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Blackhawks miss playoffs thanks to slow start, poor defense

Young forwards, defenseman prospects reasons for optimism

by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

The Chicago Blackhawks failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive season following a stretch of nine straight trips to the postseason and three Cup championships (2010, 2013 and 2015).

The Blackhawks (34-33-12) were eliminated from playoff contention when the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Edmonton Oilers 6-2 at Pepsi Center on Tuesday.

Here's a look at what happened in the 2018-19 season for the Blackhawks and why things could be better next season.

 

The Skinny

Potential UFAs: Marcus Kruger, C; Chris Kunitz, LW; Cam Ward, G.

Potential RFAs: David Kampf, C; Brendan Perlini, RW; Gustav Forsling, D; Slater Koekkoek, D. 

Potential 2019 NHL Draft picks: 7

 

What went wrong

A rough transition: The Blackhawks fired coach Joel Quenneville on Nov. 6 and replaced him with Jeremy Colliton, who had been coach of Rockford of the American Hockey League. The first few weeks under Colliton were rough; in his first 17 games the Blackhawks went 3-12-2, including an eight-game losing streak from Nov. 27-Dec. 11. Chicago couldn't recover from that stretch.

Defensive issues: The Blackhawks have allowed 282 goals in 79 games, the second most in the NHL after the Ottawa Senators (289 goals allowed in 79 games). Chicago allowed at least six goals in a game 12 times this season. 

Production tailed off: Forward Patrick Kane had another outstanding season; he has 105 points (41 goals, 64 assists), including 43 points (17 goals, 26 assists) in a 20-game point streak from Jan. 3-Feb. 22, and is one point from matching his NHL career high of 106 (46 goals, 60 assists) in 2015-16, when he won the Hart Trophy as League MVP and the Art Ross Trophy as the leading scorer in the NHL. Forward Dylan Strome, acquired by the Blackhawks in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes for forward Nick Schmaltz on Nov. 25, has 48 points (16 goals, 32 assists) in 55 games with Chicago. Forward Alex DeBrincat, in his second NHL season, has 74 points (41 goals, 33 assists) in 79 games.

Video: BUF@CHI: Anisimov scores, Kane passes Larmer

But the Blackhawks' most productive players were quiet down the stretch; Kane has 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in his past 15 games, DeBrincat has three goals in his past eight games and Strome has eight points (two goals, six assists) in his past 13 games.

 

Reasons for optimism

Defenseman prospects: Henri Jokiharju, the No. 29 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, played 38 games with the Blackhawks; the 19-year-old had 12 assists and looked good during his stint in the NHL. Playing more minutes for Rockford in the second half of the season should help his development. Adam Boqvist, the No. 8 pick in the 2018 draft, had 60 points (20 goals, 40 assists) with London of the Ontario Hockey League. Nicolas Beaudin, the No. 27 pick in the 2018 draft, had 56 points (seven goals, 49 assists) with Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Great young forwards: DeBrincat was outstanding in his second NHL season. Acquiring Strome, who rekindled chemistry with DeBrincat, his former linemate with Erie of the OHL, has worked out well. Dominik Kahun was also solid. The 23-year-old center, who played part of the season on the first line with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad, had 35 points (12 goals, 23 assists) in 79 games. The Blackhawks need to consider potential extensions with DeBrincat and Strome; each is entering the final season of his entry-level contract. 

A full season with Colliton: The Blackhawks adjusted to Colliton's system over the course of the season and the results improved; they're 24-14-6 since Dec. 18. Now that everyone's more comfortable with each other, the Blackhawks and Colliton have an opportunity to get off to a good start next season.

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