In the realm of sports (and corresponding labor negotiations), anything can happen. That's why nobody can ever guarantee a certain thing... but one can make quality educated predictions by playing the percentages. Without further delay; lets begin:
Chances U.S. federal mediators help end the lockout within a week:
Explanation: You're talking about two sides that are at bitter odds. Players and the league have entertained many of the same conversations, over and over, for almost 150 days of negotiations. Not to mention, mediation was a last-ditch effort in the previous lockout, which still didn't prevent the loss of a season. The process will likely take appropriate time to hear both parties, identify problems, and gather information... before the moderated bargaining even begins. The only noticeable difference I predict with mediation is the frequency and duration of meetings.
RELATED: US federal mediators to join NHL talks
Chances of 60 games played if the lockout is resolved:
Explanation: Lets do quick math assuming a (very) best case scenario that the NHL resumes at Christmas. You'd have 15 weeks between then and mid-April in order to begin a full playoff schedule. This means teams would have to play four nights a week (consistently) for all 15 weeks to reach 60. Logistically, with travel considerations, it might be possible. But it will be an unbelievable drain on players to battle injuries, sickness, and health. Yes, the NBA put players on the floor three nights in a row last year, but I don't believe the NHL would have great results doing the same.
Chances there will be any NHL season in 2012-2013:
Explanation: I've been set on declaring this 5050 split for the last month. However I feel strongly, if there are any more cancellations (past December 15th), the optimism will be reduced to a tune of 40. If there are any additional delays after January 1st, I'm dropping down to 25. What most often neglect, is that even when the two sides come close to an agreement, there will be at least several days of lawyers finalizing all the paperwork, followed by another 7-14 days of training camps and exhibition games. This is a race against time, which has a forgotten delay of almost 3 weeks.
Chances the Sharks will benefit from a shortened season:
Explanation: San Jose was the 8th eldest team in the NHL last year, and even with changes, the current roster won't fluctuate that figure greatly. However, less games, and coming very "fresh" into a quick season could initially benefit a lot of other teams too. The real advantage is that San Jose had little turnover on the ice, so in a condensed training camp, things could theoretically go smoother and lead to a quicker start. The only logistical disadvantage are incorporating two new assistant coaches; but that should be minimized by using this current down-time wisely alongside head coach Todd McLellan.