Roundtable: Bold predictions for the 2020-21 NHL season

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What under-the-radar free agent move will pay off big this NHL season?

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Anthony Duclair in Florida could pay off big for the Panthers. He scored a career high 23 goals last season in Ottawa, but the market wasn’t kind to the 2020 free agent class, so the 25-year-old had to settle for a one-year, $1.7M deal. In another contract year, the goals may continue as he’ll be look to help lead the Cats’ offense.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: I’m not sure Cam Talbot is that great, but the Wild’s defense was so suffocating, he doesn’t need to be. He could really help Minnesota if he’s merely above-average, and that doesn’t seem like a tall task

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Love the Craig Smith signing by Boston. He is a really good player (possession driver, 25 goals), is a great fit for the way the Bruins play, and that contract term is outstanding. All of the focus in Boston is on the defensemen they lost, the goalies, and even the injury to David Pastrnak, and everyone seems to ignore the one guy they did add. He is going to make an impact. 

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: I think Tyler Toffoli was an excellent move for the Habs. Montreal made a lot of moves and I admire in general their mentality going into the year. I expect Toffoli to be an impact and help some of the younger players.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Justin Schultz. The Caps have undergone a bit of a makeover on ‘D’. They extended trade deadline acquisition Brenden Dillon, picked up Trevor van Riemsdyk, and recently signed Zdeno Chara. But Schultz, who signed a 2-year/$8M deal, has the potential to be the biggest difference maker of this group. He was a polarizing player in Pittsburgh but brings offensive upside and a championship pedigree.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: If the talk is true, then the Calgary signing of Josh Leivo could pay off big. Right now (and it’s early) he is playing with Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk. The Flames told him at the time of signing that they wanted him to play an offensive role and if he sticks on the second line with Lindholm and Tkachuk, he certainly will have the offensive role he desires.

[MORE: 2020-21 NHL on NBC TV SCHEDULE]

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Do you want to see re-seeding of the final four playoff teams beyond this NHL season?

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: We’re at the point where the league should just go to a 1-16 overall playoff format. Keep the conference setup for schedule purposes, maybe give division winners an edge, but give us the best 16 teams in the postseason. For now, re-seeding in third round could see some years where the series are subpar, but I feel more often than not the series would be more intriguing and potentially lead to even better Stanley Cup Final matchups.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Absolutely. For years, the NHL’s swung far too much in favor of parity over rewarding teams for being elite. No league should ever be happy with a conference final round being deemed “the real Stanley Cup/Super Bowl/etc.,” so this is the NHL’s chance to tweak the playoffs so the best truly face the best.

(Well, in theory. There would still be plenty of upsets in reality, because, as always … hockey.)

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: My initial reaction to this is the Conference vs. Conference format works, and I have no problem with it. But I also love the possibility of the new potential Stanley Cup Final matchups that are out there. Do I love it because it could legitimately be great, or do I love it because it is a new possibility? I am still leaning toward the former so I am going to say yes, reseed them every year!

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Yes. Parity is cool but I want to see the best teams advance more than I care about arbitrary division markers.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Let’s look at what would’ve played out the past few seasons:

2019-20: TB vs NYI & VGK vs DAL
2018-19: BOS vs STL & SJ vs CAR
2017-18: WSH vs WPG & TB vs VGK
2016-17: PIT vs NSH & ANA vs OTT
2015-16: STL vs TB & SJ vs PIT

Honestly, I’m not sure I like those matchups better (note that last season, those were the matchups produced by the current format). My take on the playoff format debate: no matter what method is used, there will always be complaints that, in a given season, a different format would’ve produced better matchups. I’m not sure there’s one solution that would give the fans everything they want year after year. Playoff hockey is great already, let’s be happy with what we have.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Yes. Only The NHL and NBA still go with an East-West Final and it should be the best two teams. Reseeding for the final four will allow this to happen.

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Give us one bold prediction you have for this NHL season.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: After signing a deal following his camp PTO, Mike Hoffman will lead the Blues in scoring.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: I chose Rick Tocchet to be the first coach fired, but he won’t get that pink slip during the regular season. That’s right: no in-season coaching firings for 2020-21. (But all bets are off during the 2020 offseason.)

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: The Winnipeg Jets trade Patrik Laine to the Philadelphia Flyers. 

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Predicting the Sharks as a playoff team is probably the boldest take I have, but the wilder take in the back of my head has been about the Kings making a playoff push, but still falling short.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Taylor Hall will pair perfectly with Jack Eichel and will sign a massive contract extension to stay with the Sabres.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: The Stanley Cup will finally return to Canada with the Toronto Maple Leafs claiming the crown.