5 Updated Predictions for a Shortened 2012-13 NHL Season

Nicholas Goss@@NicholasGoss35Correspondent INovember 29, 2012

5 Updated Predictions for a Shortened 2012-13 NHL Season

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    Fans might be starting to lose hope for the 2012-13 NHL season, but there is still time for the league and NHLPA to reach a CBA and ensure that the year is not completely lost.

    A shorter schedule will affect certain players and teams in a variety of ways and will likely create a season full of exciting and unexpected results.

    Let's look at five predictions for a shortened season.

Season Start Date Prediction: December 22

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    Right now, games up until December 14 have been lost (via ESPN), but if a new CBA is reached between the NHL and NHLPA by December 15, the league should start the new season one week later on December 22, which is a Saturday.

    The NHL should do its best to avoid playing on Christmas because the NBA owns that day with several matchups between marquee teams on national television.

    Not starting the season on a Sunday is also a good idea because late-season NFL action with teams fighting to earn a playoff spot isn't something hockey should compete with.

    There are several exciting matchups on December 22 that would get fans excited to come back to the sport. Here are four of them:

    1) Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins on NHL Network
    2) Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs on CBC
    3) New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers
    4) San Jose Sharks at Los Angeles Kings

Teams with Key Players Battling Injury Will Be Helped by the Time Off

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    Teams with key players who are battling injuries or have just recovered from them will benefit greatly from the time off gained from the lockout.

    The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers are two teams that should be able to enter the season with many of their key players healthy, and that might not have been the case if the year started on October 11 as originally planned.

    If the lockout didn't happen, some of these teams with star players dealing with injuries might have started the season off poorly. The work stoppage has given players such as Rangers winger Marian Gaborik extra time to rest and not have to miss any regular-season games.

    Other clubs such as the Boston Bruins, Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks also have important players who have benefited from the extra time off.

Young/Inexperienced Teams Will Be Hurt by Shortened Season

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    Young teams that do not have much experience will suffer during the shortened season. Veterans are likely to handle the physical and mental pressure of playing a shortened season better than young players.

    For teams with young players who have not played with each other very much, the chances of these clubs getting off to a positive start aren't very good.

Fans Will Come Back to the NHL in Large Numbers

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    Hockey fans are extremely angry at the NHL and NHLPA for their failure to save a full 2012-13 season, and this is evident everyday when talking to people at work, at school or by looking at social media websites such as Twitter.

    Even though fans are frustrated, it's hard to imagine many of these people staying away from the NHL when it finally returns.

    The fans in large, traditional hockey markets will certainly come back to their teams, especially in cities fortunate enough to have contenders such as New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Canadian fans can also be expected to come back to the game.

    There is a possibility that attendance could decline in the first few weeks of the season if fans are still angry with the league, but as the playoff races intensify, the fans will eventually return in large numbers.

Sidney Crosby Will Win the Hart Trophy

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    Sidney Crosby will return to the Pittsburgh Penguins without any concussion-like symptoms and win the Hart Trophy for the second time in his young career.

    After having a 1.68 points per game following his return from injury last season, the chances that Crosby wins the scoring title in 2012-13 are very high.

    Crosby will be highly motivated coming into this season for a variety of reasons, and a focused Crosby is bad news for the rest of the NHL. He will be on a mission this year to prove he's still the best player in the sport.

    If he can remain healthy for the entire season, it's hard to imagine Crosby not becoming the leading candidate for the Hart Trophy.