Friday, April 13, 2012

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.

TOR: 7 (2004)
EDM: 6 (2006)
NYI: 5 (2007)
WPG: 5 (2007)
DAL: 4 (2008)
MIN: 4 (2008)
CGY: 3 (2009)
CAR: 3 (2009)
CLB: 3 (2009)
COL: 2 (2010)
ANA: 1 (2011)
BUF: 1 (2011)
MTL: 1 (2011)
TBL: 1 (2011)

Interestingly, 5 of the 7 Canadian teams (Toronto, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Calgary Montreal) find themselves on the list, led by the Maple Leafs who own the longest active playoff qualification drought missing the postseason this year for the 7th consecutive season. The Jets drought figure dates back to their prior incarnation as the Atlanta Thrashers.

Equally well represented are the NHL's sunbelt franchises with five such teams (Dallas, Carolina, Columbus, Anaheim, Tampa Bay) missing the postseason this year. A notable exception from this year's list is the Florida Panthers who ended the NHL's longest all-time playoff qualification drought at ten seasons by clinching the Southeast Division this season. The average active drought sits at just over three seasons.

In terms of salary cap, three of the top ten spending teams (Buffalo 4th, Calgary 5th, Toronto 9th) and five of the bottom ten spenders (Winnipeg 25th, Carolina 27th, Dallas 28th, Colorado 29th, New York 30th) find themselves out of the playoffs, proving once again that well-financed teams are not immune from poor management and on-ice failure.

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