After making the playoffs for nine consecutive years, the Blackhawks have missed out on the postseason in three of the last four seasons. They haven't hosted a playoff game at the United Center since 2017 and haven't won a series since 2015.
But after a busy offseason, the Blackhawks are hoping to end that drought and make some noise. And despite being in a crowded Central Division, they have the ingredients to do so if everything falls into place.
Here are five reasons why the Blackhawks will make the playoffs this season:
1. The return of Jonathan Toews
After missing the 2020-21 campaign with Chronic Immune Response Syndrome, the Blackhawks captain is back and doesn't look like he's skipped a beat judging by his preseason performance. His presence alone changes the dynamic of this team.
"He gives us a nice 1-2 punch and gives the other team something to think about a little bit," Patrick Kane said. "Obviously when he's on his game, he's so strong on the puck and can fight defenders off, can find open guys, be good around the net. It's good to have him back in all facets on and off the ice. He'll be a big help to the team this year."
2. The duo of Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane
Everyone knew DeBrincat was a goal-scoring machine, but he emerged as one of the premier two-way wingers in the league last season and it's only a matter of time before the hockey world realizes it as well. DeBrincat will probably score 40-plus, and Kane should crack 100 points again. They're two of the best wingers in the game.
"They're two unbelievable quality players," said Tyler Johnson, who's centered a line with DeBrincat and Kane all training camp. "They're fun to play with. There's times where I don't think there's any play to be made, yet they make it. That's really exciting."
3. A more well-rounded defense
The Blackhawks made it a priority to shore up their back end over the summer and did that by adding Caleb Jones, Seth Jones and Jake McCabe. Seth Jones, particularly, is a bonafide No. 1 and will play in almost every situation, which is why they had their eyes set on him. McCabe gives the Blackhawks a second shutdown defenseman, to go along with Connor Murphy. It should help the Blackhawks become a better team defensively, although the forwards are just as important to help accomplish that.
"I think the best defensive teams have great team defense," Seth Jones said. "It’s not just a defensive pair or one defensive forward line that shuts down an entire team, lets in one and a half or two goals a game an entire year. It’s a collective agreement that you’re going to buy in defensively."
4. A potential Top 10 power play
The Blackhawks finished with the 11th-ranked power play last season, but it wasn't as consistent as they would've liked it to be. That could change this season.
With the return of Toews and the additions of Erik Gustafsson, Johnson and Seth Jones, the Blackhawks have two strong units and we saw pretty quickly in the preseason how effective they can be. There's much more movement on the power play with this new personnel group. Now the key is to carry that momentum into the regular season.
"I'm excited about the power play this year," Kane said. "I think that can be a real fun thing for us to get going and have success on."
5. Marc-Andre Fleury
The Blackhawks have had their fair share of defensive struggles over the years. Well what better way to strengthen their last line of defense by acquiring the reigning Vezina Trophy winner? Fleury alone has the ability to steal games, and he will be one of the main reasons why the Blackhawks compete for a playoff spot.
"He gives us a lot of confidence," Connor Murphy said. "He's a really like a lighthearted, nice guy. He's always making sure everyone's happy and all set around him and not worrying about him. He seems to be able to take care of business every day. You can't ask for a better teammate."