Only four teams are favoured ahead of the Montreal Canadiens to win this year’s Stanley Cup.
According to odds posted yesterday by Bodog Sportsbook, the Canadiens (8-to-1) follow only the Detroit Red Wings (10-to-3), the San Jose Sharks (9-to-2), the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Anaheim Ducks (both at 7-to-1).
Then come the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, tied at 12-to-1, but get this: The Ottawa Senators, who have been fighting for their playoff lives as the regular schedule nears its end, are next on the odds list at 14-to-1.
The Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks have been established as major longshots at 22-to-1 and 40-to-1, respectively.
• After opening this season with a 13-1-0 record, the Sens have been losing more often than not, vindicating their former general manager, John Muckler, who led them to the championship series against Anaheim last season.
Muckler has been enjoying the Sens’ gag act, mainly because he loathes Bryan Murray, who replaced him. Muckler can’t gloat in public, though, because he is still being paid by the Sens and his deal stipulates they can stop paying him if he criticizes them. Muckler has spent the season, tight-lipped, in Florida.
For more on what went on behind the scenes between Murray and Muckler, and for my thoughts on how Murray goofed up, check out the NHL Report I produced for Feb. 28.
• No Canadian-based team has captured the Cup since the Canadiens in 1993. The Habs literally exceeded their own expectations this season, but, frankly, the rest of Canada’s teams are a sad bunch.
The Flames are mediocre, the Canucks are deteriorating, the Senators you know all about and the Toronto Maple Leafs are dreadful.
The Edmonton Oilers, though, now they could be a different story. Yes, they’re out of playoff contention, but sensible hockey followers suspect they will be very much for real next season. Indeed, they have an impressive bevy of players, five of whom suffered season-ending injuries — Sheldon Souray, Shawn Horcoff, Ethan Moreau, Ales Hemsky and Raffi Torres.
Combine them with Dustin Penner, turning in his best NHL season, and youngsters Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner, Robert Nilsson, Kyle Brodziak and Tom Gilbert, and you’re looking at perhaps the most promising nucleus in the league.
Fifteen of the Oilers’ 18 skaters are 25 or younger, and five of those are 22 or younger.
• Anyway, the NHL’s real season — the playoffs — begins next week. Can’t wait. Metro will run a playoff-preview package.
And for baseball stuff — including why Blue Jays radio guys Alan Ashby and Mike Wilner impress me — read my latest MLB Report.
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