National Parity League Feb 13th, 2008
By: Bodog Nation
CappersPicks.com NHL Handicapping Staff
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In the NHL, all teams are created equal… give or take
The word parity is thrown around a lot in the sports world. When the underdog New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, many said it was proof of parity in the NFL.
Football even has a bad-movie-inspiring expression for it: “any given Sunday.” But, really, how much parity can there be when one team wins 100 percent of its regular season games and another (Miami) wins six percent?
The same is true in basketball. As of Wednesday, there were 12 NBA teams with a winning percentage greater than .600 and nine below .400.
No Major League Baseball team won more than 60 percent or less than 40 percent of its games in 2007. Then again, franchise equality has never been baseball’s strong suit. Last year, the New York Yankees had a payroll close to $200 million while the Tampa Bay Devil Rays came in around $25 million.
Only one of the four major sports leagues can argue it has close to both financial and competitive parity, and that’s the NHL. With a hard salary cap in place, no team can grossly outspend another, and with only one team (Detroit) boasting a winning percentage over .600 and none less than .400, no matchup is a slam dunk.
Last Thursday, the worst team in hockey, the Los Angeles Kings, went into Detroit and beat the Red Wings 5-3 as +270 underdogs.
“We know you can’t just come to the rink and put your jersey on,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said after the loss. “You’ve got to outwork the opposition.”
Need more proof that no team can dominate an entire season in the NHL? Tuesday night, the Red Wings (41-13-5) lost their fourth game in a row.
Neck-and-Neck Down the Stretch
A mere six points separate the third-best NHL team in the Eastern Conference (Montreal) from the ninth (Boston). In the West, six points is the difference between sixth-place Calgary (66 points) and 11th-place Phoenix (60 points).
Not surprisingly, Mr. Everything-Is-Just-Great, aka Commissioner Gary Bettman, is quick to exploit the tightness of the playoff races.
“If you look at the playoff races right now, I don’t think there’s a league… that’s ever seen competitive balance this intense,” Bettman said.
“There might be a couple of teams that miss the playoffs by only one or two points this year. Every game throughout the season matters; tonight’s game as well as games in October, November, as well as all remaining games. “And as we’ve seen in the past, including just a few years ago with a No. 8 seed making the Cup Finals, once you get in (to the playoffs) anything can happen. As you look at the standings, with the exception of probably two teams, everyone still has a shot at the playoffs this year.”
Bettman’s last point is reflected in the Bodog Sportsbook where the odds to win the Stanley Cup are almost as tight as the standings. Detroit (2/1), Ottawa (9/2) and Anaheim (11/2) are fairly heavy favorites, but the size of the pack in the upper-middle is what really stands out. Ten teams are getting odds between 20/1 and 10/1 to win it all.
On the bottom end, four sides – Edmonton, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay and Toronto – are at 100/1. That’s a pretty big number, but compare it to the odds to win the NBA championship where Memphis, Minnesota and Seattle are at 3000/1 and it’s fairly obvious that oddsmakers exercise a tad more caution when it comes to setting NHL futures.
Dare to Walk on the Wild Side?
Picking a Stanley Cup winner is rarely as easy as picking the best regular-season team. In fact, the last four Presidents’ Trophy winners have failed to hoist the big, silver mug, and since 1989, only four teams that finished the schedule with the most points have won it all. That’s not to say Detroit won’t make it happen this year, but at 2/1, it’s not exactly a value pick.
At 20/1, however, the Minnesota Wild are an intriguing option. Hall of Fame coach Jacques Lemaire won an amazing eight Stanley Cups as a player with the Montreal Canadiens and added another one behind the bench of the 1995 New Jersey Devils, so he certainly knows what it takes.
Lemaire-coached teams are famous for their defensive style – and this year’s Wild are no different – but Minnesota also has a decent amount of firepower in forwards Marion Gaborik, Brian Rolston and Pavol Demitra. At the same time, winger Pierre-Marc Bouchard is emerging into one of the better playmakers in hockey and goaltender Niklas Backstrom appears to be breaking out of a midseason slump.
The Wild have most, if not all, of the elements needed to make a run in the postseason. Then again, in the NHL, who doesn’t?
The Bodog Sportsbook doesn’t simply offer up lines, futures and props – it also provides a wealth of information for bettors, including free statistical analysis within its matchup and preview sections. It also offers as-it-happens betting with BodogLIVE, which lets users bet on every play in football, basketball and baseball.
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