This is what qualifies as a dynasty in today's NHL. The Chicago Blackhawks, who went nearly 50 years without winning the Stanley Cup, have won three times in the last six seasons under head coach Joel Quenneville. The Blackhawks are favoured to do it again this year at +650, but first, they have to manage their way through the toughest division in hockey – the Central Division. Chicago is favoured there too at +240.

Winning the Cup is one thing. Making it through the 82-game regular season is another, and last year, the Blackhawks finished third in the Central. They also lost 12.31 betting units with a record of 29-53 against the puck line. Chicago doesn't have a lot of depth, especially on defense; the Hawks got away with it last year by avoiding the injury bug, but there's not much room for error this year.


The Contenders

The reigning Central champs are the St. Louis Blues (+300), who also had the best goal differential in the Western Conference at +47 to Chicago's +40. The Blues have finished first or second in the division four years in a row under head coach Ken Hitchcock, but their window of opportunity may be closing. The Minnesota Wild (+275) have already leapfrogged St. Louis in the eyes of the betting market, although the Wild had a middling season when it came to puck possession stats like Corsi For Percentage (No. 17 overall).

The Nashville Predators (+450), on the other hand, were sixth in Corsi For Percentage, and they could represent Chicago's strongest challenge this year. But from a betting perspective, the Winnipeg Jets (+950) could have even more value after leading all teams with 18.56 units against the puck line (48-34 ATS). These are two very small-market Central clubs skating in Chicago's long shadow.

Then again, the Dallas Stars (+800) could be poised for a breakthrough after missing the playoffs. The Stars added Antti Niemi to the goaltender mix after Kari Lehtonen's poor season (.903 SV%), and former Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya (+5 last year) will help shore up the Dallas blueline. Even the Colorado Avalanche (+1400) could prosper in the Central after falling from first place in 2013-2014 to seventh last year. Only Columbus lost more man-games to injury in 2014-2015. Good health is never a given in the NHL, but Avs fans have reason to be hopeful.



*Odds as of October 1, 2015