The Buffalo Sabres, who last qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2011, set an NHL record for most consecutive seasons without a postseason appearance after being eliminated from contention on Wednesday night.
Buffalo's most recent playoff appearance -- a quarterfinal elimination to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011 -- happened roughly two months after owner Terry Pegula purchased the team. Buffalo has yet to return to the postseason under his ownership.
The Sabres had been tied with the Florida Panthers (2001-11) and the Edmonton Oilers (2007-16) for the most consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance. They surpassed the Panthers on a technicality: Both teams didn't appear in the playoffs for 11 straight years, but Florida's streak was only 10 consecutive seasons due to the 2004-05 NHL lockout, which canceled that season.
The Sabres' streak includes the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, which were expanded from 16 to 24 teams due to the COVID-19 pandemic's interruption of the regular season. Buffalo was the 13th-best team in the Eastern Conference that season, missing the cut.
Buffalo is now tied for the third longest postseason drought in the four major sports. They trail the MLB's Seattle Mariners (20 seasons) and NBA's Sacramento Kings (16 seasons) and are tied with the NFL's New York Jets (11 seasons).
When they're officially eliminated, the Detroit Red Wings will have the second-longest current NHL playoff drought at six consecutive seasons.
The Sabres' playoff elimination comes at a time when the team is finally climbing the standings. Since March 1, Buffalo has the eighth-best record in the NHL (10-4-3).
"Our guys are showing progress, and that's what we wanted from Day 1," coach Don Granato said after Tuesday's win over the Carolina Hurricanes. "We need to get better. I'm not going to worry about winning. As some point, we're going to win more consistently because we got better."