Chicago Blackhawks eliminated Bedard pic

The Chicago Blackhawks failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.

The Blackhawks (16-43-5) were eliminated from contention when the Vegas Golden Knights won 5-3 against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday after Chicago lost 4-1 at the Washington Capitals.

After qualifying for the playoffs nine straight seasons and winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015, the Blackhawks have made the playoffs once in the past six seasons (2019-20).

Here’s a look at what happened in the 2023-24 season for the Blackhawks and why things could be better next season.

The skinny

Potential unrestricted free agents: Tyler Johnson, F; Colin Blackwell, F; Zachary Sanford, F; Luke Philp, F; Jarred Tinordi, D; Jaycob Megna, D; Nikita Zaitsev, D

Potential restricted free agents: MacKenzie Entwistle, F; Reese Johnson, F; Joey Anderson, F; Boris Katchouk, F; Taylor Raddysh, F; Alex Vlasic, D; Filip Roos, D; Isaak Phillips, D; Louis Crevier, D

What went wrong

It’s still a rebuild: Yes, this was listed as a reason last season, and it is again now because it’s still ongoing. The Blackhawks have a small group of veterans to surround Connor Bedard, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, but this is still a very young, inexperienced team. They usually played hard, but it wasn’t enough against more stout rosters.

Road woes: Sure, the Blackhawks struggled no matter where they played, but the road was particularly difficult. When they defeated the Arizona Coyotes 5-2 at Mullett Arena on Tuesday, it was their first win on the road since Nov. 9, when they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 at Amalie Arena (23 games). There’s no one thing to pinpoint why they just couldn’t win on the road; sometimes it was bad luck, other times it was a bad performance or a lack of goal-scoring, which was a problem throughout the season.

Injuries: Taylor Hall was expected to be one of those veterans to help the Blackhawks and Bedard, but the forward had ACL surgery on his right knee in late November and was ruled out the rest of the season. Forward Andreas Athanasiouhas been out since Nov. 9 with a groin injury. Defenseman Connor Murphy sustained a groin injury Jan. 16 and has yet to return. That’s just a sample of who Chicago has missed this season, and it was costly.

Reasons for optimism

Bedard: You have to start here, right? Even with their No. 1 pick missing nearly six weeks with a fractured jaw, the 18-year-old has been the real deal. The center leads the Blackhawks and all NHL rookies with 43 points (17 goals, 26 assists) in 50 games, six points ahead of Minnesota Wild rookie defenseman Brock Faber with 37 points (six goals, 31 assists) in 64 games. Bedard was also’s preseason favorite to win the Calder Trophy, voted as the NHL’s top rookie. He’s the face of the Blackhawks and a great piece to build around, which brings us to …

2024 NHL Draft Lottery: Again, this looms large for Chicago. It won the lottery last year and got Bedard with the No. 1 pick. That was an excellent start, but the Blackhawks need more than that. They currently have the highest odds to get the No. 1 pick again this year (25.5 percent). They’ll use the whole 2024 NHL Draft, where they have nine picks, to keep building.

Petr Mrazek: If the goalie is anything close to what he’s been this season when the Blackhawks reconvene in 2024-25, they will be in great shape. Mrazek has had one of his healthiest seasons in some time and though it doesn’t completely show in his stats, he has been very good: 13-25-4 with a 3.11 goals-against average, .905 save percentage and one shutout in 44 games (42 starts). What’s hurt him are mistakes in front of him and a lack of goal support; Chicago is averaging 2.03 goals per game, last in the NHL. Mrazek signed a two-year, $8.5 million contract ($4.25 million average annual value) Jan. 24, which begins next season.