Since the hopes of having a full 82-game season have likely faded away with the passing of last week's deadline to reach a new CBA, it's very possible that we will have a shortened 2012-13 season.
Playing a 66-game schedule that starts some time in November (Black Friday would be ideal) would likely give the league enough time to have a brief training camp, keep the NHL All-Star Game, end the Stanley Cup Final before July and not make the players play too many games in a short amount of time.
Let's look at final standings predictions for a shortened NHL season.
|Toronto Maple Leafs||66||33||25||8||74|
If the Toronto Maple Leafs acquire Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo before the season starts, expect them to have a fantastic regular season. The Boston Bruins are still the class of the division and will win the Northeast Division for the third straight season because of their high-scoring offense and defensive depth.
The Buffalo Sabres will be better this season, but they still have too many question marks at forward. The Ottawa Senators will not replicate their second-place finish from a year ago, while the Montreal Canadiens will once again finish at the bottom of the division.
|New York Rangers ||66||38||21||7 ||83|
|Pittsburgh Penguins ||66||36||23||7 ||79|
|Philadelphia Flyers ||66||32||27||7 ||71|
|New Jersey Devils ||66||29||29||8||66 |
|New York Islanders ||66||26||33||7 ||59|
The New York Rangers will finish first in the division and the conference for the second straight year. The Pittsburgh Penguins will finish second in the Atlantic again, but will tougher to beat than they were last season thanks to their improved goaltending depth.
The New Jersey Devils won't take a huge step back after losing Zach Parise, but they will have to rely on a number of young players to contend in the division. The Philadelphia Flyers have major issues on their blue line, which could make it difficult for high-priced goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to have a better sophomore season for head coach Peter Laviolette.
The New York Islanders will finish last once again, but several of their top young players will earn some important experience and develop their skills at both ends of the ice.
|Washington Capitals ||66||33 ||27 ||6 ||72|
|Tampa Bay Lightning ||66||31 ||30 ||5 ||67|
|Carolina Hurricanes ||66||30 ||29 ||7 ||67|
|Florida Panthers ||66||29 ||31 ||6 ||64|
|Winnipeg Jets ||66||27 ||31 ||8 ||62|
The Southeast Division will be a very competitive division since every team made impressive improvements during the offseason. The Capitals will bounce back with another division title thanks to the success of goaltender Braden Holtby and the return of star center Nicklas Backstrom, who missed a lot of games last season due to an injury.
Expect the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes to battle for the last one or two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference this season, while the Florida Panthers and Winnipeg Jets miss the postseason.
|Vancouver Canucks ||66||37 ||23 ||6 ||80|
|Colorado Avalanche||66||33||27 ||6 ||72|
|Minnesota Wild||66||31 ||28 ||7 ||69|
|Calgary Flames ||66||27 ||31 ||8 ||62|
|Edmonton Oilers ||66||24||33 ||9 ||57|
The Vancouver Canucks still have strong goaltending, an impressive top six and a deeper blue line, so there's no reason to think they will fail to repeat as Northwest Division champions. The Colorado Avalanche will be one of the most improved teams in the conference, and led by a deep and high-scoring offense, they will finish second in the division.
Zach Parise and Ryan Suter will lead the Minnesota Wild back to the playoffs, but the team's goaltending will be the biggest factor in its success. The two Alberta teams, the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers, will finish the season in fourth and fifth place, respectively.
|Los Angeles Kings||66||35 ||24 ||7 ||77|
|Dallas Stars||66||31 ||26 ||9 ||71|
|Phoenix Coyotes||66||30 ||27 ||9 ||69|
|San Jose Sharks||66||27||29 ||10 ||64|
|Anaheim Ducks ||66||24 ||33 ||9 ||57|
The Kings were picked by many experts and fans to win the Pacific Division last year and will live up to expectations this season by winning the division as defending Stanley Cup champions. The additions of Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney will give a Dallas Stars team that barely missed the playoffs last year the depth they need to earn a playoff berth.
Even though they lost Whitney, the Phoenix Coyotes still have enough scoring to make a playoff run when you consider the fact that their defensive depth and goaltending are still impressive.
The San Jose Sharks will plummet to fourth in the Pacific because of poor goaltending, while the Anaheim Ducks will continue to struggle due to limited offensive depth and a weak blue line.
|Chicago Blackhawks ||66||35 ||25 ||6 ||76|
|St. Louis Blues ||66||34 ||27 ||5 ||73|
|Detroit Red Wings ||66||31 ||29 ||6 ||68|
|Nashville Predators ||66||29 ||31 ||6 ||64|
|Columbus Blue Jackets ||66||23 ||33 ||10 ||56|
The Detroit Red Wings won't be as bad as people think this season because they till have a good offense and a legitimate No. 1 goaltender in Jimmy Howard. However, they won't stop the rival Chicago Blackhawks from capturing their first Central Division title since their Stanley Cup-winning season in 2009-10.
The St. Louis Blues won't be as dominant as they were last year, but will still be a force because of their physical play and defensive depth. Losing Rick Nash will hurt the Columbus Blue Jackets, who will finish with the worst record in the NHL for the second straight year, while the Nashville Predators fail to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. Follow him on Twitter.
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