With the NHL's top four teams residing in the Western Conference, oddsmakers have given the Chicago Blackhawks a significant vote of confidence in early odds to win the 2015 Stanley Cup. Almost every sports book monitored by OddsShark.com had Chicago in the range of 13-2 to 7-1 to relive their Stanley Cup glory of 2013.
But while the Hawks may be the most talented team, with high-echelon stars such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith, they play in a conference with the defending-champion Los Angeles Kings (10-1). Throw in two uber-talented squads in the St. Louis Blues and the Anaheim Ducks -- both at 12-1 -- and you have a rocky road to the Cup finals.
If the handicapping theory is that getting out of the West will leave a team so exhausted they can't compete in the finals, it's been a losing theory lately. The Kings and Hawks have claimed the past three Cups while emerging from the Western wars.
"The Kings and Blues are hard, heavy, deep teams who grind teams to bits, while Chicago boasts more top-end talent to steal those close games," said Jack Randall, a hockey analyst at OddsShark.com. "The fact that oddsmakers have set their season win total odds six points higher than the rest of the Western teams speaks to this potential regular-season domination."