When the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, they had to blow up the team over the offseason due to salary cap restrictions, making a title defense extremely unlikely.
This time around, the Blackhawks planned ahead wisely, and were able to keep the core almost completely intact; including re-signing breakout power forward Bryan Bickell and signing goaltender Corey Crawford to a long-term extension.
The Blackhawks ran away with the Presidents' Trophy last season with a 36-7-5 record (77 points), and followed that up with a dominant run in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Chicago is a 6/1 favorite to defend their title on NHL betting lines for the 2013-14 championship. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are each going off at 25/1 to win NHL MVP as well.
Chicago's long-time division rival, the Detroit Red Wings, will be making their debut in the Eastern Conference this season. With easier divisional opponents and less travel to deal with, the Red Wings are expected to make a splash this season with their season points total currently set at 97.5.
Detroit is going off at 16/1 to win the Stanley Cup, according to Cup odds updates.
Of course, in order to win the Stanley Cup, out in the Eastern Conference, the Wings will likely have to get through the conference's two top dogs in the Pittsburgh Penguins (15/2 to win the Stanley Cup) and the Boston Bruins (10/1).
Boston fell just short of winning its second Stanley Cup in three years last season when it lost to the Blackhawks in the finals, but added Jarome Iginla this offseason for some additional scoring depth. Pittsburgh meanwhile shored up its defense with the addition of Rob Scuderi, who was the top stay-at-home defenseman on the market.
Back out West, the newly formed Pacific Division has plenty of Cup contenders. The Los Angeles Kings (12/1 to win the Stanley Cup), Vancouver Canucks (16/1), and San Jose Sharks (18/1) all hope to get the job done this season.
Los Angeles won its first Cup ever in 2012; San Jose and Vancouver are still looking for their first. The Kings are an 8/5 favorite to win the Pacific, with Vancouver going off at 3/1 to win the division and San Jose going off at 9/2.