- Terry Frei, Special to ESPN.com
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What're the odds?
The Red Wings are the favorites here, at 3-1. The Predators are the longest shot on my board, at 150-1.
Here's the disclaimer, offered as if it's being read at the end of a car dealer's commercial and the dealer hopes you don't figure out that "all credit applications accepted" is not the same as "all credit applications approved": I'm not "setting lines" with the express purpose of predicting the way the public will wager, and thus guarantee a profit for the house no matter what happens.
That's why when folks whine about oddsmakers' predictions or lines not showing respect, it's silly. The oddsmakers are not predicting anything but the way the gamblers will bet. And if they're wrong about the way the dollars will be wagered, the line or the odds adjust.
So, when I'm giving my opinion of the odds of winning the Stanley Cup for each of the 16 playoff teams, that's all it is. It's my opinion of how much of a chance each team has of winning the Stanley Cup. Offered for entertainment purposes only.
Ogie Oglethorpe is neither my enforcer nor my bagman.
I'm also doing it while paying at least nominal attention to trying to have the percentages add up to 100 by the time I'm done. What I mean by that is that if a team is 3-1, as the Red Wings are here, it is deemed to have a 25 percent chance of winning the Cup, and so on. This also reflects the belief that the champion most likely again will come from the Western Conference.
Perhaps it gives you an idea of how the sports books make money, too. When the odds are so artificially stingy on the typical "future" propositions, by the time you get done with the math, the cumulative percentage for all the choices is 282.
1. Detroit Red Wings -- 3-1
The Red Wings rightfully have drawn considerable praise for masterful work in making the transition from relative free-spending to the cap age, but it will take another Stanley Cup to completely validate all of that. The only reason the Wings' odds aren't shorter is that goalie Dominik Hasek will have to prove he can hold up physically through the two-month run. For all the Wings' strength as a puck-moving, puck-control team playing keep-away, does anyone think they can win a second time with Chris Osgood in the crease?
2. Anaheim Ducks -- 6-1
The defending champs face serious roadblocks in the West again -- and not just the Red Wings. But with Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne back from their sabbaticals, and Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry coming even more into their own, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere proven as a money goalie, they're big-time threats to repeat unless Chris Pronger has too many postseason cases of team-hurting brain lock or Todd Bertuzzi's bad karma tips the balance.
3. San Jose Sharks -- 8-1
The Sharks are the hottest team in the league, and the addition of Brian Campbell at the deadline added a dimension that nudged them to another level. It would help if Patrick Marleau, who got going in the second half, cranks it up even more in the postseason.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins -- 9-1
It might be a case of beat 'em this season or maybe forget about it for at least a couple of years. The cap era makes it tough to even get a dynasty debate started, much less maintain a dynasty, and this roster is going to be difficult to hold together as it matures. But Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar & Co. are the favorites to come out of the East.
5. New Jersey Devils -- 14-1
There's so much to admire about this resilient organization, even its new building in Newark and escape from the depressing Meadowlands. Heck, this time, GM Lou Lamoriello didn't even fire Brent Sutter during the five-game losing streak in March. Any team with Martin Brodeur in the crease is a Cup threat, and the run gets started with that spotlight-stealing matchup with the Rangers.
6. Montreal Canadiens -- 16-1
Did somebody hypnotize Alexei Kovalev into (incorrectly) thinking this is his contract year as he led the Canadiens to the highest goal total in the league? Trading Cristobal Huet and committing to going with rookie Carey Price in the net in the postseason is risky, but when the Habs tried this before -- going with a young goalie who had led his team to the AHL championship the year before -- it worked out. It was 1986, the year before Price was born. And the Canadiens come into the postseason on a 14-3-1 roll. Getting Saku Koivu back soon would be a key.
7. Calgary Flames -- 20-1
This might seem to be overrating the Flames' chances, but this is the most schizoid and puzzling team in the league. It means that Calgary has a chance of getting its act together at the right time with Jarome Iginla willing everyone else to follow him and Miikka Kiprusoff getting stingy.
8. New York Rangers -- 22-1
They've got to get past the Devils first, but either here or anywhere the odds are for more than entertainment purposes. These guys just won't go away as the best what-the-heck "long shot" choice. Chris Drury is going to get a clutch goal or two or more. Jaromir Jagr might even be coaxed into paying attention in the postseason as he likely sticks with rookie center Brandon Dubinsky and adds to the Rangers' three-line balance. Plus, Henrik Lundqvist got over his personal playoff hump a year ago.
9. Dallas Stars -- 25-1
Sergei Zubov's injury, the bad-luck-of-the-seeding first-round matchup against the Ducks and their lackluster play down the stretch -- even after the acquisition of Brad Richards -- add to their odds. There's huge pressure here to get out of the first round for the first time in four seasons, and if they can pull that off, the weight will be off their shoulders -- and then look out. The positive to last season's first-round loss to Vancouver was that Marty Turco, the two-time NCAA champion, jettisoned his reputation for NHL postseason shakiness.
10. Minnesota Wild -- 30-1
The Wild ended up winning the Northwest, and there is no disputing coach Jacques Lemaire's genius -- as long as you're not getting into style points and wondering what Marian Gaborik could do if he was unleashed. Get behind these guys and you're in trouble. It's a balanced roster, and Lemaire has gotten the most out of it, at least in the competitive sense. But, as in the other conference, the No. 3 seed isn't the third choice.
11. Colorado Avalanche -- 32-1
Unlike what some folks want you to believe, this is not the only team in NHL history to suffer injuries in the regular season. (See: Boston, Edmonton ) But it's fair to say that with Joe Sakic, Ryan Smyth and Paul Stastny all out for significant stretches, and with Marek Svatos still out and lost for the postseason, it's interesting to listen to the debate about whether the Avalanche underachieved in finishing sixth in the conference or did an amazing job under the circumstances in Jose Theodore's rebound second half. Plus, in case you haven't heard, this Swedish guy returned to the NHL in late February and showed Foppa-esque flashes down the stretch. It's all intriguing, but they have to show they can pull all the elements together.
12. Philadelphia Flyers -- 35-1
The seeding system worked in the Flyers' favor, and that's a bonus. One thing we do know: This will be a fun first-round series with the Capitals in the matchup of the conference's two worst teams of last season. GM Paul Holmgren has done a great job of rebuilding on the fly, and the Flyers' balance up front is a postseason plus. But there's still some work to be done.
13. Ottawa Senators -- 50-1
The defending Eastern Conference champions pulled off one of the biggest collapses in recent memory, and I suppose you could argue that if they awaken and knock off the Penguins, that will mean they've snapped out of it and their 2007 experience will come into play. But Daniel Alfredsson's and Mike Fisher's knee injuries are the last straws in a bizarre season.
14. Boston Bruins -- 60-1
The banged-up Bruins did a good job under coach Claude Julien just to get here, but it won't last long.
15. Washington Capitals -- 100-1
It's a great story for the league with Alexander Ovechkin taking his refreshing act -- so much talent with showmanship that hasn't (yet) gone over the top -- into the postseason, but it won't last long.
16. Nashville Predators -- 150-1
Given the offseason mess, it's amazing the Predators made the playoffs -- and just being competitive against the Red Wings would add to the accomplishment.
Terry Frei is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He is the author of the just-released "'77" and "Third Down and a War to Go."
8dScott Burnside and Craig Custance