State of the Stanley Cup drought: How close are the Sabres to winning?

The Sabres appear to be on an upward trajectory, but that's no guarantee a Stanley Cup is coming their way anytime soon.

This is Part 9 of a 10-part series examining the longest Stanley Cup droughts in the NHL, and how close teams are to breaking through for their first championship in decades — or ever.

Previous articles: Senators, Sharks, Oilers, Flames, Islanders, Coyotes, Flyers, Canucks

The Buffalo Sabres are in possession of not only the second-longest Stanley Cup drought in the NHL, but also the longest postseason drought.

That's not a good place to be as a franchise, but things could be far worse in Buffalo. The team has an excellent group of young players to build around, and it just produced its first winning season since 2010-11.

Buffalo's offseason wasn't particularly dramatic as the Sabres targeted veteran competence on the blue line with the additions of Connor Clifton and Erik Johnson.

Even without a series of splashy additions, it's fair to project the Sabres will be better in 2023-24 than they were last season. A number of the team's top contributors like Rasmus Dahlin (23), Dylan Cozens (22) and Owen Power (21) are young enough that they could easily take big steps forward.

The team also projects to get better goaltending than it did in 2022-23. Even the relatively unproven tandem of Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Devon Levi should easily be able to top the .896 save percentage the Sabres produced last year.

A Stanley Cup may not be on the immediate horizon for this rising group, but an end to their postseason drought could be in the cards as they continue to head in the right direction.

Rasmus Dahlin took a major step forward last season and looks like a strong franchise building block. (Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Rasmus Dahlin took a major step forward last season and looks like a strong franchise building block. (Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Here's a look at the state of the Sabres' Stanley Cup drought:

How long has it been?

The Sabres have not won a title in their 52-season history.

How close have the Sabres come?

Awfully close.

Buffalo was a consistent presence in the playoffs early in its history with 29 appearances in its first 40 seasons. Those trips to the postseason resulted in two trips to the Stanley Cup Final.


The 1974-75 Sabres were a force of nature with a 49-15-16 record and a +114 goal differential. They featured three forwards with 95-plus points in René Robert, Gilbert Perrault and Rick Martin — plus five more with 60 or more points.

That dynamic offense continued to thrive in the playoffs as the team lost just three combined games in its first two series. Buffalo's matchup with a dominant Montreal Canadiens team in the second round was a true test, but they scraped by with three one-goal wins.

In the Stanley Cup Final, the Sabres encountered a tough Philadelphia Flyers squad that matched their regular-season point total of 113. The series was tightly-contested as Philadelphia only outscored Buffalo by three goals. Philly took the first two games of the series, but the Sabres battled back to 2-2.

From there the Flyers took control, winning the final two games by a score of 7-1. Bernie Parent shut the door on the Sabres, as he had all series. The difference between his .937 save percentage and what Buffalo's tandem of netminders managed (.888) was a massive contributor to the result.


Buffalo's second trip to the Stanley Cup Final also resulted in a loss in six games.

Their battle with the Dallas Stars was a defensive grind carried out between the two teams that allowed the fewest goals during the regular season. Just 22 goals were scored in the series as Hall of Fame goaltenders Dominik Hasek and Ed Belfour combined for a .940 save percentage.

Four of the six games were decided by just one score, and the series ended with an extremely controversial triple-overtime goal by Brett Hull.

If the call on that goal went another way, Buffalo might've won its first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Instead, its fanbase was left completely heartbroken and the team won just one more playoff series in the Hasek era.

Beyond those two trips to the Final, the Sabres have put together a couple of other notable teams. Perhaps their best other opportunity to win a championship came in 2005-06 and 2006-07. In those two years Buffalo had the second-most points in the NHL (223) and made the Eastern Conference Finals in both seasons.

Those Sabres teams were driven by deep offenses featuring Daniel Brière, Chris Drury, Maxim Afinogenov and Thomas Vanek. Ryan Miller also backstopped both teams, earning down-ballot Hart Trophy votes in each season.

Buffalo was particularly close in 2005-06 as they were one win away from the Stanley Cup Final. They took a 2-1 lead heading into the third period of Game 7, but the Carolina Hurricanes scored three third-period goals to reach a final they'd ultimately win.

How does Buffalo's championship prognosis look now?

Pretty good.

The Sabres missed the playoffs in 2022-23 for the 12th consecutive season, but one more win would've put them in the postseason, and they accumulated the highest point total of their current drought (91).

Buffalo has a ways to go — and resides in a difficult division — but there are plenty of reasons for optimism.

The Sabres had a number of players break out last season with Tage Thompson establishing himself as a potent offensive centerpiece and Alex Tuch having a career year. Cozens and Casey Mittelstadt found new levels with each topping their career-high point totals by at least 30. Dahlin also got Norris Trophy votes for the first time and Power built a sneaky Calder Trophy case, skating 23:48 per night in his first full NHL campaign.

That's a group you could conceivably build a championship around, especially if Jeff Skinner continues to produce into his thirties. Buffalo's prospect pool is promising, too, and seems likely to produce a top-six forward or two in the coming years.

While Buffalo needs a long-term answer in the crease, this roster is packed with talented players young enough to drive internal improvement and the cap situation is solid.

Not only do the Sabres have a little flexibility this year, they have a couple of players locked in on team-friendly deals. Having Thompson for $7.14 million through 2029-30 is a steal, and Cozens looks like excellent value at $7.1 million over the same term. Tuch costs less than $5 million for three more seasons as well.

The financial situation could change with new deals for Dahlin and Power, but for now things look promising.

Nobody is going to pick the Sabres to win the Stanley Cup in 2023-24, but no one would be surprised if they earned their first title in franchise history before 2030.