by OddsShark (@OddsShark)
Regardless of how abrupt their first-round playoff exit might have felt, the Calgary Flames in many ways delivered on the betting value they presented at the start of the National Hockey League season.
At the outset in October, the Flames were a +2500 darkhorse in Stanley Cup futures at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The oddsmakers also gave the Flames an outside shot in division champion props with a +550 price, double that of the Pacific Division favourites, the Vegas Golden Knights (+240) and San Jose Sharks (+260).
There was, evidently, some inkling that a team laden with forwards in or approaching their peak years – think Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk – would adapt well to an NHL that had tweaked gameplay to encourage scoring. The Flames were -145 (bet $145 to make $100) to make the playoffs and +115 to miss the playoffs, and the OVER/UNDER on their 2018/19 regular-season points was 93.5.
Ultimately, a bettor who saw the Flames as a sleeper in the Pacific Division would have done very well. Not only did they make the playoffs and get the OVER on their point total with 107 points, but they also won the Pacific Division, which would have produced a more than fivefold profit for someone who pegged them as a team that could rise in a Pacific Division that has a combination of aging teams (Anaheim, Los Angeles), rebuilding teams (Vancouver) and one that was perhaps due for puck-luck regression (Vegas).
The year-over-year change was driven by going from 26th in the 31-team NHL in goal scoring in 2017/18 to second during the regular season, while also going from 19th to ninth in scoring defence.
As far as individual hardware was concerned, defenseman Mark Giordano came from virtually off the board on the NHL betting lines to become one of the three finalists for the Norris Trophy, which is presented to the NHL’s top defenseman. At age 35, Giordano tallied a career-most 74 points while also helping the Flames improve their goals-against record by a fair margin.
Even two months into the season, Giordano still had double-digit odds at +1100 in Norris props. The Flames captain does not have the same profile as fellow Norris finalists Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks and Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the ‘narrative’ factor – veteran in his 30s has career year – could make for an interesting outcome when the NHL awards are handed out in June.
Flames players only received passing mention in the preseason odd-setting. Gaudreau was a +5000 longshot in Hart Trophy props. While Gaudreau had a career-most 99 points – the most by a Flame in 25 seasons – he was not a Hart finalist. Goalie Mike Smith was also listed at +4000 in Vezina Trophy props, but ended up in two-goalie rotation with David Rittich.