PHT’s 2020-21 predictions: NHL Awards, first coach fired, free agent busts

It’s almost here! The 2020-21 NHL season begins on Wednesday with a triple-header on NBCSN. As we wait for puck drop, let’s begin with some predictions for the new year. Today we’ll look at our NHL Awards picks, which teams are overhyped, who will be the first coach fired, and more.

Pre-season predictions are fun way to get a sense of what people are thinking heading into a new season. There was plenty of changes around the league during the off-season.

Who will take home the hardware in June and what teams and players will be notable this season? Here’s what the PHT staff is thinking at the moment.

Be sure to give us your picks in the comments!


Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Canadiens. There’s certainly a good future here with Nick Suzuki and Alexander Romanov, among others. But that Josh Anderson contract could look like a nightmare soon, and you wonder if their depth will be able to chip in when needed. Plus, can Carey Price recapture his form from circa 2015?

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Canadiens. Look, the Habs aren’t bad — you might even see them among my playoff picks. But their solid run in the playoff bubble really drove a lot of wishful thinking, and at least some of those breaks won’t go their way. (Remember when it seemed like Shea Weber was on the verge of retirement? It wasn’t that long ago.)

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Maple Leafs. I actually hate doing this because I really do love their forward talent and I hate the narrative around their salary cap structure. But you also can not ignore the fact that in four years this group has not won a single playoff round. Is T.J. Brodie still a top-pairing defender, and how good is he without Mark Giordano? Is adding a bunch of mid-late 30s (and an early 40s!) forwards the missing pieces to the puzzle? I am not sure. I do think the all Canadian divisional format helps them come playoff team with some better potential matchups, but at this point I still have to actually see it. 

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Rangers. Look, I fell for the Rangers last year and they got hot at the end, sure, but I just don’t really buy in on the whole thing. Artemi Panarin is great, they have some good defensemen, Alexis Lafrenière is there, but there’s still something off; plus, the division just has better teams.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Rangers. I buy them as an up and coming team. I do not see them being significantly better than they were last season. Alexis Lafreniere is a big addition, but the Rangers still lack depth up front and on defense.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Golden Knights. Vegas keeps signing players and then dealing them elsewhere. The team morale can’t be great.



Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Wild. They’ve long been that team’s that makes you feel “meh.” But there’s some excitement now with the arrivals of Marco Rossi and Kirill Kaprizov, plus the expectation of Kevin Fiala taking another big step forward. Cam Talbot may be starting, but Kaapo Kahkonen brings hope down the road in goal.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Flames. On the flip side of bubble-related recency bias, people are probably a little bit too down on the Flames. With that talent, and a potential difference-maker in Jacob Markstrom, the Flames could surprise. Not “Stanley Cup” surprise but maybe they’ll be less of a bummer?

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Canadiens. I think Montreal has a chance to really make a big move here this season. They had great possession numbers a year ago and potentially addressed their finishing issues offensively with Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson. I do not love everything they did this offseason, but the potential is there. The additions, the goalie duo, the potential breakout by a player like Nick Suzuki, and the division format makes this a very interesting team.

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Canadiens: I really like the offseason the Canadiens had. They made a push to be a better team and already showed some spark in the bubble.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Jets. Their offense is still scary and they’ve got a stud in net. The North Division is up for grabs, so I like the Jets’ chances all things considered.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Jets. They have too much firepower up front with Scheifele, Wheeler, Connor and Laine, plus a great goaltender in Hellebuyck.

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Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Evgenii Dadonov. Playing in Florida since 2010 may not have helped his rep, but he’s a real good player and a consistent goal scorer. Since 2017-18, he has more goals than Sidney Crosby, Johnny Gaudreau, Claude Giroux, Logan Couture, Phil Kessel, Filip Forsberg, Jonathan Toews, Taylor Hall, and Mitch Marner.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Jared Spurgeon. I’m ready to drink the Jared Spurgeon Kool-Aid, and not just because of the bad “surgeon” puns.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Mika Zibanejad. He is coming off a GREAT year but he still is not getting a ton of attention for it. He seems kind of lost in the shuffle of Artemi Panarin, the young players, the goalies, and everyone else on that Rangers roster. It also might be easy to write that performance off as a fluke, but he was a 30-goal, 75-point player the year before that. 

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Devon Toews: He feels like such a good fit with the Avs, and it’s easy to get buried behind some of the best offensive players in the game. He was averaging almost 30 points per season with the Islanders and he should take a leap.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Andrei Svechnikov. 20 goals as an 18-year-old rookie. 24 last season in just 68 games. He is a budding superstar and is a darkhorse to challenge for the goal scoring crown this season.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Jack Hughes. He was the first overall pick in 2019 and had only 21 points in his rookie year. Joe Thornton had only seven points in his rookie campaign after being drafted first overall and jumped to 41 before quickly becoming one of the best in the NHL.



Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Rick Tocchet. There was plenty of off-season turmoil for the Coyotes, and with a new GM in town, Bill Armstrong may not wait long to decide to bring in his own coach.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Rick Tocchet. Few coaches are safe when a new GM takes over, and the Coyotes seem like they’re on the brink of disaster. So I’ll pick Rick Tocchet.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Not that it is going to be his fault, but I could see Jeremy Colliton taking the fall in Chicago for what is going to be a brutal season. The injuries, the goalie situation, the lack of depth all over the roster. I am not sure Colliton is the long-term coach in Chicago and this just seems like a tough spot to be in.

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Ralph Krueger: It just doesn’t feel like Buffalo is going to have a good time, which we probably knew, but this training camp start doesn’t look so hot.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: This is a tough one. Two-thirds of the leagues coaches have spent two or fewer seasons coaching their current team. So looking at the “veterans” the one that stands out is Jeff Blashill. The Wings have stuck by his side but if the losing continues, might Steve Yzerman think about making a switch?

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: John Tortorella. The apparent animosity coming from Pierre-Luc Dubois means that GM Kekalainen has to decide who to keep, Torts or Dubois. The player wins out here.


Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Jacob Markstrom. That’s a six-year, $30M contract given to a 30-year-old goalie. He had another strong year in Vancouver last season, but netminders don’t age well once they hit 30. This looks like an all-in type of move for the short-term before blowing it up if the team underachieves.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Joel Edmundson. Look, the Habs didn’t ruin their future by giving Joel Edmundson baffling term and money. Still, teams can often put themselves in bad positions by making a series of medium-sized mistakes. (See: Canucks, Vancouver. Though some of their gaffes were large.)

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Chris Tanev in Calgary is one that I am not really all that high on. This would have been a great signing four years ago, but I am not sure Tanev is that same player anymore and I do not see the Flames getting the player they think they are getting. 

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: T.J. Brodie: External defensemen haven’t had the best time when they’ve ended up in Toronto over the past couple of seasons. 

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Jacob Markstrom. Calgary has lacked stability in net since the Miikka Kiprusoff days, so I understand the move. Markstrom is a huge upgrade in the short term. But there were a lot of options on the goalie market this offseason and I think they overpaid here.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Braden Holtby. He has not played well the last couple of seasons and Thatcher Demko is poised to take over the net in Vancouver.

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    Coyotes minority owner suspended by NHL following arrest

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    NEW YORK — Arizona Coyotes minority owner Andrew Barroway was suspended indefinitely by the NHL on Friday following his arrest for domestic violence in Colorado.

    Online court records show Barroway was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of second-degree assault strangulation, a felony, and third-degree assault, a misdemeanor. He appeared in court Friday to be advised of the possible charges he is facing and is scheduled to back in court on April 3.

    Barroway spent Thursday night in Pitkin County Jail after police arrested him at an Aspen hotel, according to a police report obtained by the Aspen Daily News.

    “The National Hockey League is aware of the arrest of Arizona Coyotes’ minority owner Andrew Barroway,” the NHL said in a statement. “Pending further information, he has been suspended indefinitely.”

    The 57-year-old Barroway was arrested after a verbal altercation with his wife turned physical, according to the police report. He is prohibited from having contact with his wife, except when it involves their children, and can’t consume alcohol under a court order.

    A prominent hedge fund manager, Barroway owns 5% of the Coyotes.

    “We are aware of the allegation regarding Mr. Barroway and we are working with the League to gather more information,” the Coyotes said in a statement. “When we have enough information, we will have an appropriate response. Until the investigation is complete, we will have no further comment.”

    Blue Jackets’ Patrik Laine out 2-4 weeks with triceps injury

    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine is out 2-4 weeks after straining a triceps muscle in practice, yet another blow to the last-place team in the NHL that has been hampered by injuries all season.

    The Blue Jackets announced Laine’s absence before their home game against the New York Islanders.

    They already have 454 man-games lost to injury, one of the highest numbers in the league, and have a record of 22-41-7.

    Laine missed two separate stints with elbow and ankle injuries in the fall. The 24-year-old Finn is the team’s second-leading scorer with 52 points in 55 games.

    Columbus has been top defenseman Zach Werenski since November because of a torn labrum and separated shoulder. Forward Sean Kuraly recently went on injured reserve with a strained left oblique muscle but is set to return Friday.

    Tortorella earns 700th career win, Flyers top Wild 5-4

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    PHILADELPHIA — John Tortorella needed one word to sum up if 700 career wins meant anything to the Flyers coach.


    OK, then. Good thing the brusque Stanley Cup winner isn’t paid by the word.

    James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal in a shootout, and Philadelphia beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Thursday night for Tortorella’s 700th victory.

    Tortorella is 700-573-181 in 1,454 games as an NHL head coach. His 700 wins rank 12th in NHL history and his career games rank ninth in NHL history. He led Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup in 2004. In his first season coaching the Flyers, Tortorella joined Peter Laviolette as the second American-born coach to win 700 games.

    “I think the culture’s kind of changed around here,” Flyers forward Joel Farabee said. “I think he’s done a really good job of keeping the group together.”

    Farabee, Scott Laughton, Rasmus Ristolainen and Tyson Foerster scored for Philadelphia. The Flyers have two straight games for the first time since Jan. 9-14 when they won three straight. Yeah, it’s been that kind of season.

    “Farabee’s starting to pop, he’s looking real good. Tyson is looking real good,” Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo said. “This is all about laying the foundation for next year but we get a lot of money to do this job. It’s something we love, so we’re gonna go out and give it our best every night.”

    Matt Boldy had two goals for the Wild, and Oskar Sundqvist and Marcus Foligno also scored.

    “We weren’t very good. They were good,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “We knew they were playing well, they played well tonight. We were loose. We were not firm, turnovers, it didn’t look like our hockey club.”

    The Flyers and Wild were tied 1-all at the end of the first period, 3-3 at the end of the second and 4-4 headed into OT.

    The rebuilding Flyers have been plucky of late. They had won two of three coming into the game, with the lone loss in overtime. They showed some of that grit in the final two periods, scoring late tying goals.

    “It’s a credit to their group, to their coaching staff, that they’ve got them playing the right way,” Evason said.

    Boldy poked a backhander past Carter Hart with 6:28 left for a 4-3 lead. The Flyers, playing more for the No. 1 pick and for pride, tied the game on Foerster’s second goal of the season.

    Farabee tipped in Cam York’s shot early in the second for a 2-1 lead.

    The Wild got going when Boldy ripped one top shelf past Hart for his 24th goal of the season that tied the game 2-all. Foligno scored his seventh goal for the 3-2 lead.

    Ristolainen buried a hard slapper from the blue line on the power play for the tying goal with 23 seconds left in the second.

    “I think it’s good to try to lay this foundation, kind of get ready for next year. You see guys getting confidence,” DeAngelo said.

    The Flyers only played ahead in the first period.

    Laughton scored off the rush for his 17th goal of the season and a 1-0 lead. Sundqvist celebrated his birthday with a deflection for the tying goal with 3:24 left in the period.

    The Flyers had been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL until the start of this seven-game homestand (3-2 so far). They have scored at least three goals in every game and at least four in the last four.

    “We have definitely gotten to the net better,” Tortorella said. “We have spent a lot of time on the ice and with tape as far as getting to that area.”


    Wild: Host Chicago on Saturday.

    Flyers: Host Detroit on Saturday.

    Crosby reaches 30-goal mark, Penguins knock off Avalanche 5-2

    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    DENVER – Sidney Crosby wasn’t even aware of reaching yet another milestone. He’s simply locked in on helping the Pittsburgh Penguins make a 17th straight postseason appearance.

    Jeff Carter had a pair of goals, Crosby scored on a nifty backhand shot in the second period to reach the 30-goal mark for an 11th season and the Penguins beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.

    Crosby moved into a tie with Hall-of-Fame center Mario Lemieux for the most 30-goal seasons in Penguins history. Another milestone reached – it came as news to him.

    “I think the most important thing for me is just try to be consistent and if that reflects that great,” said Crosby, who turns 36 in August.

    Even more, Crosby’s the first player in league history to post a 30-goal campaign at 18 years old and again when he was 35-plus, according to NHL Stats.

    “It means I’ve been in the league for a while,” Crosby cracked. “That’s been the thing that’s driven me since since I got into the league – in your first year, you want to prove that you belong. Even at 35, I still think you want to prove you belong, because it is a younger league.”

    Jake Guentzel also scored and Bryan Rust added an empty-net goal for the Penguins, who snapped a four-game slide and moved back into a wild-card spot in the East.

    “It’s definitely a big one for us, for sure,” Guentzel said. “Defending champs, coming to their building, you know how good they are. Top to bottom, we defended hard and that’s what we have to do at this time of the year.”

    Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry stopped 28 shots in improving to 11-4 this season against teams from the Western Conference.

    J.T. Compher and Devon Toews had goals for the Avalanche, whose six-game winning streak was halted. Nathan MacKinnon had an assist to extend his home points streak to 18 games.

    It was a missed opportunity for Colorado, which could’ve pulled into a three-way tie with Dallas and Minnesota in the Central Division with a victory.

    “We knew they were going to play with urgency,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “But I didn’t feel like there was any reason why we couldn’t, either. … We didn’t get it done. Hopefully we get another one.”

    Alexandar Georgiev made 40 saves, including several critical ones in a second period controlled by the Penguins, who outshot the Avalanche by a 21-9 margin. It could’ve been more than a 3-1 deficit heading into the third period.

    Toews’ power-play goal made it 3-2 with 9:32 remaining. But Carter wrapped up the win with his first multigoal game in the regular season since Jan. 11, 2022.

    “I’m thrilled for him. We’re all thrilled,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Carter. “He cares about the Penguins. He wants to win, and he wants to contribute in helping us win so we couldn’t be happier for him.”


    Bednar was appreciative of the three-year extension he signed Tuesday that goes through the 2026-27 season. In his seventh season, he’s the third-longest tenured coach in the NHL behind Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Sullivan (December 2015).

    “It’s not a forgiving league or sport, for the most part, but obviously that’s part of the reason why I’m so grateful and thankful,” Bednar said. “Because there were times over my tenure that got a little hairy and management could have made another decision. But obviously they didn’t.”


    Avalanche D Cale Makar missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. “I still have him as day-to-day,” Bednar said. … F Darren Helm returned after missing 64 of 69 games this season with a lower-body injury. … Penguins D Jeff Petry (upper body) skated in the morning but sat out his third straight game. … The Penguins are 11-1 against the Central Division this season. … Penguins standout Evgeni Malkin assisted on Guentzel’s goal to reach the 50-assist mark for a seventh time in his career.


    Penguins: At Dallas on Thursday night.

    Avalanche: Host Arizona on Friday night.