blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Qualification Droughts

Thursday, April 13, 2017

NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Qualification Droughts

At the outset of every season, each team aspires to win the Stanley Cup. Six months later, the playoff seeding is set and only 16 teams continue to chase that dream. The remaining 14 clubs must wait until next season to renew their quest for the Cup. For them, the playoff drought begins.

The chart below describes, in descending order, the number of seasons each of the current 14 teams has gone without making the Stanley Cup playoffs, showing the last year they qualified for the postseason.

Team                          Years         Last Playoff
Carolina Hurricanes
Buffalo Sabres    
Arizona Coyotes
New Jersey Devils
Colorado Avalanche
Vancouver Canucks
Winnipeg Jets
Dallas Stars
Detroit Red Wings
Florida Panthers
Los Angeles Kings
New York Islanders       
Philadelphia Flyers
Tampa Bay Lightning       

This playoffs marks the return of five Canadian teams (Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto) after all seven franchises missed last year for the first time in 46 years. Also, Edmonton makes its playoff debut after missing 10 consecutive postseasons, matching Florida's all-time record of 10 straight playoff misses ending in 2012, leaving Carolina with sole possession of the longest active playoff qualification drought.

This year's postseason saw seven teams who qualified for last year's offering falling short (Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Los Angeles, New York Islanders, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay), making room for five Canadian teams as well as Boston and Columbus. For 10 of the past 12 seasons, year-to-year playoff turnover of at least five clubs has been typical, proving parity in the NHL's modern salary cap era.

Further, the turnover of seven squads matches the largest year-to-year change in NHL history which first occurred in 2015 when seven teams ended their playoff drought to compete in the postseason. Only five times in NHL history have the defending Stanley Cup champions failed to qualify for the postseason (Toronto 1968, Montreal 1970, New Jersey 1996, Carolina 2007, Los Angeles 2015), a list the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins are happy to avoid.

In terms of team salary cap, 4 of the top 10 spending teams (Arizona 1st, Detroit 2nd, Buffalo 6th, Philadelphia 10th) and 6 of the bottom 10 spenders (New York Islanders 21st, Dallas 24th, Winnipeg 25th, Florida 27th, New Jersey 29th, Carolina 30th) missed the playoffs, proving that neither well-financed nor under-capitalized teams are immune from failure. That said, 10 of the top 16 teams in terms of salary cap qualified for the postseason, so being a top spending squad can't hurt.

For the 14 teams on this list, the playoff rains can't come soon enough.

* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Series Win Droughts.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Final Appearance Droughts.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Championship Droughts.