Canada’s Top 3 Stanley Cup Hopefuls For 2017-18

It’s hard to believe, but the Toronto Maple Leafs are no longer longshots to win the Stanley Cup.

In fact, the Leafs are one of Canada’s top 3 hopes to win a National Hockey League championship in 2018. After Toronto surprisingly signed Patrick Marleau to a 3-year contract this past weekend, the Leafs are +1600 (16:1) to end their 51-year Cup drought next season, tying them with the Montreal Canadiens on Bodog’s Stanley Cup futures board.

The Edmonton Oilers remain Canada’s best shot at a Cup in 2018, tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for second on Bodog’s Cup futures board at +1200 odds. The two-time champion Penguins lead the way on the 2018 Stanley Cup odds, paying +750.

2018 Stanley Cup odds

2018 Stanley Cup odds Bodog

Let’s take a closer look at Canada’s top 3 Cup hopes for 2018.

1. Edmonton Oilers (+1200)

What a long way the young Oilers came last year. Not only did they snap their 10-year playoff drought by qualifying for postseason play, they nearly won the Pacific Division (finished 2 points behind Anaheim), then came within one win of reaching the Western Conference final.

Edmonton’s success last year was completely legitimate. The offence may have relied on Connor McDavid a bit, but it still finished eighth in the league in both goals and shots on goal. Meanwhile, the Oilers defence was rock solid as well, finishing 8th in goals against and 9th in shots allowed.

The Oil looks poised to take the next step in 2018, especially with McDavid expected to sign a new deal that will keep him in Edmonton for a long time. Critics are warning that a huge contract for McDavid will actually cripple the Oilers’ long-term Cup hopes, but it doesn’t make us like their chances any less in 2018.

2. Montreal Canadiens (+1600)

The Canadiens did what everybody expected they had to by resigning Carey Price to an 8-year extension, eliminating the possibility that he’d become a free agent next summer. But what they’ve done at the same time is handcuffed themselves by committing $10.5 million of their salary cap to a goaltender for 8 years, beginning in 2018-19.

That doesn’t leave much room to address the glaring weakness for Montreal – offence.  The Habs were 15th in the NHL in goals per game last year and 18th in shots, but those numbers were inflated a bit by a very strong start to the season.

Down the stretch and into the playoffs, Montreal was routinely a one-line team on offence that couldn’t generate much when Max Pacioretty, Alex Radulov or Alex Galchenyuk (the only Habs to average more than 0.5 points per game) went cold or were injured. The Canadiens will likely excel at keeping the puck out of their net again next season, but we don’t think they’ve got enough offence to contend for a Cup.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (+1600)

Did you think the Leafs’ rebuild was going to take some time? Toronto fastforwarded its plans with the acquisition of Marleau, who is now 38 years old but still potted 27 goals last season.

The nice thing about the Marleau signing for Toronto is that he doesn’t need to be “the guy” on offence in order for the Leafs to win. Toronto already has some offensive leaders in Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, both of whom will almost certainly be even better next season with a year of experience under their belts. Now they have added some secondary scoring to an attack that already ranked fifth in the NHL in goals, fourth in shots and second in power play percentage, and Marleau adds some veteran leadership that the club could also use.

The Leafs still need to address their defence, however, before they can be considered a true Stanley Cup contender. Toronto was 22nd in the NHL in goals allowed last year, and even worse (28th) in shots against. The signing of veteran defenceman Ron Hainsey and even defensive-minded forward Dominic Moore won’t be enough to resolve those issues. We’ll need to see the Leafs figure things out in their own end before jumping on this +1600 return.