Blackhawks preview: Rankings, predictions, playoff chances and more

Patrick Kane, No. 88, and Jonathan Toews are part of the veteran core still around from the Blackhawks' glory days. Can they get back on track? Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire

With the 2018-19 season fast approaching, we're running snapshots of all 31 NHL teams, including point total projections, positional previews, best- and worst-case scenarios and more.

The stars remain, but can the Chicago Blackhawks rekindle the fire that drove them to dynasty status earlier this decade?

How they finished in 2017-18: 33-39-10 (76 points), Finished 25th in NHL, 7th in Central Division

There were signs of a regression early, but things really spiraled when Corey Crawford's season ended in January. It didn't help that the rest of the Central Division caught up. Jonathan Toews had a season of sub-par production, and it wasn't mentioned much, but the team missed Marian Hossa a lot. Some youngsters stood out, but without steady goaltending, the Blackhawks missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade.

Over/under projected point total (per the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook): 85.5

Best-case scenario: Corey Crawford returns to good health, returns to a being a .924 save percentage goalie and lifts the Hawks to the playoff bubble.

Worst-case scenario: An ailing Crawford remains sidelined -- once again, indefinitely -- and Cam Ward is only a slight improvement over last year's undistinguished replacements. The Blackhawks could have used defensive reinforcement. By Christmas, Chicago commits to the full-on rebuild, firing the coach and maybe the GM.

Forward overview: Patrick Kane is not linemate-dependent -- he can create chemistry with anyone. This season it's going to start with Brandon Saad, hoping to revive his second stint in Chicago. Alex DeBrincat looks to build off a terrific rookie campaign while a healthy Toews would like to get on the score sheet more. Veteran free agents Chris Kunitz and Marcus Kruger are this year's Patrick Sharp -- but hopefully they'll be more productive. NHL rank: 20th

Defense overview: Yes, Brent Seabrook is not what he once was and his contract is bloated. But he's still serviceable. Duncan Keith will play with rookie Henri Jokiharju, the future key to the blue line. After that is a logjam of average defensemen fighting for minutes. NHL rank: 18th

Goalie overview: It's not Crawford or bust, but so much of the season is dependent on what Chicago gets in net. Crawford likely isn't ready to start the season. This is why the Blackhawks spent big backup money ($3 million) to get Cam Ward as insurance. NHL rank: 13th

Special teams: The power play was woeful all season (15.9 percent, fourth-worst in the league) and the penalty kill was pedestrian (80.0 percent, 18th in the league).

Pipeline overview: The Blackhawks have done a particularly nice job restocking their blue-line depth in the past two drafts, netting Adam Boqvist, Jokiharju, Ian Mitchell and Nicolas Beaudin over the first two rounds. While their forward depth leaves a little more to be desired, there are some good long-term options they'll have to be patient with. For a system that turns around top prospects quickly, Chicago has done nicely to replenish. Read more -- Chris Peters

Fantasy nugget: The 2017-18 season was a bumbling disappointment for the Blackhawks as a whole, with their esteemed captain front and center of the entire playoff-missing mess. Toews promises that this approaching campaign, however, will be much improved, and I'm inclined to believe the three-time Stanley Cup winner. A career-low 9.4 shooting percentage is partly to blame for last year's desultory 52 points. Centering a rotation of struggling wingers, with rookie Alex DeBrincat being the lone shining outlier, also provides some cause. Splitting DeBrincat and Brandon Saad, who's also due to bounce back after registering a 7.6 shooting percentage last season in his own right, or maybe even one of the youngsters Victor Ejdsell or Dylan Sikura, Toews appears firmly poised to bounce back into the 60-plus point sphere. Read more -- Victoria Matiash

Coach on the hot seat? Joel Quenneville seemed to get a pass last season because of the goaltending situation -- and, you know, the fact that he won three Cups. His seat is much toastier in 2018-19.

Bold prediction: This team makes the playoffs. How, you might ask? Crawford returns and forms a solid platoon with Ward, alleviating some pressure while returning from a scary injury. Jokiharju is a Calder finalist and every forward somehow meets or exceeds expectations.