compare favourably to the improvements made by the Devils, Panthers, and Rangers? The oddsmakers think so.
The question is whether they’ve improved enough to out-perform the projections, like they did last season. That would likely require someone like Quinn Hughes to be even better than expected. Can he not only play in the NHL, but immediately be a star, like Pettersson last season? That may be expecting too much, but it might be what’s needed for the Canucks to make the playoffs.
Beyond that, perhaps the Canucks could see chance lean their way next season, with fewer injuries and some lucky bounces along the way.