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As we hit the all-star break this weekend with the Fantasy Draft kicking things off this evening at 8 P.M., the 2011-’12 NHL season has officially reached it’s mid-point. There have been many surprises — and equally as many disappointments — across the league this season on both an individual and team basis. In anticipation of the second half of the season, slated to begin early next week, I’ve prepared five (bold) predictions for the remainder of the 82-game grind.

5.) Jackets Fail For Nail

– Without question the worst team in hockey through the first half of the season, the Blue Jackets have been an unmitigated disaster all year long. Entering the season most hockey journalists (including myself) had Columbus pegged for their second post-season appearance in franchise history. However, the aforementioned NHL pundits could not have been more wrong. With the acquisitions of Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski not panning out, look for the Blue Jackets to deal one of the two before the deadline. Purely based on Wisniewski’s massive contract, my guess would be Carter moves on for greener pastures elsewhere. The former Flyers’ standout should bring GM Scott Howson a decent haul and will help them continue to build for the future as they trudge along on the “Fail For Nail” campaign.

4.) Kessel Posts 90 Points, Finally Quiets Critics

– Perhaps the most talked about trade in recent Boston sports history, the Bruins–Leafs swap of September 2010 sent crafty winger Phil Kessel to the epicenter of hockey in exchange for three draft selections. Bruins’ GM Peter Chiarelli then used those picks to select forwards Tyler Seguin and Jared Knight as well as defenseman Dougie Hamilton. While Seguin has exploded onto the scene in the Hub, amassing 19 goals and 24 assists through 46 games this season Kessel has truly emerged as one of the league’s most prominent scorers. With 51 points (26G/25A) in 49 games, he and linemate Joffrey Lupul (20G/32A) have completely turned the Toronto franchise around, leading them to a top-eight position in the Eastern Conference. In the second half of this season, I believe that Kessel will easily reach the 40-goal marker and surpass his career high of 64 points to finally justify this trade and quiet the throngs of critics who have harassed the Minnesota native ever since he arrived on the scene in Toronto.

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