You’ve seen it done with everything from European soccer teams to “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestants. Sometimes the only way for a shit-eating wildperson to understand any non-MMA part of the world is to put it in terms a fight fan can understand.
So with hockey season now upon us, the CME turned to Ya Boi Cat Pope to help us all make the transition from the cage to the ice by comparing NHL teams (shown here with their current betting odds to win the Stanley Cup) to their MMA fighter equivalents. Feel free to go argue in the comments if you’re a Patreon supporter. And if you’re not? Well, you might consider remedying that and joining the damn team.
Take it away, Cat Pope, you glorious bastard.
Colorado Avalanche +550
An unrelenting machine with all tools they need. They can beat you at every facet of the game and are smart enough at the front office level to know where they need to improve each offseason. They haven’t won it all with this team yet, but greatness just feels like an inevitability – and they dare to be great.
MMA equivalent: Israel Adesanya
Tampa Bay Lightning +600
A damn juggernaut that looks unstoppable. They have depth and, after a hard offseason where they lost a full line of forwards to the expansion draft and free agency, they still look like the team to beat out of the east. With their ability to replace talent year after year, there are very few reasons as to why they shouldn’t compete for their third cup in three years. They’re basically a kickboxer that throws their opponent to the mat just to show they can.
MMA equivalent: Valentina Shevchenko
Vegas Golden Knights +700
The Knights have known nothing but success after entering the league in 2017, however they’ve been missing a true top-line center since their inception. They have great depth on their roster and a strong defensive core. No one really looks good playing against them and no one wants to run into them in the playoffs. They’re a serious title contender and it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see them raise a cup this June.
MMA equivalent: Leon Edwards
Toronto Maple Leafs +1200
They have everything you could want in the skill department up front. One of the best shooters in the league in Austin Matthews, and an amazing complimentary playmaker in Mitch Marner on their top line. But somehow they never get it done in the playoffs (they got knocked out by bitter rival Montreal last season), and their great roster is now another year older. They’re a serious contender. Unfortunately, they’re in a loaded division and time may be running out.
MMA equivalent: Justin Gaethje
Boston Bruins +1400
This team is staring down their last big shot at what is likely the end of an era. Their long time second line center David Krecji did not resign with the team this season, and goalie Tuukka Rask doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to sign a new deal or even declare his health status. While they do have the bones of a very good roster remaining and they’re only three years removed from a Stanley Cup appearance, father time waits for no one. They might be left chasing ghosts of bygone glory in a rascal scooter.
MMA equivalent: Conor McGregor
New York Islanders +1700
They’re not a ton of fun to watch and they don’t really care. They have a smothering offense and their defensive acumen is second to none. They don’t have incredible finishing ability or power, but they get the job done through superior game plans and getting everything they can from their roster. They aren’t anyone’s top pick to win a title, but no one would be surprised if they ground out a high-flying offense and then showed up with the belt around their waist.
MMA equivalent: Curtis Blaydes
Pittsburgh Penguins +2000
Had a dynastic run for two back-to-back cups in 2015 and 2016, and looked poised to do it again in 2017 before losing to the eventual champion Washington Capitals. However, all the true heads know how good those teams were back then, and time has shown that as long as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin can get into the lineup the Pens can still compete for a cup. They’re an aging striker that everyone knows isn’t the same as they were in the past, but they have adapted their game and under the right circumstances they might just make the most of one last shot.
MMA equivalent: Jose Aldo
Florida Panthers +2200
A great roster with strong depth players throughout the lineup, which should make for an exciting team. They also have the most expensive goalie in the league, Sergei Bobrovsky, and he might not even be in the starting role to begin the season. Three of their divisional rivals have already been named ahead of them on this list, so the Panthers are already fighting for their playoff lives before the season even starts. They’re a super talented team that is just in a shark tank of a division, meaning they might get lost in the shuffle.
MMA equivalent: Yair Rodriguez
Carolina Hurricanes +2200
After years of being the trendy analytics pick to have a breakthrough, the Hurricanes finally had some sustained success starting in their conference finals run two seasons ago. This offseason the Hurricanes made some shrewd moves, but also some that seemed to be purely about spite and revenge while stealing talent from division rivals. The Hurricanes should remain competitive and could very well be the best team in their division, but the way they made headlines this offseason shows that ever since they playfully embraced the we’re-a-bunch-of-jerks persona, they might have gotten a little too committed to living their gimmick.
MMA equivalent: Colby Covington
Washington Capitals +2300
The Capitals have been one of the top teams in the league for over a decade. They have Alexander Ovechkin chasing down Wayne Gretzky’s goal record over the next few seasons, and also an aging core. They likely won’t be a top contender for the cup this year but they’re still a dangerous squad and if things break their way they can add another ring. But right now it seems like they’re just out there to stack up goals and rewrite the book on offensive output.
MMA equivalent: Max Holloway
New York Rangers +2400
A former perennial contender that went through a rebuilding stage and came out of it with all the potential in the world. They have the reigning Norris winner in Adam Fox, and one of the top players in the league with Artemi Panarin. But after a late season run-in with Tom Wilson and the Capitals, they now seem to think that toughness and grit are going to solve their problems rather than developing the outstanding existing skills they already have.
MMA equivalent: Cody Garbrandt
Minnesota Wild +2500
The Wild have spent the last decade toiling in the mushy middle of the NHL standings. Last season they caught lightning in a bottle when their long-awaited prospect, Kirill Kaprizov, came over from the KHL and set the league on fire as one of the most prolific playmakers. As of right now they are going to be a competitive team with exciting potential in a winnable division. But even though they’re set up for success this year, they still seem like they’ll have a hard time making a case as one of the best even when hitting the top end of their potential.
MMA equivalent: Phil Davis
Dallas Stars +2800
One of the flashiest offensive units in 2020 during the bubble playoffs, and had outstanding goaltending by their entire platoon before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning. But that feels like ages ago, and they missed the playoffs entirely last season. They should be healthy and competitive again this season with Tyler Seguin returning for the start of the season, but it doesn’t seem like they’re going to be the offensive juggernaut they once were and might still be relying on name recognition to get them this high on the list.
MMA equivalent: Jorge Masvidal
Philadelphia Flyers +2900
Every year since 2012 they’ve made the playoffs one year only to miss them entirely the next. Their franchise is the model for being consistently inconsistent. They have talent that could carry them deep on a playoff run, but they also have so much potential volatility on their roster. Any outcome feels equally likely at this point and nothing would be truly shocking. But somehow they always end up surprising you anyway.
MMA equivalent: Nate Diaz
Edmonton Oilers +2900
A one-dimensional specialist in a weak division, but that one dimension happens to be the generational talent of Connor McDavid. Backed up with the supporting skills of second line center Leon Draisaitl, they can ride these skills straight to the top if everything breaks correctly, but they have some glaring weaknesses in their shaky goaltending tandem and their defensive core. Still though, when your one bright spot is very, VERY bright, you just never know.
MMA equivalent: Derrick Lewis
Winnipeg Jets +4100
Quietly went out and had a very good offseason by filling in some gaps on their blue line with veteran talent with the likes of Brendan Dillon and Nate Schmidt, and in net they have one of the best in the world with Connor Hellebuyck. Their approach isn’t going to produce high-flying highlights, but they’ll be dangerous and drag teams into deep waters. At the end of the season don’t be surprised if they’re kicking around in the Western Conference Finals.
MMA equivalent: Michael Chiesa
St Louis Blues +4100
Feels like they’re a lifetime removed from their Stanley Cup win in 2019, but that might not be entirely their fault considering, well, the state of the world since that. The Blues are just a solid team in every aspect of the game and could easily contend for another title under the right circumstances. The Central Division will be a tight race, but they’ve done it before and could do it again if everything clicks when it needs to.
MMA equivalent: Robert Whittaker
Chicago Blackhawks +4100
Had an interesting offseason, signing a couple potentially helpful if aged free agents, but just because a few things have turned around doesn’t mean this former dynasty is going to reopen the history books for another cup run. They have their captain Jonathan Toews returning from a very vague injury, and they’ll be better than they were last season. But name-recognition aside, they’re not ready to compete with the upper echelon of the league once again.
MMA equivalent: Junior Dos Santos
New Jersey Devils +4800
Went out and made a splashy free agent signing in Dougie Hamilton, a puck-moving defenseman that the analytics community loves. Also drafted Luke Hughes, the brother of their highly touted center Jack Hughes, who looks primed to be a star in this league. But even with all this talent and a few flashes of brilliance, they also exist in a division that won’t give them a chance to break through. For now they seem content to pursue some moral victories, make a few headlines, and build the hype for what the future may hold.
MMA equivalent: Sean O’Malley
Calgary Flames +4800
Tons of personality, toughness, and grit. The Pacific division is a wide-open race, but there may be no team in the NHL that has a more diverse range of plausible outcomes. Matthew Tkachuk should be the new captain as well as the person they build this franchise around for years to come, but he’s already hinted that he’d like to be gone sooner rather than later. At the end of the season, they could have gone on a deep playoff run or they could be be entirely irrelevant.
MMA equivalent: Paulo Costa
Montreal Canadiens +5000
No team benefited more than the Habs from the realignments of the divisions due to the closed border during the pandemic. After beating the Leafs in the first round of playoffs, they went on a tear to sweep the Jets and upset the Golden Knights, only to get stomped in the cup by the Lightning, who will be in their division this season. They’ve lost more than a few key pieces, so it’ll be a tough rebound for the Habs after going on a run where everything seemingly went right for them – up to a point.
MMA equivalent: Marvin Vettori
Seattle Kraken +5000
A true mystery box. The organization has no history and has quite a few players playing in roles they’ve never been elevated to before. That could make for some surprises that we all get legitimately excited about, or the team’s inaugural season could end up as something that’s kind of cool as a novelty but doesn’t have what it takes to go beyond that.
MMA equivalent: Reug Reug
Vancouver Canucks +7000
Almost went to the conference finals in the weird bubble playoffs during what we thought was the COVID peak. While no one should rightfully expect much from the Canucks, the Pacific Division is wide open, so they might sneak into the playoffs and make something happen. Vancouver is the kind of team that channels the energy around them, for better and worse. With the right stones of the earth, who knows.
MMA equivalent: Jared Cannonier
Los Angeles Kings +8500
After having reached the top of the mountain once in the past decade, they now seemed poised to compete once again. But they also play in the coin flipping contest known as the Pacific Division, so their possible outcomes range from being one of the worst teams in the league to being a virtual playoff lock. They have the talent to be interesting, but may not be a championship threat right now.
MMA equivalent: Miesha Tate
Nashville Predators +8500
Sitting on the edge of what should be the start of a rebuild. This offseason they traded away a key piece in Ryan Ellis, and their long time goalie Pekka Rinne retired. Juuse Saros is poised to be a great replacement and even earned some Hart Trophy votes last season for league MVP, but overall this team appears to have their best days behind them with little to show for it.
MMA equivalent: Stephen “Wonderman” Thompson
San Jose Sharks +8500
They spent over a decade and a half as the team that could win the cup any year. Unfortunately they didn’t do that in any of those years. They might not have immediate title aspirations, but in a weak division they’ll be a team that can possibly make the playoffs and pose a threat on a nightly basis. They’ll show off some old magic in favorable match-ups, but the cup seems like an unlikely goal at this point.
MMA equivalent: Tony Ferguson
Arizona Coyotes +10000
It’s not even clear what arena they’ll play in next season and they’re trading away anyone that another team shows any level of interest in. Honestly, they’re a strange one to compare to any pro fighter, because traditionally fighters don’t go through clear rebuilding stages in their career. But there is definitely one dude out there tearing everything down to the studs and starting the process anew over and over again…
MMA equivalent: Diego Sanchez
Anaheim Ducks +10000
There was a time when the Ducks were a lock to win the Pacific division and were always in the conversation for cup contention. That time is also known as the Obama years. Theoretically they’re coming toward the end of their rebuilding period and could be making a push toward playoff contention if their prospects hit their ceilings earlier than expected – and if John Gibson returns to form as one of the best goalies in the world. But in the current landscape it seems unlikely that they’re immediately bound for the promised land.
MMA equivalent: Frankie Edgar
Detroit Red Wings +10000
Detroit owns a record that will likely never be broken in North American sports with a 25-year playoff streak. Unfortunately, since that streak ended five years ago they have been, by design, one of the worst teams in hockey. They’re supposedly coming out of their rebuild soon but it doesn’t seem promising. We’re all going to be better off remembering them for what they were, not what they are right now.
MMA equivalent: Fedor Emelianenko
Ottawa Senators +10000
Another organization that also should be turning the corner on their rebuild, however they aren’t a former champion. They’ve never been the team to beat. They’ve been to the cup final once before and came within a goal of going again in 2017, but since that it’s been hard times. If you want to be optimistic, their play down the closing stretch last year showed that if you take them lightly they can still make you pay. But in a stacked division they’re miles out of the title picture.
MMA equivalent: Donald Cerrone
Buffalo Sabres +15000
A team that seems to be in a perpetual rebuild, yet cannot get out of its own way. They have pieces in the organization that should develop into promising players down the line. But their track record doesn’t inspire much hope for true title contention after the past few years, and now they’ve turned into something that’s part league punchline and part cautionary tale.
MMA equivalent: Mike Perry
Columbus Blue Jackets +15000
They’ve struggled since their start and have had a hard time getting their star players to stick around. They had some success a few years ago when they loaded up at the trade deadline, and because of that risky play they are the last team to beat Tampa Bay in a playoff series. But they’re not that team anymore, despite some interesting players with high-end potential. They’re going to have to overcome a lot, and right now seem destined for a rebuild rather than a championship run.
MMA equivalent: Darren Till
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