Stanley Cup Odds: Biggest Ever Betting Shocks
They say the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in sports. It’s definitely not easy; for the most part, the NHL’s top prize is reserved for the league’s top contenders, those with the talent and depth to make it through all four gruelling rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
That doesn’t mean victory is assured. Just ask the 2022-23 Boston Bruins, who were eliminated in the first round despite assembling a team that rivalled the Bobby Orr-Phil Esposito years – at least on paper. The Presidents’ Trophy Curse strikes again.
But what if we told you the ‘23 Bruins would have been one of the biggest underdog champions in recent history? Heading into the new campaign, Boston was floating around +2000 on the preseason Stanley Cup odds board at Bodog Sportsbook; the defending champion Colorado Avalanche were the favourites at +375, followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs at +700.
Looking at the top seven list of the biggest Stanley Cup upsets from a betting perspective, we’re only able to go back as far as 1985 for the “official” preseason stats before the birth of Bodog, so we’re missing out on teams like the 1937-38 Chicago Black Hawks (as it was spelled back then), who won the Cup despite going 14-25-9 during the regular season.
We’re also using the preseason NHL odds as our benchmark, which means we’re not including the 1941-42 Maple Leafs and their historic comeback from down 0-3 to the Detroit Red Wings. But our list does include some highly unlikely champions at the top.
7. 1994: New York Rangers (+1500)
It seemed inevitable in the rear-view mirror; the 1993-94 Rangers finished first overall with captain Mark Messier leading the way – alongside several of his previous title-winning teammates with the Edmonton Oilers.
But this was a franchise that had famously not won the Cup since 1940. They were tied for No. 10 on the NHL futures market behind the Pittsburgh Penguins (+400); it took everything the Rangers had, but they beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in Game 7 to finally end their misery.
6. 2011: Boston Bruins (+1600)
Sadly, the pain continues for Canucks fans to this day. They were among the top preseason favourites in 2010-11 Stanley Cup odds at +900, with the Bruins well behind in ninth; Vancouver won the Presidents’ Trophy, and even held a 3-2 lead over Boston in the 2011 Final before everything went south.
A hot goalie can change an entire season, and in this case, Tim Thomas was that goalie. Thomas allowed just eight goals across those seven games, breaking Toronto netminder Frank McCool’s record from 1945 to give the Bruins their first title since 1972.
5. 2012: Los Angeles Kings (+1600)
Sorry, Canucks fans. This one might hurt even more than losing to Boston; the 2011-12 Canucks were preseason Cup favourites at +700, and they won the Presidents’ Trophy again, but Vancouver was bounced from the first round by the Kings.
You can blame Jonathan Quick this time. Quick was excellent throughout the 2012 playoffs, never giving up more than three goals in a game; the New Jersey Devils scored just seven goals in six games during the Final, and the Kings were champions for the first time in franchise history.
4. 2004: Tampa Bay Lightning (+2500)
Now we’re getting into some serious underdogs. The Lightning had accomplished very little in their previous decade of existence, so while they were a team on the rise, Tampa wasn’t expected to compete with the likes of the Red Wings and Avalanche, the preseason co-favourites at +450.
Compete they did. With Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier leading the charge, the Bolts finished second to Detroit in the league standings, then came back from their own 3-2 deficit versus the Calgary Flames to win their first-ever Cup.
3. 1991: Pittsburgh Penguins (+3000)
Mario Lemieux was one of the very best players the NHL has ever produced, but his Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t even make the playoffs in 1990. Then they hired Bob Johnson as their head coach, and the magic started happening.
The Flames (+300), Oilers (+500) and Bruins (+500) may have been the league’s top contenders that year, and the Penguins were coming out of a weak Patrick Division that they won with just 88 points while Lemieux sat out most of the season with a bad back. However, Super Mario returned to score 16 goals in 23 playoff games, as Pittsburgh beat the Minnesota North Stars in six to claim their first title.
2. 2019: St. Louis Blues (+3000)
This might be the biggest stunner since NHL odds were first recorded. On New Year’s Day 2019, the Blues were last in the league and +10000 long shots to bring the Cup to St. Louis for the first time. They were nowhere near Tampa Bay, the preseason favourites at +875 who went on to win the Presidents’ Trophy by 21 points.
Nevertheless, they persisted. Fuelled by the strains of Laura Branigan’s 1982 hit “Gloria,” and the instant success of rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington, the Blues went on a tear to finish third in the Central Division, then stunned the world by beating all comers in the playoffs – none more stunned than the Bruins, who lost the Final in seven after going up 1-0 and 2-1.
1. 2006: Carolina Hurricanes (+6000)
This was the first Cup Final after the 2004-05 lockout, and those circumstances produced an underdog champion that might never be matched. The introduction of the salary cap has brought parity to the NHL, for better or worse. The 2005-06 Hurricanes were one of several long shots that year to enjoy a strong regular season, which culminated in their first Cup victory after going the full seven with the Oilers in the Final.
Are the next Stanley Cup odds underdogs lurking around the corner? Visit the NHL futures market at Bodog Sportsbook for updated odds on the next champions, and remember, always keep your stick on the ice.