The Chicago Blackhawks snap up Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury in the offseason, but sportsbooks are only cautiously optimistic about their chances.
Marc Andre Fleury is flush off winning the Vezina Trophy, and yet, a month later, he is traded away to the Chicago Blackhawks. For very little as well, as the Vegas Golden Knights get the acquisition of a prospect Mikael Hakkarainen in return. So, the overriding question is whether the Blackhawks just won big time with this trade?
Sizing up the Chicago Blackhawks in the context of betting, sportsbooks, at best, tip the Chicago Blackhawks as middleweights in Stanley Cup Betting. Bovada Sportsbooks (visit our Bovada Review) has the Blackhawks priced at +4000 while BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review) has the Blackhawks priced at +5000. Intertops, by contrast, has the Blackhawks priced at +8000, which represents the longest odds at this current point in time available with most top-rated sportsbooks.
The opinion is divided about Fleury being awarded the Vezina Trophy this year. Tampa Bay Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov was the most vocal when voicing his displeasure, which was directed at the league for overlooking Bolts’ Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy and less about Fleury himself. Although the Russian did call it the ‘number one bullshit.’
Fleury’s first-ever Vezina Trophy comes on the heels of a solid season with the Golden Knights that culminated in a semi-final appearance (l. to Montreal Canadiens). He played 36 games last season and went 26-10-0 in 36 starts. He allowed 71 goals against with 1.98 goals-against average. As well, he finished the season with a .928 save percentage, 15.42 goals saved above expected, and 27.7 goals above replacement mark with 5 wins above replacement.
On paper though, Fleury does represent an immediate upgrade for the Blackhawks. So, on that score, the Blackhawks are winners. Last season, Chicago’s netminders combined for .903 save percentage.
However, that’s all relative. The numbers are not guaranteed to transcend from team to team. Fleury may or may not improve Chicago’s defense when all is said and done. Goaltenders are the last point of defense, and they’re only as good as their blue line is and the overall team that steps onto the ice before them. Any breakdown in the ranks and things can go south quickly no matter how good a goalie is on paper.
In Vegas, Fleury was manning the posts for a Golden Knights unit that’s steeped in depth and talent. The blue line in particular featured Shea Theodore, Alex Martinez, and Alex Pietrangelo, to name a few. Theodore finished the season amongst the top five plus/minus players with a 28 rating.
Such a luxury is non-existent in Chicago, at least not with the way the team stacks up currently. For instance, Vegas finished the season with a league-leading PK% of 86.8%. Chicago finished with the fourth-worst PK% of 76.8%.
Of course, it’s still a way to go before the 2021 NHL season kicks off. Things can improve in Chicago’s ranks before then. However, for the time being, Chicago Blackhawks look to benefit by Fleury’s arrival given his experience, quality, athleticism, and credentials. Whether he’ll benefit too is another matter entirely.
The league plans to return to its normal October-April schedule this season, with a full 82-game regular season. The plans were released last week and include a projected start date of October 12. With the NHL expansion team, the Seattle Kraken, set to make its debut, a few changes were made to the way divisions aligned. Mainly, with Seattle joining the Pacific Division, the Arizona Coyotes move into the Central Division. NHL betting markets are in full swing across multiple sports betting sites for those fans looking to place early wagers.