Normally, when December 1st rolls around, the NHL season is well underway, with the notable exception of 1995, 2004, 2013, and now, 2020. Much like the previous years, at this point, there is no known start date to the season. However, unlike those past seasons where a labor dispute cost the league games, it is the COVID-19 pandemic that has altered the NHL’s plans to start the 2020-21 season.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the start date of the season, there is plenty of optimism that a season will indeed happen. So, unlike in 2005 when the Lightning did not have an opportunity to defend their Stanley Cup Championship, they should get that opportunity in 2021 and the early Stanley Cup odds at Sports Betting Dime indicated that they are, in fact, the favorite in the Eastern Conference.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise considering this is a team that has gone 159-60-15 over the past three regular seasons including a 62-win season in 2018. Despite some hits to their depth and some questions with unsigned players, they will return much of the core that drives this team including some of the best players at every level like Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Behind the Bolts in the East are the Bruins (+1200), Flyers (+1400), and the Leafs (+1600).
However, despite being the defending Champions, the Lightning are not currently the favorites in the entire league. That distinction is shared by a pair of Western Conference teams. The Colorado Avalanche and the Vegas Golden Knights. The Golden Knights, of course, lost to the Capitals in the Cup Final three seasons ago, their first in the league, and returned to the Western Conference Final last year as the number one seed. In the offseason, they were able to lure Alex Petriangelo from the Blues to solidify the back end of their defense.
For Colorado, a rash of injuries derailed a promising run for the Avalanche this past season but with the likes of guys like Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar, their potential continues to grow. In addition, they signed Andrei Barokovsky to an extension and acquire veteran Brandon Saad from the Chicago Blackhawks.
Not much, if anything, should change where these teams stand whenever the season begins.