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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

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
Vancouver Canucks
Dallas Stars
Detroit Red Wings
Florida Panthers
New York Islanders       
Calgary Flames       
Chicago Blackhawks       
Edmonton Oilers       
Montreal Canadiens       
New York Rangers       
Ottawa Senators       
St. Louis       

This playoffs marks the return of six teams (New Jersey, Colorado, Winnipeg, Los Angeles, Philadelphia,Tampa Bay) after postseason absences ranging from 5 years (New Jersey), 3 years (Colorado), 2 years (Winnipeg), and 1 year (Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay), as well as the postseason debut of expansion team Vegas Golden Knights qualifying in their inaugural season.

This year's postseason saw seven teams who qualified for last year's offering falling short (Calgary, Chicago, Edmonton, Montreal, New York Rangers, Ottawa, St. Louis). For 11 of the past 13 seasons, year-to-year playoff turnover of at least five clubs has been typical, proving parity in the NHL's modern salary cap era. Carolina's miss extends their playoff drought to 9 seasons, one shy of the all-time record of 10 straight playoff misses held by Edmonton and Florida.

Further, the turnover of seven squads matches the largest year-to-year change in NHL history which has occurred in 3 of the past 4 postseasons (2015, 2017, 2018) 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, 5 of the top 10 spending teams (Chicago 2nd, Dallas 7th, Detroit 8th, Vancouver 9th, St. Louis 10th) and 6 of the bottom 10 spenders (Buffalo 23rd, Florida 25th, Montreal 26th, Edmonton 29th, Carolina 30th, Arizona 31st) missed the playoffs, proving that neither well-financed nor under-capitalized teams are immune from failure. That said, 5 of the top 6 teams in terms of salary cap qualified for the postseason, so being a top spending squad can't hurt.

For the 15 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.