1. Can Taylor Hall help Jack Eichel to win in 2020-21?
This is without a doubt the biggest and most important question facing the Buffalo Sabres in the 2020-21 NHL season.
New General Manager Kevyn Adams made a splash early on in his tenure after shocking the world by signing elite winger and one of the biggest prizes available in Free Agency in Taylor Hall to a one-year, $8 million deal.
Given the current financial uncertainty in the NHL due to the devastation caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic, Hall wasn’t going to get a long-term, big-ticket deal so opted to take a chance on himself with a one-year deal while the Sabres added a significant weapon to their roster.
And it could pay dividends for both parties.
For starters, Hall needs to repair his reputation somewhat after bouncing around the league over the last couple of seasons, struggling with the Arizona Coyotes after being dealt there by the New Jersey Devils at the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline.
Granted, the 29-year-old did record 27 points (10 G, 17 A) in 35 games for the Yotes, but he didn’t look that comfortable and was a big disappointment in the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
So there will be pressure on Hall to get back to the player he was with the Devils in 2017-18 when he won the Hart Trophy, but he will have the luxury of playing on the same line as elite center Jack Eichel.
And that’s the rub here.
Not only will Hall have the chance to dramatically boost his stock again, but he should provide Eichel with a legitimate running mate and an elite weapon on his wing that he’s never really had during his time in Buffalo.
If the two can forge perfect chemistry and wreak havoc on the NHL, along with Victor Olofsson, who carved out a superb rookie year with 42 points (20 G, 22 A) in 54 games in 2019-20, then that could be the key ingredient to the Sabres getting back in the postseason after a long nine-year absence.
Plus, if Hall and Eichel can really flourish together and put up huge numbers, then that should persuade the former to sign a long-term deal with Buffalo which in turn would no doubt keep Eichel happy and further persuade him that the franchise is now doing everything they can to surround him with the pieces he needs to win.
That would be huge for this team, especially if Hall and Eichel can lead them to the Playoffs, and if the goaltending can hold up, defensemen Rasmus Dahlin breaks out and Rasmus Ristolainen can have a bounce-back year and veteran center Eric Staal can bring out a resurgence in Jeff Skinner, then everything is there for the Sabres to finally end years of pain.
But the biggest question for the Buffalo Sabres in 2020-21 will again be if they can win and keep Jack Eichel happy, and an explosive partnership with Taylor Hall would certainly go a long way to achieving both aims.