For a while there it looked like the 2 NFL teams tied for the longest playoff drought would both earn one of those coveted 12 spots this season. Neither the Bills nor the Detroit lions have made the playoffs since 1999 and the Bills will soon officially extend their streak to 12 seasons. The Lions are 7-5 and still have a shot. You might be wondering what this has to do with the Sabres opponent for tonight?
The Florida Panthers own the longest post season drought in the NHL, at 10 seasons. The last time the Panthers made the playoffs, we were just a few months removed from surviving Y2K and from the Bills not surviving the Music City Miracle. The last time the Panthers franchise won a post season game, we were just 3 months removed from Jim Kelly announcing his retirement from the National Football League in 1997.
I’m not sure which is worse. Granted NHL teams have to get through 82 games to make the playoffs where NFL teams play just 16 but there’s more of a cushion for error in the NHL and 53% of NHL teams make the post season while only 37% of NFL teams earn that distinction.
This season’s version of the Panthers look like they will be the ones to end the longest playoff drought in the NHL in the post Original Six Era. The 10 years beats out the previous record of 9 held by the California Seals/Cleveland Barons combination. By the way, the last time a Panthers team won a playoff series, Lindy Ruff was behind their bench as an assistant coach, some 14 years ago. Maybe the hockey gods were angry when Florida made it all the way to the Cup Finals in 1996 because they’ve only made 2 playoff appearances since.
As I said, this team looks different(of course I felt that way about the 5-2 Bills a month and a half ago). General Manager Dale Tallon got the job in May 2010 and has pretty much blown up the roster. Only 4 regulars remain from that initial group he inherited. This past off season, the Panthers cut ties with 15 players who were on last season’s roster and brought 18 different veterans into the organization. A number of those players were in Chicago when Tallon was the Hawks G-M and the likes of Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky have played key roles in the turnaround. Campbell is 2nd among NHL defensemen in assists and points.