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

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

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
Edmonton Oilers
Carolina Hurricanes    
Buffalo Sabres
Arizona Coyotes
New Jersey Devils
Toronto Maple Leafs
Boston Bruins
Colorado Avalanche
Columbus Blue Jackets
Calgary Flames
Montreal Canadiens
Ottawa Senators       
Vancouver Canucks
Winnipeg Jets       

For the first time in 46 years, all of the Canadian teams (Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg) find themselves on this year's list, compared to last year when five northern clubs qualified (Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg). Edmonton owns the longest active playoff qualification drought missing the playoffs for ten consecutive seasons, matching Florida's all-time record of ten straight playoff misses ending in 2012.

This year's turnover saw five Canadian teams who qualified for last year's postseason falling short (Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg), making room for five American squads that sat out last year's real season (Dallas, Florida, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Jose). For 9 of the past 11 seasons, year-to-year playoff turnover of at least five clubs has been typical, proving parity in the NHL's modern salary cap era.

The largest year-to-year change in NHL history occurred in 2015 when seven teams ended their playoff drought to compete in the postseason. Further, for the first time since 2007 and only the fifth time since the Original Six era, the defending Stanley Cup champions failed to qualify for the postseason (Toronto 1968, Montreal 1970, New Jersey 1996, Carolina 2007, Los Angeles 2015).

In terms of salary cap, 3 of the top 10 spending teams (Edmonton 3rd, Vancouver 6th, Toronto 9th) and 7 of the bottom 10 spenders (Buffalo 21st, Colorado 23rd, Ottawa 25th, Carolina 27th, New Jersey 28th, Arizona 29th, Winnipeg 30th) missed the playoffs, proving that neither well-financed nor under-capitalized teams are immune from failure.

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.