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2022-23 NHL Best Bets: The Calgary Flames are one of the best teams in the league

The Flames could be the team to unseat Colorado in the Western Conference

Goaltender Jacob Markstrom of the Calgary Flames in action against the Chicago Blackhawks during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on November 23, 2021 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
Goaltender Jacob Markstrom of the Calgary Flames in action against the Chicago Blackhawks during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on November 23, 2021 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)Read moreDerek Leung / Getty Images

The 2022-23 NHL Season gets underway on Friday afternoon when the San Jose Sharks take on the Nashville Predators in Prague. With just a few more days to go until the puck drops, the betting market for the upcoming campaign looks about set, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few teams out there worth a punt.

Today, we’ll take a look at the top of the board and size up a team that made a ton of noise during the summer: the Calgary Flames.

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Stanley Cup Best Bet: Calgary Flames (+1800, BetMGM)

One thing that will always happen when there’s a clear Stanley Cup favorite in the market is that every other team in the conference will automatically drift a little bit. And for a third straight season, the Colorado Avalanche sit atop the betting board ahead of Opening Night.

After Colorado (+450), the next four teams on the board (Toronto, Carolina, Florida and Tampa Bay) come from the Eastern Conference. There’s a pretty good argument to be made that Calgary is better than all four of those teams as it stands right now.

The Flames have had a wild year.

Calgary entered last season as a 45/1 longshot, but quickly caught fire and never really looked back. By season’s end the Flames had won the Pacific Division with 50 wins and 111 points. The spring ended in disappointment, with a loss to the Edmonton Oilers in the first Battle of Alberta in the postseason in more than 30 years, and a summer of uncertainty awaited.

» READ MORE: Could the Flyers really finish with fewer than 74.5 points? That might be the smart bet.

The entire season, an ominous cloud followed the Flames as they had to answer questions about the future of Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. Both players would end up leaving, but thanks to some magic from general manager Brad Treliving, the Flames may actually be a better team now than they were when the season ended.

Even though Gaudreau left for nothing, Treliving turned Tkachuk – who let the Flames know he was going to walk as a free agent next summer – into Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar. Huberdeau was tied with Gaudreau for second-most points (115) in the league last season while Weegar has spent the past two seasons as a top-pair defenseman with the Panthers.

Calgary wasn’t finished. The team signed prized free agent Nazem Kadri to round out a top-nine that now includes Huberdeau, Kadri, Elias Lindholm, Andrew Mangiapane, Tyler Toffoli, Dillon Dube, Blake Coleman and Mikael Backlund. And Sonny Milano is in camp on a tryout basis.

The Flames could have the deepest forward group in the Western Conference.

» READ MORE: 2022-23 Stanley Cup odds, picks: Capitals, Blues are flying under the radar

What’s even more impressive is that the defense may be even better than the forwards. The Flames led the NHL in 5-on-5 goals against last season and were the third-best team at preventing expected goals and high-danger scoring chances, and with Weegar joining a group that already features Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov and Oliver Kylington, those numbers could improve.

The cherry on top for Calgary is that the Flames also employ one of the NHL’s best goaltenders, Jacob Markstrom. The 32-year-old Swede posted a .921 save percentage and saved 15.6 goals above expected in 63 games last season and finished second in Vezina voting behind Igor Shesterkin.

It’s quite surprising that the Flames are in this position after losing Gaudreau and Tkachuk, but it’s clear that this is one of the best teams in the NHL. The Flames tick every box you want out of a Stanley Cup contender, and because Colorado is being offered at such short odds, there’s plenty of value on the Flames at 18/1.

» READ MORE: Full sports betting coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer

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