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Flames finally respected by oddsmakers

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If you're like me, you like a bit of a gamble on sports. The NHL is no different, and while there's a myriad of options on game day, money can be made in the preseason market too.

Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Last year, the Calgary Flames were one of two teams priced as 100/1 outsiders for the Stanley Cup. Obviously, that didn't happen - as my lost £1 can attest to - but the Flames made more waves than anyone in or out of the sport expected.

This year's pre-season markets reflect that, with the Flames now definitely rooted in the mid-field of the NHL running.

A brief explanation of betting odds

For those who don't know, in betting, the shorter the odds, the more likely the bookmaker thinks that team, horse, person, or event, is to win or occur. For example, a $100 bet on a team at 100/1 would earn you a tidy $10,000 profit. The only thing being that it isn't likely to happen, so the bookies are likely to give bigger odds on that, fairly safe in the knowledge that they won't be paying out on lots of 100/1 shots.

On the other hand, a heavily backed favourite, especially in horse racing, might be as low as 1/100, meaning that the same $100 bet would only earn you $1 profit. The bookies make those odds shorter to avoid huge payouts on well backed things.

When looking to place a bet, particularly in the pre-season when everything is still relatively unknown, it is best to shop around to find the biggest price for the outcome you want to put a bet on. Should your desired result occur, you should be looking to make the biggest profit.

Outright winners of the Stanley Cup

No longer 100/1 outsiders, you can get as low as 17/1 that the Flames take home the cup.

Calgary Flames to win the Stanley Cup
Bodog PaddyPower (UK/Ire) William Hill Bovada.lv
+2800 (28/1) +1700 (17/1) +2200 (22/1) +2800 (28/1)

The Flames are very much in the midfield as regards to overall winners - Paddy Power's shortest price of 17/1 still has the Flames in 11th of their overall ratings, whereas Bovada's has the Flames in 15th place. One thing Paddy Power has in its favour is that it also offers each-way betting on the cup. This means if the Flames were to lose in the final, you would be paid out at half the odds, so that $100 wager would earn you $850 profit.

The favourites for the cup are, unsurprisingly, the Chicago Blackhawks, with all bookmakers pricing them around the +800 (8/1) mark, which is still a tidy 8-times profit on whatever you place on them.

Western Conference Winners

For some reason, the bookies seem to think the Flames have a better chance of taking home the Cup than they do winning the Western Conference, which is interesting, because winning the Cup is, well, probably much more difficult to achieve, and you have to win the conference final to have a chance of taking the cup home.

Calgary Flames to win the Western Conference
Bodog PaddyPower (UK/Ire) William Hill Bovada.lv
+1400 (14/1) +800 (8/1) +1000 (10/1) +1400 (14/1)

As you can see, the odds are shorter than winning the cup, but that's due to the smaller amount of possible outcomes. While Paddy Power clearly fancies the Flames' chances, placing them fifth in their rankings, Bovada has them eighth out of 14, Bodog has them ninth and William Hill 10th - the last three particularly towards the lower end of the midfield. Should the Flames continue the upwards curve and surprise everyone beyond last year's magic run, a bet on them winning the West could prove to be a bit of astute business.

Again, in terms of favourites, the Blackhawks lead the way, with odds of around +350 (7/2) about the best you can find. The Anaheim Ducks follow them closely, the best price I've been able to find for them being +450 (9/2).

Pacific Division Winners

Again, the Flames very much find themselves in the middle of the pack as it comes to taking the Pacific.

Calgary Flames to win the Pacific Division
Bodog PaddyPower (UK/Ire) William Hill Bovada.lv
+600 (6/1) +350 (7/2) +450 (9/2) +600 (6/1)

All these odds are quite enticing until you remember that the Pacific is essentially the South California Invitational. It's not beyond the realms of possibility that the Flames win the Pacific, but it's much more likely that they finish second or third to Anaheim and/or LA, the two clear favourites for the Pacific.

If you're feeling optimistic, though, the +600s available from Bodog and Bovada are extremely tempting.

Other odds and ends

Beyond the overall, conference and division winners it can be hard to find anything else worth betting on, particularly in the Canadian market. William Hill are also offering odds on which state the cup winners will come from - Alberta is +1600 (16/1) while the favourite is currently "any other" - which includes Illinois - at -125 (4/5). Should you be visiting this page and happen to be a UK or Ireland resident, Paddy Power are offering several other markets which may take your fancy.

While the Calder Memorial Trophy probably already has Connor McDavid's name etched on it for 2015/16 (+125, 5/4), the now-19-year-old Sam Bennett is available at +700 (7/1), which could be a good shout if either McDavid or Jack Eichel (+400, 4/1) go down injured. Another left-field suggestion is the unlikely future hero Emile Poirier, who you can get +3000 (30/1) on.

Elsewhere, you can get +500 (5/1) that Mark Giordano finally gets his name on the Norris Trophy, something that should have happened already were it not for injuries. Alternatively, his linemate from last year, T.J. Brodie, is available for +2200 (22/1), as is their new teammate Dougie Hamilton.

Finally, Sean Monahan and his father Jiri Hudler are +2500 (25/1) to take the Rocket Richard trophy (with no odds for McDavid, strangely), Karri Ramo is +4000 (40/1) for the Vezina, and the all-conquering Brad Treliving is +1200 (12/1) to become GM of the year.

There is money to be made from the Flames this year. It's just a case of where, and how much, to risk.

Please remember to gamble responsibly.