CHICAGO, IL - For the first time in what seems like a long time, Blackhawks fans are excited and hopeful for the upcoming season.
Some fans might be experiencing deja vu as the Hawks are putting themselves in a very similar situation as the 2006-2008 era.
Drafting a generational talent at first overall (Patrick Kane - Connor Bedard), a young two way forward to pair with them (Jonathan Toews - Lukas Reichel), and high quality defensive prospects itching to see NHL playing time (Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook - Kevin Korchinski, Sam Rinzel, and Alex Vlasic).
While everything is trending up for the Blackhawks, they are still a ways away from making a push for the Stanley Cup.
Their lack of depth and experience will be their achilles heel this season which will most likely put them at the bottom of the division again.
But looking outside of that, let's dive into a realistic timeline for when the Blackhawks will most likely make the playoffs next.
Record: 30-45-7, 67 pts, 7th in Central Division
Top scorers: Connor Bedard (32g, 30a, 62pts), Taylor Hall (38g, 20a, 58 pts), Andreas Athanasiou (20g, 29a, 49 pts)
This team will be fun to watch with Bedard, Hall, and hopefully Korchinski playing together showing us a glimpse of what's to come from them, but they will be no where near a playoff spot.
Other western conference teams like the Avalanche, Stars, Oilers, Kraken, Knights, etc. are much more skilled and well balanced than the Hawks so unfortunately this year will be another playoff-less year for Chicago.
Record: 45-31-4, 94 pts, 3rd in division
Top scorers: Connor Bedard (40g, 55a, 95 pts), Auston Matthews (52 g, 32a, 84 pts), Taylor Hall (27g, 48a, 75 pts)
I know what you're thinking, "I thought this was a realistic timeline for the Blackhawks? Auston Matthews isn't a realistic signing." Well ladies and gentlemen I will tell you WHY he's a realistic signing.
When Auston Matthews hits free agency next summer, the three teams that should / will be knocking on his door will be the Toronto Maple Leafs, Arizona Coyotes, and the Chicago Blackhawks.
Toronto will be in his top choices since he currently plays for the Leafs and has stated that he wants to work out a contract with them.
Arizona is Auston's home-state and growing up a Coyotes fan he might have the urge to put on a desert dogs jersey. The Coyotes also will have around $20-30 million dollars in cap-space next summer so they will most likely give him a huge offer he can't refuse to listen to.
Chicago is in the same boat as Arizona as the Hawks are looking to have around $30 million in cap space next summer. And what better incentive to bring in the NHL's top goal scorer than the NHL's next superstar, Connor Bedard.
If Bedard and Matthews were to be paired up on the same line it would be one of the greatest duos in Blackhawks history and maybe hockey history. With Bedard's vision and Matthews (if one were to move to wing by then) shot they would be bound to dominate the league and bring Chicago their first playoff birth since 2017 (or 2020 if you count the bubble).
A secondary reason why I believe 2025 will be a playoff year for the Blackhawks is that the 2024 free agency pool will be loaded with top players.
Players like Auston Matthews, Brandon Montour, Mark Scheifele, Sam Reinhart, Brett Pesce, William Nylander, Tyson Barrie, Devon Toews, Carter Hart, Ilya Samsonov and so many others that will be in Chicago's price range.
If Chicago were to make a big splash in the 2024 free agency there's no doubt that they will be a playoff-caliber team and they might just shock some people by making it to the second or third round.
This is truly an exciting time to be a Blackhawks fan. So many possible achievements, signings, playoff runs, and 1 of 1 moments that can make the Madhouse on Madison roar as it once did.