LAS VEGAS — Circa Sports oddsman Jeff Davis took a few days to cook his hockey books, sift through rosters, distill player ratings and schedules and sprinkle in some secret ingredients.
About six weeks ago, he produced NHL regular-season point totals, and divisional, conference and Stanley Cup odds.
For Blackhawks fans, the finished product had a certain stench.
“It’s a team that is looking to tank,” says Davis, 45. “Not the players, but upper management. And, frankly, they should.”
Because, he says, the NHL’s bottom-feeders — Arizona, Chicago, Montreal and San Jose — all covet 17-year-old Connor Bedard, a slick 5-9 center for the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League.
The prize of the next NHL draft.
Adding 35-year-old Jack Johnson alerted Davis to the Hawks’ intentions.
“To me, the Jack Johnson signing looks like an elite tank signing,” says Davis. “It makes them look like they’re trying, by signing a veteran. But he’s arguably one of the worst defensemen in the league.
“I don’t see how they can be good. It looks like they’re actively trying to get Connor Bedard. Their floor is a lot lower than their ceiling is high.”
Davis devised an initial Blackhawks’ season-points total of 62.5, which has been bet up to 64. He found a 70.5 at another shop and made a healthy Under wager.
“I couldn’t believe somebody had [a 70], because when you have a team in their situation . . . I don’t see how this roster can make the playoffs, given the teams around them. They’ll just be trying out all these kids on the third and fourth lines.”
Chicago has missed the playoffs four of the last five seasons, and it might flirt with a second 50-point full season since 1995-96.
Is that the price of success, of seven triple-digit point seasons over a nine-campaign stretch, highlighted by Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015?
“They win some Cups, sign these guys to big deals,” says Davis. “Eventually, you get into [salary-]cap hell. The contracts are great, until the last season or two, and that’s where they are now.”
It’s all kids, says Davis, or guys like 28-year-old left wing Jujhar Khaira, who has a negative plus-minus in six of seven NHL seasons in which he has logged more than 10 games.
To win Lord Stanley’s silverware this season, Chicago is an astronomical 1,000-to-1 shot, along with Arizona, at Circa Sports and DraftKings.
Some people wagered Over on Chicago early (pumping its points total) at Circa and Under elsewhere, hoping to “middle” between 63 and 70 points — a gap pro bettors consider substantial.
At the South Point, puck sage John the Barber favors Columbus. It has the Blue Jackets’ points at 82, 30-1 odds to win the Metropolitan Division, 40-1 to take the East and 75-1 to win it all. Chicago’s point total is 64.5 at the South Point.
(Odds and prices subject to change.)
To win the Hart Trophy, Patrick Kane is 100-1 at the Westgate SuperBook. New Czech goalie Petr Mrazek is 300-1 to win the Vezina at DraftKings.
“He’s been great in his career,” says Davis of Mrazek. “He’s also been horrendous.” Alex Stalock is the Blackhawks’ 35-year-old reserve keeper.
Colorado is the Stanley Cup choice at the South Point (+350), DraftKings (+380) and Circa (+480).
Davis taps the Avalanche to inspire Hawks fans, since Colorado ended 2016-17 with an NHL-low 48 points. Last season, it won its third Stanley Cup, its first since 2001.
The Avs, whose projected 112.5-point total is the largest at Circa, play host to Chicago on Oct. 12 in both teams’ season opener.
Davis also spotlights Colorado center Nathan MacKinnon, in the final season of a seven-year, $44.1 million contract.
“Look at MacKinnon, who’s on a ridiculously cheap contract. He didn’t want to play on a bad team. He wanted [Colorado to have] cap space, and they win a Cup. That’s what Chicago needs to happen.”
A 24-hour window two summers ago displayed the difference between Chicago and Colorado.
On July 23, 2021, the Blackhawks inked Seth Jones, 27, to an eight-year deal worth $76 million. The next day, the Avs signed Cale Makar, 23, for six seasons at $54 million. Both are defensemen.
“It seemed like the teardown was going well, then the Blackhawks signed Jones to that ridiculous contract,” says Davis. “They’re already trying to dump him a year later. Who would take him?”
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are a combined $21 million cap hit. Davis expects at least one, maybe both, to be dealt by the March 21 deadline. Centers Andreas Athanasiou and Max Domi are both on single-season $3 million deals.
That’s $27 million of salary room next summer, even with the Jones anchor.
“Right now, they only have money allocated for three players for 2024-25,” says Davis. “It’s a few years before this team will be relevant. To expect this team will be in the playoffs in two years, that’s just too far-fetched.
“And it will be hard for them to sign big-name free agents, knowing it’s a few years away.”
Davis isn’t completely sullen about the Blackhawks’ future. He does like defenseman Jake McCabe and 20-year-old German left wing Lukas Reichel.
And if Chicago were to draft Bedard, whom The Hockey News four years ago called the future of the game?
“The generational No. 1 pick,” says Davis. “By all accounts, this kid is the next real deal.”