Predicting what will happen in the NHL during a given calendar year is very easy.
A player will say, "We'll take the two points and move on" after a victory.
A coach will say, "We've got to put more pucks on net" during a scoring drought, thereby again discouraging the theory that goals can be scored without a puck actually being directed toward the net.
A team owner, coach, GM, player or fan will express outrage at a booming hit on one of their players and say, "The league needs to do something about it."
A Canadian team will lose two games in a row in October, and a media member in that team's city will say a big trade needs to happen or the coach must be fired, probably both.
Someone watching Don Cherry for the first time will say, "What is that guy wearing?"
As for the more difficult, deeper forecasts, here's my fearless crack:
It could, and according to more than a few wired-in hockey people I've talked to in recent days, it likely will happen again in 2012. "Better than a 51-percent chance," is how one high-profile agent described it to me. NHL Players Association boss Donald Fehr met with agents last week, and the mood coming out of the meeting, at least to some who were there, was pessimism that a shutdown can be avoided after the current collective bargaining agreement with the NHL expires on Sept. 15.
Why? It would take a lot more time and space to get into here, but it probably has something to do with NBA owners getting their players to agree to a 50-50 split of revenue. Currently, NHL players are getting 57 percent, so it's not hard to imagine why there could be trouble at hockey's bargaining table. The top two issues for NHL owners in 2004 were getting a salary cap and getting rid of NHLPA boss Bob Goodenow. They succeeded at both. Next time it will be purely a fight over slices of the revenue pie. (Guilty admission: A tiny part of me is highly intrigued by what a showdown between Fehr and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman would look like.) The good news: Nobody I've talked to believes the full 2012-13 season will be lost. "Think December or so for a settlement," is how another top agent put it.