The Buffalo Sabres, who last qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2011, set an NHL record for most consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance after being eliminated Wednesday night.
The Sabers were mathematically eliminated with the Washington Capitals’ victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, extending the Sabers’ streak of futility to 11 straight seasons.
Buffalo’s most recent playoff appearance — a quarterfinal elimination against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011 — came about two months after owner Terry Pegula bought the team. Buffalo has yet to resume the playoffs under its ownership.
The Sabers had been tied with the Florida Panthers (2001-11) and Edmonton Oilers (2007-16) for the most consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance. They outperformed the Panthers on one technical point: Both teams didn’t make the playoffs for 11 straight years, but Florida’s streak was only 10 straight seasons due to the 2004-05 lockout. of the NHL, which canceled this season.
The Sabers’ streak includes the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which went from 16 to 24 teams due to the regular season hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Buffalo was the 13th best team in the Eastern Conference that season, missing the cut.
Buffalo is now tied for the third-longest playoff drought in all four major sports. They trail the MLB’s Seattle Mariners (20 seasons) and NBA’s Sacramento Kings (16 seasons) and are tied with the NFL’s New York Jets (11 seasons).
When they are officially eliminated, the Detroit Red Wings will experience the second-longest NHL playoff drought in six consecutive seasons.
The Sabres’ elimination in the playoffs comes at a time when the team is finally climbing the standings. Since March 1, Buffalo has held the eighth-best record in the NHL (10-4-3).
“Our guys are showing progress, and that’s what we wanted from day one,” coach Don Granato said after Tuesday’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes. “We have to improve. I’m not going to worry about winning. At some point we’re going to win more consistently because we’ve improved.”