by OddsShark (@OddsShark)
As it turns out, the best way to bet on the Toronto Maple Leafs this season would have involved taking the OVER on an individual’s performance and the UNDER on how the team fared.
After having competitive playoff series in 2017 and 2018 and signing goal scorer extraordinaire John Tavares to join their nucleus of young talent, the Maple Leafs were high up on the 2019 Stanley Cup champion futures board at +1200 (bet $100 to win $1200) at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. They were also the +160 favourite to win the Atlantic Division, just a smidge ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning at +165.
The oddsmakers also set an OVER/UNDER for regular-season points of 106.5, which might have seemed attainable given that Toronto had 105 points in 2017/18 and was collectively a year older and supposedly wiser.
The Maple Leafs had no problem qualifying for the playoffs – they were -800 to make it and +500 to miss – but hit a sort of plateau. A defence corps depleted by late-season injuries to Travis Dermott and Jake Gardiner was a factor in Toronto cruising home with a 46-28-8 record for an even 100 points, causing the UNDER to hit. The Lightning also ran away with the Atlantic Division, finishing 21 points ahead of the second-place Bruins.
The Bruins, of course, defeated the Maple Leafs in a seven-game first-round series. In what might be called the Year of Recency in the NHL, though, the Bruins became the only team with preseason Stanley Cup odds of fewer than 20/1 – they were also listed at +1200 in October – to reach the second round.
But a big preseason narrative with the Maple Leafs was how Tavares would perform after leaving the New York Islanders to join his hometown team. The OVER/UNDER on his regular-season goals was 34.5 (-130 OVER, +110 UNDER) on the NHL betting lines and for points it was 79.5 (-150 OVER, +110 UNDER). Tavares’ totals were both OVER, as he scored 47 goals and had 88 points, both a career high.
Tavares and fellow centre Auston Matthews were each listed at +1000 in preseason Hart Trophy futures for the NHL’s MVP, lower than only the Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (+333) and Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby (+650). Teammates can sometimes cancel each other out in the debate over an individual award and neither was seriously in the discussion, although both had solid seasons.
Frederik Andersen (+2500) was given only a modest chance to win the Vezina Trophy as the league’s most outstanding goalie. Andersen was his usual solid self with a 2.77 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 60 games while earning credit for 36 of Toronto’s 46 wins, but that was short of the range of being a Vezina finalist. No Maple Leafs goalie has won the award since the criteria was changed to a vote of the general managers in 1982/83