Bondi’s Best Bets: Who to put your life savings on this upcoming NHL season

With the NHL regular season two weeks away, various bookmakers have released their lines on how they believe teams will do. As a degenerate gambler myself, I’ve decided to share my thoughts on which teams should be good bets this upcoming season. These picks will be 100% correct come April, so feel free to wager uncomfortable amounts of money on my predictions.

All lines are based from Bodog and are subject to change in the future.

Arizona Coyotes Over 76

The reasoning is quite simple. They’ve improved a ton on defence with the addition of Niklas Hjalmarsson and now Jason Demers, Antii Ranta should give them solid goaltending, and Derek Stepan should provide some much-needed offensive punch — all of these players were acquired through trade and without giving up any major pieces. They also have two top-end prospects in Clayton Keller and Dylan Strome likely to crack their lineup. I don’t see them having anything less than this total. (Note: I would get on this line as soon as possible. It’s already moved up 1.5 points since it’s opened).

Anaheim Ducks Under 104.5

The Ducks finished with 105 points last year and are still a solid team, but will be missing some key pieces to start the season. Ryan Kesler is likely to be the first two months of the season, and Sami Vatanen plus Hampus Lindholm will also be out for the beginning of the season. They will once again be a contender in the Western Conference but their injury trouble to begin with may leave them short of the point total they’re predicting.

Toronto Maple Leafs Over 95.5

Last year the Leafs had a surprising season where there wasn’t much expectation. They ended up with 95 points, good enough for the last playoff spot and they have the potential to do even better this year. Last year Toronto finished 1-8 in the shootout, worst in the league — that’s bound to be better. They also had some bad luck in one-goal games that could move back the other way. As much as it pains me to say, the Leafs are a team on the rise.

Colorado Avalanche Over 70

Colorado was spectacularly bad last year, finishing with a lowly 48 points. You have to be actively trying to be bad to finish with a point total around 48 for two straight seasons, and the Avs still have some respectable players that they shouldn’t hit that again — I don’t expect players like Nathan Mackinnon to have a 5.43 shooting percentage this season. They won’t be a playoff team by any means, but they won’t be nearly as terrible.

Edmonton Oilers Under 104

This could be risky because of Connor McDavid, but I’m not as sold on the Oilers as everyone else seems to be, especially after one good season. They will be a playoff team, but they once again traded another top winger during the summer for an underwhelming return, and the depth chart is not exactly great. People want the Oilers to follow the same path as the early Crosby Penguins, but that may not happen.

Winnipeg Jets Over 91.5

The Jets have a ton of good young talent — Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers — but their Achilles heel has always been goaltending. Enter Steve Mason. Winnipeg signed him to a two-year deal on July 1st, and if he can provide average goaltending they should be much better than the 87 points they had last year. They’re in a very tough Central Division, so the Jets will likely be aiming for a wildcard spot. That’s very possible with the team they have.

Carolina Hurricanes Over 92.5

Like the Jets, the Hurricanes have been subjected to terrible goaltending over the last few years, which as really hurt them. Consequently, they went out and acquired Scott Darling who looked good in his limited role in Chicago. It will be interesting to see if Darling can be a true number one starter in the NHL, but my money is on yes. The Hurricanes could be the surprise team in the East this year.

2017 Champions League Final Preview: The Classic Case of Offence vs. Defence

When Juventus and Real Madrid take to the pitch on June 3rd, it will pit two teams who are almost total contrasts against each other. Juventus have arguably the best defence in world football; they’ve conceded just 35 goals in 51 matches this season, and only 3 of those have come in the Champions League. In contrast, Real Madrid has scored 196 goals over the course of the season in all competitions.

In the team’s previous meeting, Juventus won 3-2 over two legs in the semi-finals of the 2015 Champions League. Ronaldo scored both goals for Madrid, while Alvaro Morata scored two as well, including the game winner.

Juve went on to lose that 2015 final to Barcelona, but a lot has changed for them since then. Of the starting 11 that game, six of them are no longer at the club — and of the five of those started, I would say that Leonardo Bonucci and of course Gianluigi Buffon are the two “locks” to start the final.

Possible Juventus lineup.jpg

This is Juve’s likely lineup to start the game. Considering they have one league game left on the 27th and it means absolutely nothing, I’m fairly certain everyone will be fully fit come June 3rd. After some early season lineup tinkering, manager Max Allegri has pretty much settled for this being his strongest eleven, especially in the Champions League where he has used some sort of variant of this formation in five of their six knockout games.

The biggest challenge for Juventus will be to try and stop Cristiano Ronaldo. You can easily make the case that he’s the most prolific goal scorer in Europe right now. In the semi-final against Atletico Madrid, Ronaldo was used more as an out-and-out striker rather than as his traditional position on the wing. He’s incredibly lethal in front of goal — as evidenced by his hat-trick in the first leg — but may have his opportunities limited going up against the combination of Bonucci and Chiellini.

Possible Madrid lineup.jpg

The biggest question mark surrounding Real Madrid’s starting lineup is the health of Gareth Bale. The winger has been out since the El Clasico against Barcelona on April 23rd, and hasn’t featured since. If he does come back into the lineup, look for Madrid to switch to a 4-3-3 with Isco being taken out.

However, if I was Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane, I would be very hesitant in doing that. Isco was arguably their best player in the second leg of the semi-final, scoring their only goal and setting up numerous other chances. To replace that with a rusty, perhaps not 100% fit Gareth Bale would be a mistake in my eyes.

In terms of the game, Juventus will have to be wary of the Real Madrid counter — they’re more lethal on the counter than when they’re trying to break down a defence. Unfortunately for Madrid, Juve is very comfortable sitting back and absorbing pressure, as evidenced by their scoreless draw against Barcelona back in April. I think Madrid are good for one goal, but that’s about it. And if Juve score first, they may get none at all.

If I was a betting man (which I totally am) I would put my money on a 1-1 draw that goes to penalties, in which Juventus will prevail. It should be a great game.

The NBA Finals will probably be Warriors/Cavs again — and that’s not a bad thing.

Barring some monumental upsets in the conference finals, the NBA finals will once again be between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. It will be the third straight year that they meet in the final, and there’s a real possibility that both teams could go undefeated before they meet in the final.

There’s been a lot of discussions online about how this is bad for the NBA and its product. The main argument is that it’s ruining the league’s product and destroying the so-called “parity” of the league.

First of all, the notion that the NBA had the parity problem figured out before this is laughable. Between 1996 and 2014, a total of 7 different teams won the NBA championships — the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs won 10 of those. In fact, of those seven teams, four of them won multiple titles. The NBA for its recent history has been a league constructed of a few “have’s” and a whole lot of “have not’s.”

There’s also the question of the product of the NBA. Is there really a problem with the product? The league just signed a massive TV deal with ESPN, last year’s game seven was one of the most-watched games ever, and each team improved their worth from the year previous — now 18 franchises in the NBA are worth 1 billion dollars or more. If there’s a problem with the product, it doesn’t seem to match up with the record revenue the league is generating.

As well, too much parity can make a league uninteresting and boring, especially to the casual fan. It’s arguably my biggest problem with the MLS. The strict salary cap system the league has in place has created a system where it’s a total crapshoot year to year where teams will finish and who will actually win the league.

Check out the standings right now. The team that was 2nd in the Western Conference in 2016 (Colorado) is last in the Western Conference right now. The team that was last in 2016 (Houston) is currently in first. Columbus, who were 9th in the Eastern Conference last year, are in 2nd in the East currently.

There’s so much fluctuation season to season that you might as well predict who will win the MLS Cup by throwing a dart and seeing which team it lands on. It’s a great example of if the parity concept is taken to the extreme and waters down the product.

Perhaps we’re seeing a change with the emergence of Toronto FC becoming a sort of “super team” for the MLS (if they can sustain their success for a few years). But every league needs those strong teams that a casual fan can latch on to and tune in if they feel like it — and hate on.

With super teams, you also get the possibility of huge underdog upsets. Look no further than Leicester City defying the odds by winning the Premier League title last season. It’s not a story if Real Salt Lake beat Houston, but it’s a huge story if Deportive La Coruna manages to beat Barcelona.

Parity is good and all, but at the end of the day what is best for the NBA and the product itself is that the best teams meet up for a chance to win the championship. The NBA arguably does this better than any other league, and a Warriors/Cavs NBA Final Round 3 will arguably be one of the most anticipated finals in recent memory. It’s not bad for the product at all — it can only make it stronger.

Hi!

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This is my first foray into writing for my own personal website and to be honest, I can’t say for sure what this site will be about. There will definitely be posts about sports, but I’ll also try to write about my thoughts about music and some humour writing which I’ve gotten myself into recently.

Stay tuned, I’ll try and have my first post up in the coming days.

Nick