No matter what point you’re at during an NHL season, you’ll tend to hear plenty of opinions regarding which teams are overrated or underrated.
Analytics are useful in sussing this stuff out – eye tests less so. One reason I like to look at sports betting markets for this kind of thing is that, to a certain extent, they are quantifying fans and bookmakers’ opinions of teams’ abilities. Lines move around as teams go through ups and downs or sustain injuries, and you can start to get a sense of which teams have under or over-performed relative to those opinions.
HockeyMarkets.com team ROI is a measure of how overrated or underrated an NHL team is relative to market expectations. Using sportsbook lines and theoretical betting units of $100, team ROI shows the average per-game return for each squad. Teams that have a negative number are underperforming, teams that have a positive number are exceeding expectations, and teams floating around the $0 mark are about where we thought they’d be.
Some of these are going to make sense and others are going to seem counter-intuitive, because we’re talking about some really bad teams here. The point isn’t to determine which teams met poor expectations, it’s to determine where teams are based on relative expectations. OK? So let’s get to the five most overrated teams.
No. 5: The Tampa Bay Lightning
TEAM ROI -$34.07
These things are going to happen when you enter the season as the odds-on Stanley Cup favourite and then get off to the kind of lackadaisical start that the Lightning have.
It’s not that the Lightning have been *terrible* – they are just outside the top 10 in GF% and CF%, and their standings situation isn’t quite as dire (yet) as those of some of the other surprise struggling teams. Although they’re currently outside the playoff picture, the weakness of the Atlantic Division puts them just three points back of the third-place Buffalo Sabres, with three games in hand. Not insurmountable by any means.
One noticeable change has been in goal, which is a partial contributor here. The Lightning have been absolutely spoiled with Andrei Vasilevskiy over the last little while, but this season he’s taken a step back. After posting a .925 save percentage last year and finishing second in goals saved above average at 26.39, Vasilevskiy is down to .906 and -1.82.
Another factor hurting the Lightning here is the fact they’ve lost a handful of very winnable games as huge favourites, including against the Ottawa Senators on October 12 (-260), the New York Rangers on Oct. 29 (-215) and last week against the Minnesota Wild just last week (-220).
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No. 4: Vegas Golden Knights
TEAM ROI -$35.13
Early this season, the Golden Knights held down the “most overrated” slot thanks to some of the most onerous betting lines in the league and a surprisingly slow start. Expected to be an absolute buzzsaw in terms of possession and scoring, they’ve spent the first couple months of the season dipping in and out of playoff position and struggling to find any kind of consistency.
They were losers of three straight, then winners of four in a row, and have since dropped back-to-back games, including the 5-0 annihilation at the hands of the New York Rangers on Dec. 8.
As I mentioned previously, finding a reliable option in net when Marc-Andre Fleury can’t play should be a priority. Malcolm Subban was in net against the Rangers while Fleury dealt with a personal issue and got lit up, pushing his already unimpressive save percentage down a few more notches to .901.
No. 3: Nashville Predators
TEAM ROI -$35.13
Our former No. 1 has begun slowly climbing the out of the basement, helped along more by the two truly awful teams below it than its own sudden resurgence.
The biggest issue the Predators are facing is in goal, and I outlined the reasons for that here. As a result, the kinds of things that smart bettors would typically look at when considering Nashville’s value – like their territorial dominance – are rendered moot.
I said it before and I’ll say it again: If one of Pekka Rinne or Juuse Saros don’t pick it up soon, the Predators are not making the playoffs this season. They do have games in hand on the wild card teams at the moment, but they don’t have the benefit of playing in a trash division like the Lightning do.
No. 2: Detroit Red Wings
TEAM ROI -$41.77
For a while there early in the season, the Red Wings probably would have been closer to the underrated list rather than the overrated. Despite being pegged as a possible last-place team, they went 5-3-3 – including a win against the defending Stanley Cup champs.
Now? Now they’re tanking like champs, which was probably the plan all along. The Red Wings are trash at everything, from shot attempt differential (28th) to goals for per game (31st) to goals against per game (31st) to power play (26th) to penalty kill (31st). They don’t have a single scorer with more than 25 points and Andreas Athanasiou is somehow a -33 in early December.
“How are the Wings overrated if we all knew they were going to suck?” you might be asking. The fact their ROI is where it is shows just how abysmal they’ve been. They had the lowest of low bars to step over this season, and they’ve walked face-first into it.
By comparison, the Ottawa Senators – the team most expected to wind up in the league basement this season – are actually profitable by this measure.
No. 1: New Jersey Devils
TEAM ROI -$41.86
We touched on the Devils a couple of weeks ago. Since then, they’ve managed to lose five straight games (four in regulation), while getting outscored 23-9.
The preseason Hall/Subban hype is long gone, with the former likely to be the biggest name on the move at the trade deadline.
They might get a bump at some point as the market adjusts to their ineptitude and they pick up a W or two here and there, but as of this writing, they are our most overrated team in the NHL this season.