The Washington Capitals should enjoy the Stanley Cup while they have it, because oddsmakers don’t believe they’ll be able to hold on to it next year.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are again the top pick to win the Cup. They spent most of the 2017-2018 season as the favorite, with odds as low as 11/2. They are installed at +750 at Topbet and +800 at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. Several other betting venues have them at +1000.
The 2018 champion Capitals are as low as a 14-1 pick to repeat.
The Capitals improbable run to the finals surprised many, but hurdles could definitely prevent them from repeating. The first is history. The last team to win back-to-back titles was the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016-2017. Before that, however, you have to go all the way back to the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-1998.
Personnel changes could also affect the team. Defenseman John Carlson is a free agent and could sign with another team other than the Capitals. If he leaves, that would a gaping hole on the blue line.
The biggest change could be at head coach. Barry Trotz was supposedly in danger of being fired before the playoffs began, and one report had him telling another coach that he wasn’t coming back, though he was quick to deny the story. The team declined to give him an extension coming into the season and now with him needing a new deal, he might be a hot commodity for another team.
Lightning’s Second Strike
The Golden Knights shocked the hockey world with their run to the finals, but it really shouldn’t have been that surprising. The team had a three-time Stanley Cup goalie, a blue-collar team with lots of speed, and a contender for Coach of the Year. The team also has money to go after free agents.
They’ll likely need another scorer and a top line defenseman, as they are likely to lose David Perron and James Neal, but could pick up Carlson on defense, and possibly forward John Tavares. And with all the draft picks General Manager George McPhee obtained through trades during the expansion draft, the team might also be able to pick up a rookie who could make an immediate impact.
The runner-ups in this year’s finals have proven to sportsbooks that the first-year expansion team should be just as competitive in their sophomore season. The Golden Knights are anywhere from 8/1 to 14/1. That’s a far cry from the 200/1 to 500/1 odds the team had before the start of last season. The Westgate has their hometown Golden Knights lumped together with Nashville, Pittsburgh, Winnipeg, and Boston at 10/1, behind Tampa Bay.
Losing to the Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals seemed like a major disappointment to the Lightning. As the favorites to win the Stanley Cup throughout this past season, anything short of that doesn’t seem like a success.
With that motivation potentially lighting a fire, they return every player and should be just as strong as they were this year. The only question is can they finish the job in 2019?