- While only three NHL teams had double digit unit win totals where were seven teams that lost double digit units.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets were the worst ‘investment’ in the NHL, losing -18.4 units for their financial backers.
- Overall, 19 teams in the NHL finished in the red on a units of profit basis.
A couple of days ago we took a look at the most profitable teams in the NHL as Vegas (+13.7 units), Florida (+12.6 units) and Minnesota (+10.5 units) did a good job keeping bettors’ bankrolls full during the 2020-2021 season. Now we’ll look at the other end of the spectrum at the teams that lost the most money for bettors during the recently completed campaign. While just 12 teams finished with a units won profit there were 19 teams that lost money for the betting public. A whopping seven teams lost double digit units while two others–Calgary (-9.9 units) and Los Angeles (-9.8 unit) missed that dubious mark by mere fractions. The situation is such that we can’t limit our ‘hall of shame’ to just three teams as there are four teams that lost more than -15 units for hockey betting enthusiasts. None, however, did sports bettors more dirty than the Columbus Blue Jackets:
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (-18.4 UNITS)
The Columbus Blue Jackets weren’t projected to be anything special this year but priced at +3500 and the #18th overall betting choice in the preseason futures market at FanDuel you’d at least expect them to be decidedly mediocre. They weren’t anything close to that finishing with the NHL’s third worst record winning just 32.1% of the time. The Jackets still have enough ‘brand equity’ from years of being semi-competitive that the market pricing never really caught up to how bad they were this season. Columbus lost -18.4 units, nearly three units more than their closest ‘rival’. They couldn’t score at even strength tied for #28 in the league with Buffalo (2.39 goals per game). They were marginally better defensively though not by much–they allowed 3.29 goals per game tied with Chicago for #26 scoring defense. The power play was awful (#27 at 15.4%) though the penalty kill could be charitably be described as ‘mediocre’ tied with Ottawa for #20 (78.9%). The Jackets placement in the Central Division didn’t help things and they went 18-26-12 against divisional rivals. Their biggest struggles came against Florida and Nashville–the Jackets went a combined 3-10-3 against the Panthers and Preds. They were also a brutal 3-9 in overtime games.
BUFFALO SABRES (-15.7 UNITS)
It’s hard to remember back this far but at one point there was a modicum of hope for the Buffalo Sabres this season. They weren’t *that* bad in 2019-2020 going 30-31-8 for 68 points and the ‘last team out’ of the playoffs in the East. They were +5500 heading into the 20-21 season making them a #23 tie with Minnesota in the preseason futures odds. Nothing went right for the Sabres this season–the wheels completely came off and they ended up as the worst team in the NHL with a record of 15-34-7 for 37 points. The Sabres miserable season and the questionable future of the franchise with Jack Eichel looking to play elsewhere has been a ubiquitous topic in the NHL media but suffice to say that Buffalo didn’t do much right at all. They were the only team in the NHL that didn’t win a game in overtime during the campaign going 0-4 though they were inexplicably 4-3 in shootouts. They were a horrific 4-19-0 in games decided by 3 or more goals. They completely imploded in March going 1-13-2 and all season long were generally a punching bag for the Bruins, Islanders and Penguins going a combined 4-19-1 against these teams. They actually had a winning record against the New Jersey Devils (4-3-1), a team nearly as putrid as they were.
ST. LOUIS BLUES (-15.5 UNITS)
The St. Louis Blues aren’t nearly as bad as the previous two teams. They went 27-20-9 in the brutally tough West and actually made the playoffs where they were brutalized by the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs outscored St. Louis 20-7 en route to a four game sweep. Even in a division with the two best regular season teams in the NHL (Vegas and Colorado) they went a serviceable 27-20-9 against their divisional rivals. The Blues might be the most disappointing team in the league. Before the season began they were priced at +2000 to win the Stanley Cup, tied with Pittsburgh for the 8th best in the league. The Blues were mediocre 5 on 5 (2.98 goals against per game, 2.98 goals per per game) and actually had a good power play that finished #6 in the league at 23.2%. The penalty kill was awful at #24 (77.8%). St. Louis played better on the road where they were 15-9-4 than at home (12-11-5). The Blues were the epitome of ‘average’ and ‘mediocre’ but they were priced like they were a contender and that always burns through bettors’ bankrolls.
DALLAS STARS (-15.1 UNITS)
The Dallas Stars were a #10 co-choice to win the Cup tied with Edmonton and Washington at +2200. Like St. Louis, they really weren’t a *bad* team and their 5 on 5 defense was solid ranking #7 in the league allowing 2.60 goals per game and had the #5 power play in the league (23.6%). They were very good in some situations and went 14-7 in games decided by three or more goals. Unfortunately, they were 9-6-14 in games decided by 1. If they had been playing back in the 1970s when games could end in a tie they would have enjoyed a very good season. Since they didn’t have access to a time machine, however, their glaring liability was a league worst 14 losses in OT/SO. The Stars lost 8 of 12 in overtime and 6 of 8 in shootouts. This is a particularly brutal way to lose a bet. In theory, if you’re holding a ticket on a team going into OT you’d like to think you’re somewhere close to a 50/50 shot to cash said ticket. That’s not true in reality, but the ‘I’ve got a 50/50 shot’ is a common rationalization for all bettors sweating out OT. Their poor play after regulation hurt them terribly against some of their divisional rivals particularly Nashville–the Stars went 3-0-5 against the Preds. If the Stars can take any solace from the 2020-2021 season it is the knowledge that at least some of their problems were simply a function of bad ‘puck luck’. Unfortunately, that variance doesn’t help their financial backers who lost a ton of money on their OT/SO bumbling this year.