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It's Been A Long Time Coming: Which Team Will Snap Their Lengthy Playoff Drought First?

The 2023-24 NHL season is right around the corner and there are a handful of teams that are hoping to snap their lengthy playoff droughts in order to make a deep run to win the Stanley Cup. But after the offseason and many moves made during free agency, the question still remains: which on the rise team will find themselves in the postseason for the first time in a long time? Between the Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators, the three teams with the highest expectations of making the playoffs once again, it’ll be interesting to see how the regular season plays out. But before that, here is how each team stacks up and who I think will snap their playoff drought first.

Courtesy of Jason Franson/CP

The Ottawa Senators have missed the playoffs for six straight seasons. The team’s last appearance was in 2016-17 which ended in Eastern Conference Finals loss to the eventual 2017 Stanley Cup champions Pittsburgh Penguins. Since then, the Sens have been hanging out in the bottom of the Atlantic Division standings. After finishing the 2022-23 season with a 39-35-8 record, their first year over .500 since 2016-17, Ottawa made some moves in the offseason that could help push the team over the edge to qualify for the postseason again. Goaltender Joonas Korpisalo signed a five-year contract, forward Dominik Kubalik was acquired in the huge trade that involved sending Alex DeBrincat to Detroit, and defenseman Jake Sanderson signed an eight-year contract extension along with Vladimir Tarasenko joining the team. With captain Brady Tkachuk leading the relatively young squad, it seems like the Senators could be knocking at the door this season. The mixture of veteran leadership, solid goaltending and a young core makes Ottawa a strong team to contend with. Out of the three teams, the Sens have a pretty high chance of qualifying for the postseason and we shouldn’t be surprised to see the team there if it happens.

Courtesy of AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Detroit’s playoff drought is even longer than Ottawa’s, stretching seven years as they failed to qualify in the 2022-23 season. The last time the Red Wings made the postseason was in 2015-16, which was also Dylan Larkin’s rookie year, where they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. Like the Senators, the Wings have since been one of the last teams in the Atlantic Division standings for quite some time and despite fans believing in the rebuild also known as the “Yzerplan,” there hasn’t been much to show for it yet. This might finally be the year though. In the offseason, the Wings were busy and now have a strong, improved roster that definitely boosts the team’s postseason chances. J.T. Compher, Klim Kostin, Alex DeBrincat, Gustav Lindstrom and James Reimer are just a few of the big name players that are new additions to the Original Six franchise. Whether it’ll be enough to make the playoffs and snap the lengthy drought is still unknown, but the Red Wings seemed more prepared than ever to have a good season that will bring playoff hockey back to the city.

Courtesy of Joshua Bessex/Getty Images

It is well known that the Buffalo Sabres not only own the longest playoff drought in the history of the NHL, but are also tied for the longest playoff drought among all major professional North American sports. After missing the postseason by one measly point in 2022-23, the Sabres’ drought extended to a whopping 12 years. The last time Buffalo made the playoffs was in 2010-11 where the team lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in the conference quarterfinals. But the hope is that the streak will be snapped this season. Last year, Buffalo finished with a 42-33-7 record and a points percentage of .555, the team’s best season in over a decade. But in a very competitive Atlantic Division, it was just short of bringing playoff hockey back to upstate New York. However, the offseason greatly improved Buffalo’s roster coming into the 2023-24 season. Erik Johnson, Connor Clifton, and Dustin Tokarski were brought in from free agency while Tyson Jost, Kale Clague and Zemgus Girgensons all re-signed with the team. The Sabres now have a perfect mix of veteran leadership, loads of young talent and great potential which just might be the recipe to qualify for the postseason again. Plus, with goaltender Devon Levi most likely getting more playing time this season, he won’t just give Connor Bedard a run for the Calder, but he could be the key to helping snap the playoff drought.

All in all, I think the Buffalo Sabres will be the team to snap their long postseason drought this season. The team has everything needed to do so and that would mean the historically long drought will no longer be active. The main challenge is going to be competing for one of the playoff spots in the division among recently successful and tough teams. But it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the Sabres in the playoffs this year as the upstate New York franchise is the best equipped to take on the huge challenge.

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