During the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, it was apparent that the Colorado Avalanche was playing at a level above all of the other teams.

After earning the top seed in the Western Conference with 119 points during the regular season, the Avalanche lost just four games in the entire postseason, going 16-4 to unseat the two-time Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning to win the franchise’s third Stanley Cup and first since 2001.

2022-23 NHL Season Preview: Colorado Heavy Favorites to Repeat as Stanley Cup Champions, Eastern Conference Is Wide Open

The Avs have been building to this moment, reaching the playoffs in five-straight seasons but not getting out of the second round prior to last year. We saw something similar with the Lightning—once they broke through in the 2020 playoffs, they won 11 consecutive series before falling to the Avs in six games this past summer.

Oddsmakers are expecting a similar result for Colorado this year, as they open as heavy favorites to lift the Cup again at the end of the 2022-23 season. Here are the preseason Stanley Cup odds courtesy of JazzSports.

Colorado Avalanche+400
Toronto Maple Leafs+1000
Florida Panthers+1000
Carolina Hurricanes+1000
Tampa Bay Lightning+1200
Edmonton Oilers+12000
New York Rangers+1600
Calgary Flames+1600 

You can see after Colorado, it’s a series of Eastern Conference teams lined up next to challenge the Avalanche before you get to the Edmonton Oilers, whom the Avs swept in the most recent Western Conference Final.

Before we preview each conference and list the odds for conference champions, let’s take a closer look at the Avalanche.

If they are to repeat, it will be without goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who signed on as a free agent with Washington. Forward Nezem Kadri also tops the list of key departures. In goal, Colorado will go with Rangers backup Alexandar Georgiev and Pavel Francouz, who was 4-0 as a starter in last year’s playoffs while Kuemper dealt with an eye injury.

The cornerstone pieces of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, Valeri Nichuskin, Cale Makar, and Devon Toews all return.

2022-23 NHL Season Preview: Avalanche’s Western Conference Contenders in Western Canada

Last year, Edmonton faced Calgary in a spirited Western Conference semifinal matchup that saw the Oilers advance but had nothing left to give the Avs in what was a four-game sweep in the conference final.

The Oilers still have Connor McDavid, who is the favorite to win the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP. He’s joined by strong center Leon Draisaitl, but the problem last year was having a defense that could keep up with Colorado, and that doesn’t appear to have been addressed as much. If goaltender Jack Campbell plays more as he did at the beginning of the year than at the end, the Oilers may be poised to win a scoring slugfest with the Avs.

Kadri was brought in by Calgary to replace Johnny Goudreau, who took his talents to Columbus in the offseason, and the Flames also lost Matthew Tkachuk but are expected to contend again. In addition to adding Kadri, Calgary also is bringing in playmaker Jonathan Huberdeau, and they’ve added to their already strong defense by signing MacKenzie Weegar. They are also strong in goal with Jacob Markstrom.

Minnesota has a strong defense and while goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has been a journeyman, he’s won Cups with Pittsburgh and took Vegas to the Final a few years back, so if winger Kirill Kaprizov can find a new level in the playoffs, the Wild can make a run.

As for Vegas, they started strong last year but a second-half collapse saw them not even make the playoffs.

Here are the preseason odds to win the NHL’s Western Conference, courtesy of JazzSports.

Colorado Avalanche+170
Edmonton Oilers+550
Calgary Flames+700
Vegas Golden Knights+1000
Minnesota Wild+1000
Los Angeles Kings+1000
St. Louis Blues+1500
Dallas Stars+2000

2022-23 NHL Season Preview: Will the Lightning Be Dethroned in a Wide-Open Eastern Conference?

The Avalanche were the first team since the 2019 Columbus Blue Jackets to figure the Tampa Bay Lightning out, and they did it by scoring just enough against Andrei Vasilevskiy. “Vassy” looked mortal at times during the playoffs last year, giving up plenty of goals to Toronto and the New York Rangers as well.

The Bolts have played a lot of hockey in the last few years, but head coach Jon Cooper managed the minutes well last year among stars Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Victor Hedman. In fact, the Lightning didn’t even win their division the past two years, so they know what they need to do to get to the playoffs and do it well once they get there.

Toronto will get chided for yet another first-round exit as it approaches 20 years since they’ve last won a playoff series, but it came in seven games to the Lightning, so the Maple Leafs are closer than it would appear just by looking at last year’s playoff bracket. The extremely deep Leaf’s team, led by Hart Trophy winner Auston Matthews, feels like a team like Tampa Bay a few years ago—if they can get the monkey off their back and win a big series, they may be unstoppable.

Florida’s chances

Florida won the Presidents Cup last year but was swept in a second-round loss to Tampa Bay. In response, the Panthers added Tkachuk from Calgary to not only provide offensive skill but some defensive grittiness and overall toughness to the team.

Carolina and the New York Rangers bring back similar teams from a year ago. The Hurricanes lost a game 7 at home to the Blueshirts. On the other hand, the Rangers actually took a 2-0 lead on the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final before dropping four straight. Goaltender Igor Shesterkin appeared to get better as the playoffs went on. He is someone who can put a team on his back much as Vasilesvkiy has done for Tampa Bay.

NHL Odds

Here are the preseason odds to win the NHL’s Eastern Conference, courtesy of JazzSports.

Toronto Maple Leafs+500
Florida Panthers+500
Carolina Hurricanes+500
Tampa Bay Lightning+600
New York Rangers+800
Boston Bruins+1000
Pittsburgh Penguins+1000
New York Islanders+1500

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