As the dust settled on the lockout shortened season of 2013, the Northeast division was well represented in the playoffs. Fifty percent of the Eastern Conference playoff teams hailed from the Northeast Division, with the Buffalo Sabres being the sole team not to make the playoffs.
It might be good news for the Buffalo Sabres that the Northeast no longer exists. Now the Buffalo Sabres are in a slightly stronger division, as you add perennial playoff contender Detroit now contending for the top spot in the division.
The Buffalo Sabres now sit with the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning as merely “existing” within their division.
Since 2000-2001, the Florida Panthers have made the playoffs just once, losing in the first round to the New Jersey Devils two seasons ago, the same team that bumped them out of playoff contention in the 1999-2000 playoffs.
In 20 years of existence, the Florida Panthers have been in the playoffs just four times, including their magical cup finals run in 1996 that ultimately ended at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche.
Tampa Bay on the other hand, has made the playoffs five times since 2000 – including their Stanley Cup victory. The Lightning also made the playoffs in 1996 – that being their only other playoff season.
Since 2000 the Buffalo Sabres have made the playoffs just five times, highlighted by the franchises best two years in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007.
The “heavy hitters” for the Atlantic Division this year, since 2000 have only missed the playoffs a combined 16 times, with the Toronto Maple Leafs leading with 7 misses – almost half, but the organization has changed direction and finally has a team worthy of competition.
The Detroit Red Wings enter the Atlantic Division having not missed the playoffs since the 1989-1990 season.
The Buffalo Sabres are not raising any Atlantic Division banners any time soon, and are a long way away from being a lock to make the playoffs.
Could the Buffalo Sabres be a dark horse candidate for the playoffs this year?