The Dreadful Goal That Started The Buffalo Sabres Playoff Drought
I'm sure you realize just how bad the Buffalo Sabres are and have been for a while now.
They haven't made the playoffs since 2011 - a decade-long playoff drought that has seen its share of both head coaches and general managers.
Before the Sabres decade of torment, they were one of the most consistent franchises in sports. From 1997-2011 they had the same head coach and general manager (Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier), and that extended into 2013.
From 1997-2011, the Sabres made the postseason eight times and made it to four Eastern Conference Final series (one Stanley Cup Final).
Those days are long gone, however. Since then, the Sabres have gone through six head coaches and three different general managers, with front office arrangements scattered throughout the decade.
The roster has undergone the most change. From 2012-2014, the Sabres said 'goodbye' to fan-favorites such as Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville (later came back), Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek and Jochen Hecht. Now, captain Jack Eichel is seeking a trade and chances are the Sabres will be going through another non-playoff season.
Do you remember the last playoff series the Sabres played in? What about the last time they won a playoff game?
The answer is the 2011 quarterfinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers. Buffalo lost in seven games.
Tyler Ennis scored the overtime winner in game 5 in Philadelphia, which gave the Sabres a 3-2 series lead...but game 6 is the game many Sabres fans rather forget since it basically kicked off the drought.
The game (which was played on Easter Sunday in 2011) was tied 4-4 and went to overtime. Just over four minutes into overtime, Ville Leino scored to give the Flyers the 5-4 win. The Sabres would then get blown out in game 7 and haven't been back to the playoffs since.
Leino seems like a poetic nightmare for that overtime winning goal against Buffalo. After all, he signed a big contract with the Sabres in the offseason and is widely regarded as the worst Sabres free agent signing in history. The contract was for six years at $27 million.
Leino was eventually benched in 2013-2014 by head coach Ted Nolan and the Sabres bought out his contract.
Outside of maybe Slava Kozlov (you know, the forward the Sabres got in the Dominik Hasek trade), Leino was probably the most hated Sabre of all time.
I think one could argue that the Sabres drought has been worse than the Bills 17-year drought, even at seven fewer years (so far). The Bills at least had promise and some playoff hope runs in there...the Sabres have had "nothing" but pain and heartache since 2011. It's been not just bad -- but downright abysmal.
To rub some salt in the wound, here is the goal that started the drought.