Toronto Maple Leafs Have the Best Odds to End Nation’s Drought

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 29: Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers battles for the puck between Auston Matthews #34 and Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on March 29, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 29: Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers battles for the puck between Auston Matthews #34 and Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on March 29, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

Once again the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers have the best odds to bring a Stanley Cup championship to a Canadian city.

Most hockey-loving Canadians are tired of the annual reminder that Montreal was the last team to hoist the trophy after the 1993 season. Each sportsbook may offer slightly different odds, but the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Oilers are both considered top 5 contenders to end next season as the last team standing.

Other top contenders include the Colorado Avalanche (favored by most sportsbooks) and the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights.

The next tier of title contenders are the Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins, and Tampa Bay Lightning. Last year’s finalists, the Florida Panthers, fall within the eighth to tenth best odds with most sportsbooks.

Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers: Best Odds to End Nation’s Drought

First, let’s talk about a couple of mild surprises from the oddsmakers.

Last year’s record-setting Presidents Trophy-winning Bruins have dropped behind a few teams. This is understandable considering the retirements of heart-and-soul leader Patrice Bergeron and long-time Bruin David Krejci.

Tyler Bertuzzi also left the Bruins to join the Leafs. Oddsmakers still like what’s left on their roster, since only a few teams leapfrogged over them.

The Panthers have notably longer odds considering their extended playoff run last year. Most of their roster will return, but they play in the league’s toughest division and finalists have a history of struggling the following season.

The Avalanche won the title two years ago and still ooze talent. Any lineup that includes Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, and Mikko Rantanen can’t be discounted.

The Golden Knights may not have the same hunger or desire, but repeat champions are common in recent NHL history.

What about the chances of the Leafs and Oilers?

The Toronto Maple Leafs boast a group of forwards that is the envy of most teams around the NHL. The talents of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares have consistently put them among the most dangerous, high-scoring teams in the league.

They also bolstered their forward units with the addition  of Bertuzzi. A full season of Matthew Knies is cause for excitement as well.

Goaltender Ilya Samsonov established himself as a reliable and steady last season. He returns along with the emerging Joseph Woll and recently signed Martin Jones.

The Leafs problem is their defense. It is far from championship caliber. It lags far behind the group of defenders on the Knights, or really, on any other contender.

As for the Oilers, they are led by the lethal combination of superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. They have depth at forward with the likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zach Hyman, and Evander Kane.

They have bolstered their defense in recent years with the emergence of Evan Bouchard and last year’s acquisition of Mattias Ekholm. They join incumbent Darnell Nurse to make an above-average defense.

The Oilers problem is their goaltending. Leafs castoff Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner did not inspire confidence last year. Their play will need to improve drastically for the Oilers to contend.

Both the Leafs and the Oilers made it through the first round of the playoffs last year. At that point, many fans around Canada (especially in Toronto and Edmonton) were salivating at the prospect of a Leafs versus Oilers Stanley Cup Final.

If one ignores the old axiom that “defense and goaltending win championships”, perhaps the Leafs and Oilers can go on sustained playoff runs.

As it is, their flaws on defense or in goal make it unlikely.

Next. 3 Players Due for a Bounce Back in 2024. dark

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers both need to rely on their offensive ability to win a title. It’s their, and Canada’s, best hope.