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NHL Droughts: Analyzing The End

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The NHL much like sports is full of droughts, nothing outrageous like the Chicago Cubs 107 season Championship drought. Although the NHL does some hefty active droughts. From teams not winning the Stanley Cup to teams missing the playoffs. Let’s dive into these droughts and when fans could potentially see an end to their franchise’s dark days.

Playoff Droughts

The NHL’s playoff droughts are not outrageous, but there are currently two teams sitting on five-plus seasons without playoff appearances. The Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings have not played playoff hockey since 2015-16 while for the Sabres it was 2010-11.

The Detroit Red Wings went from the most impressive playoff streaks in NHL to one of the worst current droughts, going from 25 years straight playoff appearances to five straight years on the golf course. If any team could afford a playoff drought it was the Red Wings, but now the young Red Wings squad is looking ready to get themselves back into the postseason. With the likes of Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Filip Zadina, Lucas Raymond, and young goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic the Red Wings are not far out of the playoffs. Factor in the division powerhouses such as the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning are getting older, the Red Wings playoff drought should not get any longer than seven years.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – APRIL 15: Jakub Vrana #15 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates his second-period goal while playing the Chicago Blackhawks at Little Caesars Arena on April 15, 2021, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Now the Sabres is a lot more painful than the Red Wings and has a lot less clear end. The Sabres haven’t made the playoffs since 2010-11, back when star goaltender Ryan Miller was a Vezina Trophy contender and Thomas Vanek was scoring 30 goals in a season. To put into more perspective now star player Jack Eichel was in his first year of high school. Flash forward to now and the Sabres are the winners of their first three games and looking to finally break into the playoffs, but the season is early and they are without Eichel, seemingly forever. Although the Sabres’ have bright spots in Rasmus Dahlin, Dylan Couzins, and Tage Thompson they still have a lot of work to do. With Owen Power returning to Michigan, Shane Wright, and Conor Bedard still updraft it will be seemingly years until the Sabres are back in the playoffs, sit tight Sabres fans you’re in for a ride.

Playoff Series Droughts

Currently, there are three teams yet to win a playoff series within the last 14 years, one of which being the Sabres who have not won a playoff series since the 2006-07 season. As for the other two, the Toronto Maple Leafs are sitting at 16 seasons without a playoff season win and the Florida Panthers 24 season. Both of which are talented young teams, but when will they get to see the second round?

The Florida Panthers are an interesting team. Having Selke winner Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad, and future star goaltender Spencer Knight. Although it has been 24 seasons since they last won a playoff series, things are bright in Florida. As long as they stay healthy they are due for a series win as early as this season.

Central Division
RALEIGH, NC – APRIL 06: Florida Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe (23) with the puck during the 3rd period of the Carolina Hurricanes vs Florida Panthers on April 6th, 2021 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC (Photo by Jaylynn Nash/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As for the Maple Leafs. With players such as Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares there is no reason the Maple Leafs should not be Stanley Cup favorites year in and out. Unfourtantly that is not the case losing in the first round the past four of five seasons. They have now added goaltending tandem Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek, as well as the high, praised Michael Bunting in hopes they can finally make it through the first round. Much like the Panthers, 2021-22 should be the season they move past the first round, that is as long as they do not meet the Bruins or Carey Price in the first round.

Stanley Cup Droughts

Oh, the dreaded Championship droughts, every sport has them and every team will always have one. We will be looking into the three big ones, not including yes the Buffalo Sabres 50 season Stanley Cup drought. The Maple Leafs have gone 53 seasons without winning the Stanley Cup, let alone making the Stanley Cup finals, but you have to get past the first round to make the finals right? While on the west coast the Vancouver Canucks are entering their 51st NHL season and are yet to hoist the Stanley Cup, although they have been within one game on two separate occasions. Then there is the whole country of Canada. The last Canadian team to win the cup was the Montreal Canadiens 27 years ago. Although 27 is not the longest drought you factor in the fact Canada has seven of the now 32 teams and it is kind of impressive none of them have won in the past 27 years.

Of all Canadian teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs have the team most ready to compete, sorry Montreal you had your chance. Although the Winnepeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, and Vancouver Canucks are great up-and-coming teams. The Oilers being headlined by Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid is a great start but they lack defense and a steady goaltender to get them over the edge. The Vancouver Canucks’ inconsistent powerplay and streaky play hold them back, although that should change as the team matures and finds their own. As for the Jets, stars Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Connor Hellebuyck are a great start for success they just lack solid defenders. Canada’s time is not far off. As for the Calgary Flames and Ottawa Senators, The Senators are at least five seasons out before being considered contenders again and that is if their rebuild goes right. The Flames, well no one knows their direction. They are currently sitting in the middle or bottom of the pack refusing to rebuild.

The NHL has lots of droughts active. Hopefully and likely some will soon come to an end. With teams like the Canucks, Maple Leafs, Red Wings, and Panthers on the come up and teams like the Lightning and Penguins getting older these droughts are soon to be washed away. As hockey fans, everyone can sit back relax, and hope the Sabres can turn their franchise around and end there eventually, maybe. Until then enjoy hockey everyone.

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