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Longest Active Playoff Droughts Among NHL Teams


The NHL's playoff structure allows more than half the league's teams to make the postseason, and so playoff droughts are not particularly a concern for most teams (similar to what happens in the NBA). While long championship droughts are quite visible and painful (fans in Toronto and Philadelphia nod and cringe), the reality is that most teams will get a crack at glory with regularity.

In fact, due to the postseason system and the nature of the game itself, the NHL can boast that its playoff droughts are nothing compared to what we have seen among the other major leagues. The longest playoff drought in NHL history was “only” 10 seasons long, and belonged to the Florida Panthers from 2000 to 2012.

24 of the NHL's 30 franchises have made it to the playoffs in the past 3 seasons, and so today we take a look at the other 6 teams, their years of futility and their chances to break the spell during the 2013-14 season.

4.- Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes, Calgary Flames - Last playoff appearance: 2008-2009 season

While it seems that simply from a city that starts with a “C” is kind of a modern curse, the reasons for these squads' playoff failures in the past few seasons are varied.

Columbus has been simply a bad franchise since its inception in the year 2000. Their only postseason trip came in 2009, where they promptly swept by Detroit. For this season, the slow starts by fellow Metropolitan Division foes like New Jersey, Washington and New York has allowed the Jackets to have a glimmer of hope, even as Columbus' fans certainly know best than being overly optimistic.

In their brief existence, Carolina has been very successful, with a Stanley Cup in 2006 after being the runner-up in 2002. While their recent record of playoff futility is the longest in franchise history, at least they came really close to making it in 2011 and are well on track to stop this streak. Playing in the same division as Columbus, Carolina has emerged as the second-best team behind the Penguins, and could cruise to the playoffs if they keep their recent play.

Calgary's decline since their last Stanley Cup Finals appearance (2004) has been steady, to the point where they followed with 4 straight first-round playoff exits and now 4 seasons without even making it to the dance. Last year's shortened season was a disaster in Calgary, and while this season has started in better fashion, competing in the same division with the likes of San Jose, Anaheim and upstart Phoenix suggests that the streak will be extended at least one more year.

3.- Dallas Stars - Last playoff appearance: 2007-2008 season

Since being awarded an expansion team in 1993, Dallas became a model franchise, reaching the playoffs in 12 of their first 14 seasons – highlighted by a two consecutive Stanley Cup appearances that yielded a championship in 1999. However, this recent string of futile seasons has seen the team go through a series of bad free-agent signings and poor luck overall, as the team won at least 35 games from 2009 to 2012 and played .500 hockey during the lockout season. Their bad start in 2013 has them confined to the bottom of the Central Division, and it is hard to picture the Stars making a playoff push, at all.

2.- Winnipeg Jets - Last playoff appearance: 2006-2007 season

It is safe to say that since their inaugural season in 1999, the franchise that was originally located in Atlanta was pretty bad. Their last playoff appearance was also their only playoff appearance, and after plenty of turmoil and fan disinterest, their move to Winnipeg was probably the natural thing to do. Their first two full seasons in Canada have been respectable and a move in the right direction, even as the start of 2013 has not gone as planned. Now fielding a young and promising team, it seems that the Jets should break this streak by 2014, if not this season.

1.- Edmonton Oilers - Last playoff appearance: 2005-2006 season

While Wayne Gretzky turned the Oilers into a powerhouse and a household name in the NHL, recent years have not been kind to the Edmonton faithful. Their last playoff series came in a losing effort against Carolina in the Stanley Cup, where a painful loss in game 7 has produced an ugly aftermath for the Oilers. Their 7 straight seasons without advancing to the playoffs are the longest such stretch in franchise history, and threaten to challenge the longest one in NHL history as 2013 has again been a slow start for the Oilers. The province of Alberta may again go another year without NHL playoffs, though things are certainly more worrisome for Edmonton.

List of Longest NHL Playoff Droughts

Team Seasons Last Appearance
Edmonton Oilers 7 2005–06
Winnipeg Jets 6 2006–07
Dallas Stars 5 2007–08
Calgary Flames 4 2008–09
Carolina Hurricanes 4 2008–09
Columbus Blue Jackets 4 2008–09
Colorado Avalanche 3 2009–10
Buffalo Sabres 2 2010–11
Tampa Bay Lightning 2 2010–11
Florida Panthers 1 2011–12
Nashville Predators 1 2011–12
New Jersey Devils 1 2011–12
Philadelphia Flyers 1 2011–12
Phoenix Coyotes 1 2011–12


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